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Fantasy world creation... Oh, dear...

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Fantasy world creation... Oh, dear...

Postby Loxley » Wed Nov 14, 2007 10:51 am

Yo!

Heh, well, as the title says, I'm sure, I've got a problem with creating fantasy worlds for whenever I attempt to write something of that fashion. Some times, I have problems just imagining the world, some times naming countries, cities, and so on, and some times I just have plain ol' trouble. So, I'm trying to write another fantasy novel now, and this time I'm taking a different angle of approach in that I'm going to spend more time trying to create a realistic world first before I begin to outline it and write.

So, if anybody has any tips or experiences to share it's mighty appreciated, and especially so on the name-issue, because that's where I'm probably lacking the most. I always have trouble making realistic names for cities and countries. :lol:

Thanks in advance!
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Postby aldan » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:54 am

One thing that I might suggest, Loxley, is to take a look at how so many of the countries here in the world were named...

For example, the United States of America was named such due to the fact that the individual states were coming together to form a nation to help to protect themselves from the large European countries like France and Great Britain. They thus joined together in a 'united front' to do so, and so became the United States. Since they were in America, that answers the 'of America' ending I suppose...

That's just one example. Of course, America was named after Amerigo Vespucci (I believe that was his name's spelling), who had created the first well-known map that contained the continent(s). Great Britain was a re-do of the Latin Gran Britania (again, I'm not positive about the spelling, because I've no time to check on the 'net for it), which was the Roman name for it. Where did they get it from? What did the name mean? You can likely find out online. I leave that to you. In any case, many countries are named after some feature that distinguishes them, whether it's striking mountains, great rivers, oceans and beaches, or whatever. I hope this helps a bit.
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Postby Magus » Wed Nov 14, 2007 1:51 pm

Hey, Loxley. I personally think that you're going about this all wrong. Granted, I seem to be odd man out on a lot of things, but I always found that if I made a world and then wrote a story, the results were much less satisfying as opposed to when I wrote the story first.

Allow me to elaborate.

If I conceived of a world first, I found that my primary priority was to develop that world, to expose it, to write about it. This, however, led me to substandard stories. This was because I was writing the story to fit to the world. The story was secondary, and in literature this is one of the worst possible things you can do.

I have long since, however, developed a system. It's not very complicated, either.

Write the story.

What I find most effective is if you simply set out to write the story first and foremost. Don't worry about the world. Don't worry about the rise and fall of nations, the depositions of lords and ladies, nor global affairs of men, women, and what-have-you. Add in only as much of the world as you need for your story, and only what you need. Flesh it out with details, but don't go into stretches of the exchange rate between the Blargoths of Bloraine and the Gurbunkers of Gladderfield.

What this will do, I find, is make the story speak, and prevent distracting additions that otherwise would have made their way into the story. It gives a more realistic sense to the story, I think, because you don't feel like you're in a history lecture (although I do like me my history lectures).

And, actually, if you plan on mutliple stories in the same world this works out even better, because it allows for a deeper and more meaningful analysis of your world, spaced out over a lengthier course of time. This makes readers far more ingrained into the world, far more intimate with it, and allows for greater development than most people give it credit for.

That's just my thoughts on the matter. It may or may not work for you in your situation, though.
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Postby Loxley » Wed Nov 14, 2007 2:22 pm

Thanks for your responses.

Your tips, Aldan, gave me some ideas of where to look for names. It's still a royal pain in the backside to make up names for me, but I'll just have to endure that part. :wink:

Magus, I think it was a really good tip too. Not sure if I have that much self-control (I tend to be easily distracted, heh), but still a good tip. :) I think that I'm going to try and write the story, and simultaneously begin working on the world, though I'll just keep to the country that this story takes place in for now, and see how things work out.

Actually, I do plan to write more stories in the same world, but that's why I feel I have to focus much of my attention on the world itself, to make it "work" right, and make it feel real.

