Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ten Thousand Years Will Give You Such a Crick in the Neck!

Howdy to you lurkers out there! Camy puts us all to shame with her prolific postings!

Camy asked:
I like how you're so incredibly logical and methodical about this. I think I'd just throw some species into the story and make it up as I go. Do you really do all this before you write their story?

Yes & No.

This is the first time that I've ever attempted to go bit-by-bit and actually chronicle the race construction. Most of this is usually done in my head, with just the sketches as reference points. By the time I've got the species sketch and the planet sketch a story idea will already be beginning to form, and that helps kick start some of this other stuff.

I'm already getting to the point now where I’m really going to need a story framework to give me the characters that will unveil more of the world. But I’m not quite there yet. (I'm currently working on a new novel that takes place in a setting where all this stuff is still mostly just in my head).

Today we need to construct a timeline of major world events that occurred on Och over the past ten thousand years. These will be events that will have shaped the Krikicho culture worldwide in one way or another. May not have a direct impact on the story I end up writing, but will help when developing the characters. Some of this will correspond with similar biblical events on Earth, while others will be totally unique.

0 – Creation of Och, Fall of the Krikicho

2,123 – The great Freeze, the Ice caps form

4,620 – Ika'cho led through the Mikatha desert to found the holy nation "Ika'kroch"

5,032 – Krakicho Empire formally established, rules fifty percent of the exposed coastlines of Och

5,713 – Ika'kroch nation is absorbed into the Krakicho Empire

6,413 – Incarnate Savior

6,793 – Krakicho Epire fragments due to civil war

7,401 – First Deep-Sea Colony established.

8,240 – Chikaoch Syndicate's bid for world power thwarted through a catastrophic tech-plauge, 90% of Krikicho bio-tech killed.

9,352 – Ikochia declared Matriarch of the Kikako Sovereignty, begins campaign to bring all Krikicho under her banner.

10,000 - Classified

Obviously this is a very vauge time-line with large gaps and such. But the local history directly related to a story best comes from the characters themselves. What this does for me is help germinate ideas for legends & myths that may play into a story as well as what kinds of things characters may come across in terms of ruins from the past or ancient artifacts. And just helps get an idea of how the culture has been shaped.

Thoughts? Accusations?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Time to talk Time

Ok, I admit it, I've been a total slacker over the last few weeks. I'm bad like that (horrible cycle for a writer to go through). However it's never to late to pick up where we left off (assuming anyone still comes round these parts *waves at Camy*).

Anyway let's look at what we've gotten to so far in world creation through a quick summary.

We have the crustacian like race, the Krikicho, that live on the planet Och, a mostly temperate planet with two large ice caps. We know the Krikicho live in costal cities for the most part, with a few floaters and some under the ice.

To get more detail we're going to have to narrow our focus to a single time and place and develop the world for that area, from which the rest of the world will eventually bloom.

First we need to decide the timeframe that we want to develop, this will give large influence on the culture that you eventually come up with. Is it near the dawn of civilization? Or perhaps during a time-frame that is equivalent with the middle ages? Or perhaps the golden age of the Roman Empire? And when in the overall planet history does this timeframe take place.

Since Och is a planet that takes place within an already built mythos of worlds I have some framework it has to fit into. First, it must have 10,000 of it's years pass from creation to "modern" time (the equivalent of today in Earth time. This mythos runs on a young Earth creationist timeline). However those "years" don't have to equal 1 earth year.

Just to make things easier & more relevant in the long run, I’m going to develop the Krikicho culture for modern times, or 10,000 years post creation. Now this doesn't mean that their culture will have to equal the tech of Earth. It can surpass or be far behind. Or just be totally weird. It all depends on what happened in the previous 10,000 years in Krikicho culture, both on a micro and macro level.

So, tomorrow it will be time to put together the timeline of Och.

Make sense? If not I blame the late night :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'm not dead yet!

