World-Building Wonders – Medieval Monastic Orders

Get a glimpse into some of my behind-the-scenes world building material.  This information is not in the books, but part of my background notes that no one else sees but me.  So this is a rare peek you won’t find anywhere else!


Welcome to another installment of World-Building Wonders! Find an escape into an author’s awesome world — and worldview! Today’s featured author is Allison D. Reid. Since I was a child, the Middle …

Source: World-Building Wonders – Medieval Monastic Orders

Thoughts on Time & World Building Concept in Fantasy

World building is a time consuming process. There is a lot to take into account when you are considering every aspect of a new world…how it came to be, what kinds of people lived there, how its landscape, history, economy, religion, and politics developed over time to the point where your book plot begins. How is what you write going to shape that world’s future for any additional books you may be planning?

Part of building a new world is figuring out how time works. Is your brand new world governed by the same rules we’re already familiar with? Or is it more subjective and non-linear; “a big ball of wibbily wobbly timey wimey…stuff” as David Tennant (still the best Doctor!) describes time in Doctor Who? Do you mark the passage of time with minutes, hours, days, months, years? And are those at the same intervals we are accustomed to? Maybe you are doing something radically different. If so, how do you get your reader to let go of what they know and embrace your vision of how time moves?

When I started working on my series I ran into two issues which affected my perspective on time. First, even though my world is a complete fantasy, the setting mimics that of medieval Europe. I relied heavily on research to inform the details of what daily life would have been like. One thing I discovered is that while people of that era had the ability to keep time with mechanical clocks and other means, ordinary people simply didn’t bother. They didn’t even necessarily know their birthdays. They often had a general idea based on the season, but didn’t keep track of the specific date. They might mark certain years based on memorable events, like the year the river flooded, or lightning struck the bell tower. Religious days and festivals were more regimented, but by the Church, which was more exact with its time keeping. For most, the days were governed by the position of the sun, and the passage of time by the seasons and the demands required by them in turn. I’ve tried to express this different sense of time through the eyes of my characters—hopefully I have been successful. I also purposely did not give my characters specific ages. I have a general idea of how old they are, and so do they. But they won’t be celebrating any birthdays.

Second, our present day calendar and numeric way of tracking the passage of years is unique to our history. It occurred to me that in my world, their way of keeping time should be unique to theirs. Trying to track years with numbers quickly became too complicated, especially since I created a historic timeline that started way back at the very creation of my world.

I decided instead to split my world up into different eras, their names determined by a special group of prophets within the monastic community. Each era of time has its own important events, and its own feel, much like the decades of the 20th century. The 60’s had a very different feel from the 80’s. The names given to each era describe their significance in history, starting with the Era of the Ancients, the very first era in which the world was created and humanity made its appearance. Later on The Era of Desolation marked a period of great turmoil and suffering, followed by The Era of Varol, where my world’s greatest hero (Varol) emerges to change the course of history. I may include a listing of all the eras and their significance as supplemental material when I publish the next book, but am not sure about that yet.

If you’re a fantasy or sci-fi writer, how do you mark time in your world? If you’re a reader, what are some of the most interesting ways your favorite authors have played with the concept of time in theirs?

Fantasy Writing

Fantasy is a highly versatile genre, encompassing everything from traditional, mythical fantasy, to that which is more modern and even futuristic. When people ask me why I love fantasy, the answer is pretty simple. Because there are no rules, and no limitations. Fantasy can take you to amazing places, both magnificent and mysterious, filled with creatures that defy nature and captivate our imaginations. Anything we can dream becomes reality for our world and characters. It’s a beautiful thing!

My love for fantasy began when I was a young girl discovering the magic of books. I would traipse to the library and come home with a stack I could barely carry. Before they were due back, I read them all…some of them more than once. My favorites were those that pulled me out of my everyday reality and into a world I could love, with characters and creatures I longed to make real. Even as an adult, I would give anything to be able to travel to Narnia and have afternoon tea with Mr. Tumnus, or visit Cair Paravel. Those stories grabbed hold of me in a very real way; they shaped my ideas, comforted me in difficult times, and left me spellbound with a sense of wonder that has remained with me ever since. As fantastical as they were, they were actually quite real—to me. Fantasy holds that kind of power in a way no other genre does.

