matt_doyle: (Default)
I want to get back to making posts with significant content, and I want to make progress on some of my more embryonic writing projects, so i'm going to kill two birds with one stone. The most intensive and unpredictable (and often, the most rewarding) part of writing for me has always been worldbuilding.

Right now, I have two stories I want to build up settings for- the "Neminth and Shisya" story fragments I posted the other day, and the Aspiring Tyrant's Cookbook idea that I may or may not pursue. Fortunately for me, the initial stages of worldbuilding research for both have been working in parallel.

The first concern, always, is the needs of the plot: what themes am I discussing, what kind of story am I telling, and how does that effect the world that needs to surround the story? If my story is about aristocratic characters (and I do love my aristocrats; overmuch, I think, given how socialist my real-world political leanings are), I'm going to set up a culture with a strict social hierarchy. If my story requires worldwide travel or computer access, I'm more likely to base it in the real, modern-day world than invent a parallel earth; conversely, if my story needs dragons, I'm more comfortable inventing a secondary world setting than fudging the facts about Earth. Obviously, these are choices that could still validly be made another way-- Neal Stephenson's Anathem could have been set on a far-future Earth rather than an alternate world, and Laurell K. Hamilton's monster-and-fairy-filled Merry Gentry books certainly didn't need to use this Earth as a backdrop. Regardless, any story will require certain things to be true about the world it is set in.

Next, or even simultaneously, I consider the givens: the things I know about the world not because of the type of story it is and what its logical surroundings are, but because the characters told me the world was that way when they popped into my head, dammit, so now I have to make it make sense.

For example, I know that Neminth and Shisya live in a world that has other humanoid races on it. And yet, Neminth can quote Shakespeare, and Shisya refers to herself as a ronin. So I'm not sure, exactly, where they are: an future Earth that was radically altered by some unknown event? A parallel, magical world where things like language and literature can bleed over? A fully separate secondary world that just somehow has Shakespeare?

I'm not sure yet.

An Aspiring Tyrant's Cookbook is a little easier. It's steampunk/gaslamp fantasy, and the conventions of the genre tend to put it in Ruritanian alterna-Europe. It has a disorganized Evil Overlord's heir, so it's not a democratic, egalitarian sort of place. But using actual European countries and historical settings feels wrong, and so does inventing countries Ruritania-style and plopping them down in the middle of Europe. I also want to be more racially diverse than the setting conventions imply, without the exoticizing of non-European cultures that so frequently occurs. And it feels totally wrong to set this story off Earth on another world entirely, my characters get riled up every time I consider it.

So in both cases, I'm researching Earth, but not Earth-as-we-know it. Location and geography are all-important considerations in a political story, which ATC will inevitably be, so I want a map before I start naming countries and empires.

Hence my request the other day to find maps or mapping software to determine what the Earth would look like with different water levels. An Earth in either mid-Ice Age or with severely melted polar icecaps implies all kinds of un differences, as well as a major change in historical events, which could be the shift and the impetus I'm looking for in either story-world to set things apart, while still leaving myself grounded in the cultures, languages, and (past a certain point, wherever this critical event was) histories of Earth.

One or the other of the stories (not both) will probably be set on such an Earth, once I figure out what might have happened in either world to so drastically change the water level, how much I want it changed, when the change occurred, and so on. After that, the next step (and, y'know, the next post) will deal with the process of fidling with cultures and drawing sensible lines on a map, as well as re-writing history to suit my needs.
matt_doyle: (Default)
I absolutely do not need a new novel idea. I really really do not need to start working on a gaslamp fantasy called An Aspiring Tyrant's Cookbook in which a disorganized Evil Overlord's Heir hires a personal assistant to help him organize his recipes.

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January 2014

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