Sorry for the sudden lack of posts. ;) Got totally distracted and brain numbed by Season 1 of Stargate: Atlantis and Smallville Seasons 1 and 2.

Must learn restraint!

Will get us back on track here shortly.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday Fancies

Friday Fancies

Taking a break from world building today to turn attention to a couple of books I read recently. Probably do something like this every Friday, just for a change of pace and to take a moment and see what’s happening out in the other worlds.

Both of these books come from the new line Realms fiction an imprint of Strang Communications.

Daughter of Prophecy
Miles Owens

Daughter of Prophecy (DoP) is a fantasy tale that centers around a young maiden named Rhiannon, who was prophesied to be the Protectoress of the Covenant, the binding agreement that keeps evil out of the lands of the Faber Dynasty. Sixteen years after her birth and the prophecy a group of winged horrors, creatures of darkness, attack Rhiannon. This attack signals a weakening of the covenant, and Rhiannon must discover just what it means for her to be the Protectoress of the Covenant.

This is a fine first novel for Owens, and he does a good job of keeping this story from falling into just another warrior maiden tale or other clichés of the fantasy genre. He also weaves in strong Christian elements, especially with an emphasis on the importance and power of prayer and confession.

The forces of evil must be confronted on both the physical and the Spiritual planes if they are to be defeated. And for the prayers to be effective, a clear and unhindered connection with God is essential. Which leads the main characters to face their pasts, relinquish their dreams, and make hard decisions about their dealings. There are times when this can make the spiritual lessons a bit heavy handed, and one character's "breaking" felt a bit too abrupt, but it worked for the most part.

On the downside, I found this book's pace to be far slower than I would have liked. Much of the conflict is based on Clan politics, especially a controversial wool sale. Not exactly exciting stuff, and it dragged the story down for me early on. However, once the sale is over, the pace picks back up. There is also a tad too much telling, and I found the plot a bit to predictable at times.

Still, the action is well written, and Owens has opened the portal to a world ripe for exploring. I look forward to the sequel and discovering how Rhiannon adjusts to the path she has been set upon.

Buy Daughter of Prophecy from Amazon.com


The Personifid Project
R. E. Bartlett

The Personifid Project is a Science Fiction novel with a most interesting premise. In the distant future, science has discovered the means to not only detect souls, but encase them in artificial bodies, Personifids, to stave off death.

When Aphra, a secretary at the Sevig Empire Corporation, overhears a sinister conversation, she fears for her life. Her fears are confirmed when she witnesses the "discontinuation" of a fellow employee. Soon she is fleeing assassins, reliant on the help of strangers, and desperately trying to find out what is going on.

This is a story much in the tradition of films such as I, Robot, Blade Runner, Minority Report, or Equilibrium, though without the detective angle. A vision of the future where society seeks to stave off death through aritficial means, and keep the "bad parts" of human nature suppressed with drugs and virtual reality. And ask the question, "Can we really separate our evil nature from our good?"

The Personifid Project is a briskly paced story, with lots of action, and a few good twists. Also the vision of a post-apocalyptic earth, where people must live in shielded cities or underground, is well realized. With a good array of believable technology that bridges the gap from present to future.

However, a few things really irked me. For one, the reader is forcibly kept out of hearing the sinister conversation that Aphra overhears at the start of the book, even though we are in her point of view. This creates a bit of a false feeling suspense as we have Aphra thinking about how horrible what she heard was and how she races to cover it up through the rest of the chapter, until she finally confides to her home computer. It made me feel a bit cheated.

Bartlett also falls into the pitfall of a bit too much telling when describing certain technologies or cultural bits of the story. Perhaps just a stylistic irk for me, but I prefer these things to be blended a bit better then have the story stop for a paragraph explaining why Cantabrian security is different than other places (as just one example).

I also had a real hard time connecting with Aphra. I never really felt sorry for her or like rooting for her. She was too whiney, oblivious and self-centered, and never really seemed to grow out of it.

