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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)
Someone expressed a wish for some more fiction, and I happen to have some lying around - not new, exactly, but an unposted continuation of a fragmentary... thing. Here are all three parts of it so far, in chronological order. It's a (I think) secondary-world fantasy with an emphasis on romance and atypical post-apocalyptic mythology. Possibly a novel, but if so, not one I expect to be working on any time soon. The main characters are Neminth, an apprentice scrivener in one of the world's last libraries, and Shisya, a dedicant of an order of warriors who preserve the old laws of their fallen kingdom despite the ruin, anarchy, and hopelessness of the world around them.

Part I: When Neminth Met Shisya )

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Part II: The pen is mightier... )

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Mirror, mirror on the wall (unposted before this; might actually occur in between part I & part II) )

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I recognize that cuts off rather unsatisfactorily, but well, tough. I'm unsatisfied too, and would very dearly like to know what happens next.

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January 2014

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