We are not makers of history. We are made by history – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The ancient Greeks conquered the entire known world, the ancient Romans spread their culture throughout Europe, and the ancient Chinese built monuments that have stood the test of time. Your story is set in the present day, but many of the ideologies, beliefs, and inventions sprang from civilizations that lived long ago. While these civilizations may be long gone, their lasting influence remains. Continue reading as we explore the importance of historical societies in your contemporary story and see how to weave the fabric of mystery and folklore throughout your creative project.
The ‘origin story’…Comic book powerhouses like Marvel and DC have been banking on them for decades, giving a glimpse to ‘how it all started’. But what does it mean to your new world? As far as your readers are concerned, what is the true origin of the world they’re reading about? What is the origin’s significance, or does it really even play a role at all? In this article of our World Building 101: History series, we’ll jump to the very beginning and work to bring your universe to a proper existence. Let’s discuss a few of the more common ‘origin stories’ to see which one works well for your world, and see how we can use pieces of it to enhance your reader’s immersion into your creative endeavor.
Page one, paragraph one is the first sense of existence for your new world and the characters within, right? Of course not! Your story picks up somewhere along the line, probably near the beginning, of a series of key events that change your world in some way…but it's by no means ‘the beginning.’ But how do you leverage the past while trying to write the new future? How do you come up with backgrounds when you spend all your time writing about the conflicts, struggles, and resolutions of the present? And more importantly, how much do your readers really care about what happened before page one, paragraph one? Let’s delve into a new section in our world building series, History. Learn how to come up with a compelling back story and how to make it interesting for your audience and crucial for your cast of characters.
The Nile River turned the deserts of ancient Egypt into a blossoming oasis, springing forth the first great civilization of recorded time. Similarly, the roaming buffalo herds of the Great Plains brought some of the most well-known Native American cultures to prominence. On January 24, 1848…in a small mill near central California, a man by the name of James Marshall discovers shiny metallic flakes. Over the next few years, over 300,000 eager prospectors and their families flocked to the fledgling colony in hopes of striking it rich. By 1849, the Gold Rush was on, and cities with populations in the hundreds swelled to tens of thousands. The resources available to a civilization make or break its future…and in the case of California, forever change the landscape. This article goes into detail about the types of resources used in creating a new world and how access to those resources will have a lasting impact on the nearby cultures.
The Great Wall, the Alps, the Rio Grande…what do all of these have in common? They serve as boundaries, both physical and political. Ever wonder why they built Hadrian’s Wall? Ever stop to think of what American History would look like without the Mississippi River? Boundaries come in all shapes and sizes…some natural, others man-made. But they’re critical in determining how civilizations are defined. Stop and consider for a moment that the 7th Century Chinese hadn’t begun the Great Wall? Imagine the political implications if the Mongols had invaded southern China instead of turning their attention westward. Read along as we discuss the different ways boundaries can play a pivotal role in your world, and how you can use them to define your land and your culture.
The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
We recently spent a little time reviewing 4 of the more commonly seen types of terrain: plains, grassland, mountains, and desert. When building your new world, it's important to diverify your landscape and give credibility to your universe. In this section, we'll take a look at a few more common terrain types, as well as give examples of how to utilize thier special characteristics in your environment.
When the blood in your veins returns to the sea, and the earth in your bones returns to the ground, perhaps then you will remember that this land does not belong to you, it is you who belong to this land.
- Indian Proverb
A lot of great sayings refer to respecting the land and ensuring that we leave it in better condition than we found it. Many American Indian cultures refer to the land as a living, breathing thing that can be spoken to and interacted with on a daily basis. When thinking of your story…what role does your land play? Innocent bystander? Unbiased mediator? Unwitting accomplice? Take a look as we explore building the terrain for your world and how it makes sense. Add credibility to your story and allow your readers to immersive themselves in the lifeblood of your environment…the land.
The Lay of the Land
If you've followed along in our series, then you know we've spent the first few articles defining the 'rules' of the world...the overall foundation for which many future decisions will be made. Are you creating a fantasy world where monsters, magic, dragons, or worse rule the land? Did you decide on a alternate reality setting where the basic principles are already in place, but some pretty important questions remain unanswered? Now that the foundation is in place, it's time to build the frame, the geography. Follow us through this multi-part series as we lay the groundwork (pun intended) for how the land itself plays a role in the making of your new world.
Draw from your own experience
So far, we've discussed ways of constructing your own world utilizing elements of fantasy, and taken things beyond our imaginations, creating an alternate reality. In this installation of our world building series, we're going to delve into creating an immersive world based on your own personal experiences...a world that brings a life of its own to your novel.
Asking the Question...What if?
While building a fantasy world has its perks, sometimes you want to draw on real world experiences.......with a twist! Alternate reality worlds are all about the imagination, and asking the question 'What If' to yourself and your readers. What if the dinosaurs had not become extinct? What if the Germans had won World War II? What if humans had not become the dominant species on Earth? What if we're not alone in this universe? Coming up with the questions is almost as much fun as coming up with the answers. Sci-Fi lovers rejoice as we explore the next chapter in our World Building Series...building an Alternate Reality Universe.
Hello, my name is Scott...I'm a husband, father of 3, and work full-time in IT. If that's not enough on my plate, I'm also tackling the biggest 'creative' project of my lifetime, bringing the world of Mists of Kel Doran to life. I hope you like what I'm trying to pull off and I truly appreciate all of those who have supported this dream of mine. Here's to following your heart and having the courage to put your ideas out there for the world to enjoy :)
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