Ah, anyways, I'll give it a try for now, and see how things work out. Though I still suck at the naming issue, I guess I'll just have to practice. :wink:

But if anyone has more tips, they're always appreciated, *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*. :wink:
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Postby aldan » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:22 pm

Perhaps, to go along with what Magus said, you could simply sketch out the story first, but leave most of the names out of it. That way, you could get a better feel for the world of your story (the types of characters and cultures, the tech level, and other such things) while getting the story idea firmed up in your mind. Once you know where the story will go, THEN you could go in and do the strong cultural and geographical creation, and more or less build the world from the story's sketch. Then, after you've fleshed out the world, it might help you to be able to figure out just what sort of cultures and physical backgrounds you will have for your characters.
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Postby Loxley » Thu Nov 15, 2007 4:53 am

Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. I've got a decent idea of how the world should be, but I think I'll do some roughdrawing on the story before I work any more on the world itself.

Ah, well. We'll see how it works out. :P
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Postby RoberII » Tue May 06, 2008 5:12 am

Just do a rough sketch of your world. Don't overdo it, but don't underdo it, either - it's a question of balancing consistency and creative possibility.

You might want to consider reading up on some history - that can lead to some cool things. And read Tolkien! Learning Quenya, Tolkien's elven, taught me a lot about world building.
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Postby spknoevl » Fri May 09, 2008 6:40 am

I think drafting the basic story comes first, followed by creating a world around it. A good story should really work in almost any setting ie Star Wars would have worked just as easily as a medieval fantasy. The only time the world might come first, is if the plot is predicated on some particular law or physical setting in your world. Then you might need to set out some basic rules for it.
I usually come up with the basic plot draft with characters before going back and naming those characters and thinking up cultures or world settings for them.
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Postby aldan » Fri May 09, 2008 10:49 am

One thing that I might add is that, if you're going to go ahead and write more than one story, or series, for that matter, in the same world, then you might want to sketch (not write out, but sketch) a timeline for that world, which will cover the important happenings in it. That way, you can be sure to be able to fit those stories in the best places/times for them. Also, the timeline, being a not-published entity, can be adjusted as may need be done occasionally so that you can be sure to keep things consistent.
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Re: Fantasy world creation... Oh, dear...

Postby starweaver » Sat Dec 27, 2008 11:02 am

I have the opposite problem - I love world creation so much that I neglect actually writing stories!

I favor a sort of symbiotic approach to world-building and story-writing; move back and forth between the two as needed.

I would advise having the following worked out before beginning to write, or at least as you start to write:

1. Is the world just a backdrop, or does something about it have plot implications? If the latter, get a grip on what that special idea is and how it connects to the story.

2. If there is to be magic, how does it work? What are its limitations?

3. What is the general level of culture/technology? Are you doing a default medieval/quasi-Celtic thing, or something different?

4. General approach to nonhuman creatures: elves and dwarves? talking animals? You don't need all the details, but you need a broad view of what the possibilities are.

You can take care of these things in half a day; you don't need a whole lot of detail. Yet I do recommend having thought about each of them, so you don't have to backtrack much from writing without a clear context.

Languages: I love inventing realistic languages, so I tend to go over the top on this. If that's not your thing, I would recommend a simple approach:

For each distinct culture in your story, you want names with a consistent "flavor". To achieve this -

1. List the sounds the language uses; you can add some sounds not used in English (like the German "ch" sound or nasal vowels of French), and also take away some sounds used in English. (If you know just a little phonetics, it can be helpful - sounds tend to be present or absent from languages in phonetic groups, not as individuals.) When you have the list, mark sounds that are especially common and others that are more rare in the language.

2. Choose a basic pattern for syllables and words. Some languages prefer syllables that end in vowels (giving you words like tadalea or kororiru, others prefer syllables that end in consonants (hence astandin, korungorod). Do words tend to be long or short? Are clusters of consonants or clusters of vowels possible?

3. Now make a lot of words using the sounds and syllable/word structures you've listed. Brainstorm. If you fill a page, some of them will sound good to you.

4. As you create more names, occasionally use a part of a previously used name; this gives the appearance that the two names come from a common root. (Think of English "Washington" and "Burlington" or "New York" and "New Jersey".) So you might have a town called Thorgohom and a person named Thorgasolt.

Remember to go through this separately for each culture you want to have its own feel.

Finally, avoid things readers will stumble over. Readers don't need to know exactly how you pronounce your names, but they do need some pronunciation at hand, so they don't have to stop reading to think about the name.

Hope this helps!

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