Still there were plenty of other interesting characters, such as the minor but fun Chickenwing. And Aphra's bounty hunter brother, with his penchant for odd computers.

Overall the book rose above the irks for me and I enjoyed the tale. Bartlett has created a fun futuristic world full of wild possibilities. If you like futuristic Sci-fi be sure to give this one a go.

Buy The Personifid Project at Amazon.com

Thursday, January 05, 2006

World Building - Discovering Och

Over the last two days we did a quick initial sketch of a new race, the Krikich, the crablike inhabitants of the planet Och. And touched lightly upon some basic traits, and some vague social traits.

However before we jump into discovering the culture any deeper we need to know more about the planet on which they live.

Designing a planet is much like creating a race. Lots of following your intuition and not being afraid to be a bit silly at first to lay the groundwork to be built upon later. And so to start, out pops the trusty pencil again.

The idea here is to make the planet seem like a good fit to the race it is designed for, but not make it feel too flat or like a one-trick-pony. Basically take Earth, and mix things up a bit. Alter the climate slightly in one direction or another, flip up the continent placement, and maybe toss in a couple of oddities that can make things interesting.

The planet Och is split into thirds climate wise. Two thirds are giant ice caps, while a broad temperate zone runs between.

There are eight continents, of which only three are exposed. Two protrude partially from the Northern ice cap. The other three are completely encased, one in the North and two in the South. The bulk of Krikicho live within the Temperate Gap, though there are a fair number who live beneath the ice.

Two moons orbit the planet Och. The largest of the two is in a stable, circular orbit around the planet, while the smaller is on an oval, slingshot orbit. These two moons come into alignment once every year, by Krikicho reckoning, when the smaller moon is in the near end of it’s oval. This causes tidal anomalies that only occur at that specific time, and hold special significance to the Krikicho.

That’s enough for now. More specifics can come in time, and will vary a bit by location. But this gives us enough of a big picture view to have a common ground to make sure the details stick together right. And, as a bonus, gives all the overly scientific fans lots to argue about.

It’s at this point that we’ll have to start getting more specific about things, and begin laying out political borders, social history, language and spirituality. Still I think you will find that even those start out just as more sticks in the framework.

But that’s for next week. Friday we’ll take a break and look at a couple of books I recently read.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

World Building - Inhabitants Pt. 2

Thanks for the feedback! I hope some people out there will try and create a new world of their own along side mine as we go through. Would be fun to see all the variations that come out at the end.

Quick Responses:

Tiff: You’re right, every writer creates a world specific to their story. Some just tend to be a bit more exotic then most. I can’t imagine all the research most historical and contemporary authors have to do to make sure that their worlds are accurate and believable. I’m certain that most people who feel like they couldn’t come up with a sci-fi or fantasy tale due to world building, just need to take another look at the process and think a bit sideways of normal and they could write a fun tale. Especially those who are fans of the genres to start with and are familiar with the basic tennents.

That’s why I’m doing this, to try and help them see how the process is similar to character and setting creation in stories outside this genre (or I think it is anyway).

Heather: Shnakvorum! Characters do drive so much, and it’s always fun to see what kind of secrets they give up as things progress. Hope you stop by often!

Camy: Glad you like the tutorial and lessons. Hope you dive in and give the stuff a try.

On to the Inhabitants Pt 2:

So we’ve got the basic sketch of the race for the new world. My next step (often blended with the actual creation of the sketch/description) is to examine the concept and see what it tells me about the probable lifestyle. You’ll want to keep this plausible and realistic. Might help to try and catch some nature shows that give abilities to similar creatures for inspiration. Sometimes you can just play off of what it feels right for your creature to be doing.

This race is crustacean in nature, large fiddler crab claw, flat head with multiple eyes and mandible mouth, segmented neck, flat shell body with six segmented legs. They stand about six feet tall, and are about as long as they are tall, usually just a few inches shorter, sometimes up to two feet. Colors range from red to light, dappled blue.

While amphibious in nature, this race prefers the water, and can live in both salt and fresh water. Those who live in salt water for long periods of time grow large spines on their carapaces from mineral deposits as their bodies process the salt, while those in fresh water have only small knobs.

Their cities are built along the shores of lakes and oceans, both in and out of the water. Smaller settlements can be found along streams and rivers. Also some have forsaken land all together and have “roaming” cities that ride the undersea currents of their planet’s oceans.

Judging from physical appearance and makeup, this will also probably be one of my “naked” races. Ones that may adorn themselves with trinkets, but don’t really wear any clothing for protection or covering (other than battle armor in many cases, though these guys seem to have that built in).

And looking at them, they need a clicking sounding name. Something like Krikicho (with short “i” “o” and a hard, guttural “ch”).

Ok, so there is some very basic, groundwork for the Krikicho. Looking through my list of named planets, looks like # 824 has a nice matching name: Och. We’ll talk more about language and how the greater mythos you insert your race into may affect that later on.

For now you might see the early signs of society starting to emerge from the race description. But before we delve into that, we’re going to pull out a bit farther and discover just what kind of world Och is.

But that’s for tomorrow.

Monday, January 02, 2006

World Building - Inhabitants Pt. 1

When I start a world, I almost always begin by first creating the race that will inhabit that world. Now I know I’ve already said that I have a list of 1,000 named planets (too much time that freshman year of college), but that is all they are, names. Mist shrouded objects waiting for their natives to appear and make it all clear.

So, to clear away that mist, I must first make contact with the natives. It isn’t that much different than what most writers do when discovering their characters for the first time, but just on a more general basis.

The way I go about this is to grab a pencil and doodle out a quick sketch. Sometimes I’ll have something in mind, sometimes I just start with a squiggle and add a swoosh, then a dash and let the creature emerge. Most of my current races came about in just that manner, arising from the margins of my college class notes. Not super detailed drawings, but basic sketches that capture the essence and can be refined later as the world and race matures.

If you can’t draw a dot to save your life, don’t despair. Instead try using the same technique, but instead with your words. Write down bits of description for your race until you start seeing the whole picture. Or assemble it in your mind first and then write down the description.

The main thing here is that you need to be open and free, don’t bind yourself down by saying that looks stupid, or that’s silly, or that’s not original enough! Feel free to draw on what you have experienced to enhance your race. I pulled almost all of the inspiration for mine from mythology and nature. Go to the zoo, watch some cartoons, check out some books on prehistoric life. You’ll find a ton of crazy things you can manipulate into your initial sketch/description.

And remember this is a concept, it is there to capture the basic essence of your idea for the race. Something to build off of. It isn’t meant to be perfect or the final iteration.

Anyway this is getting long so I’ll just drop in the sketch of the new race I’ll be making the world for and we’ll talk more about the process tomorrow.

Questions? Comments?

World Building - Introduction

Hope everyone had a great holiday week with a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Now we start As promised, we’re going to open up ’06 here at the Den with a look at my world creation process. Hope everyone finds it interesting, and joins in on the fun. At the end of it all perhaps we’ll get a chance to look at the worlds that you create (if you want).

I know world creation can seem a very daunting task, one that can be attempted only by the genius or the insane or just the geeks. However, I think a lot of what keeps people from trying, especially those who love the genres, is the mystique and intimidation factor of just how much work appears to go into worlds. And yeah, there is a lot of work that goes into it. But worlds don’t spring forth fully formed in moments, most of the time.

Also, don’t worry about not having a story to go with your world. While often a story will come, and then you discover what world it came in. Sometimes, some of the most exciting stories come out of the process of creating the world.

If you want to watch a fun, and short little documentary on world creation pick up a DVD of The Dark Crystal and check out the special feature: “The World of The Dark Crystal Making of Documentary”

Shoot out any questions or comments you have. And tomorrow we’ll get started at creating a world with the piece I start with just about every time. The people who live on the world.
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