As an adult I have also come to realize that the fantasy I read as a youth was not only entertaining, it was showing me how to be a better person. The epic struggles between good and evil teach us something about ourselves, showing us just what we are capable of, whether for good or bad. We learn about courage, honor, and integrity in the face of overwhelming adversity, and how to persevere through the trials that push the limits of our physical and mental strength. We learn how to hope, against all sense of reason, that good will always win in the end. Fantasy can in some ways prepare us for the epic struggles of real life that we all face from time to time.

As I learned from the Narnia Chronicles, fantasy can also speak to faith. Lewis imparted the simple, life-changing truths of Christianity through his children’s stories. Through them I could hear God’s voice calling to me, lifting me, and preparing me for a more mature walk with God as I grew into my faith. That has stayed with me, and I am still so thankful for those stories. Sure, they were only fantasy…but they were infused with a depth and meaning that changed me. Not all fantasy is Christian, of course. Even so, most strong fantasy characters believe in something greater than themselves. Maybe they believe in a god, a powerful object, a person, place, or an ideal. Whatever their belief, it is core to their being, and fuels the determination that drives them to fight for a higher purpose, despite the hardships they must endure.

Now that I am a fantasy writer myself, my greatest desire is to have the deeper truths underlying my own stories touch readers in a meaningful way. I’ve tried to create a rich fantasy world, full of beauty and mystery, with epic struggles, both external and from within. My hope is that I’m contributing something to the genre; joining with other writers to pass down the power of fantasy to another generation of readers, just waiting to be transported to another realm.

How Video Games Can Transform Your Writing (Guest post by Author Allison D. Reid)…

No, I haven’t lost my mind, and I’m not a video game addict either—I am totally serious. I’ve been passionate about writing my whole life; participated in writing groups, gone to conferences, taken more classes on writing than I can remember, and even majored in writing in college. But it was through a video game that I learned to really be a story teller and develop characters that breathed a life of their own.

Find a game where you can roleplay with others.

I’m not talking about your standard shoot-em-up, follow the canned story line from point A to point Z until you defeat the big boss kind of game though. I’m talking about the open-ended kind. The games that give you an interactive world full of other players, and opportunities to challenge yourself by building skills and going on quests, either of the game’s making or your own. The games where you can engage with other storytellers and actually roleplay. As writers, we sometimes enjoy good reviews or fan mail, but we don’t typically get to experience the immediate reactions of those reading our stories. Getting to not only experience those reactions, but have readers respond back in a way that influences what you write next, teaches you a lot about what it takes to make an engaging character or story.

Build your own narrative within the game, and connect your stories.

My own book series has its distant origins in one such game, called Ultima Online. As far as I know, its servers are still running, though I no longer play. What started out as something entertaining to do in the evenings after work, became an incredible creative outlet. It resulted in a massive collection of interconnected stories and vignettes that I and a small group of other players built upon for years. The interplay between world, history, and character became a wellspring for the imagination—a boundless source of ideas just waiting to be explored. Even though the game world had its own official history and storyline, following it wasn’t necessary. We made up our own history for that world, our own mythology, and tied it into our individual storylines. Everything we did in game continued to feed into the larger story, so it just kept growing.

Become your character(s) when you’re in game, flaws and all.

Morganne and Elowyn

The Original Morganne and Elowyn, circa 1998.

Roleplaying taught me more about character development than all of my previous writing coursework combined. Why? My characters were no longer theoretical. There was no omniscient narrator between me and their deepest inner thoughts and feelings. With no set plotline to consider, and no need to balance out the actions and thoughts of other characters at the same time, all I needed to focus on was being my chosen character at that moment in time. When I stepped into the role of Morganne, for instance, I really pulled on her boots and peered out at the world through her eyes rather than my own. I spoke, thought, felt, and reasoned like she did.

Unlike in a story or novel where I maintained control over what would happen next, I never knew what Morganne might encounter from day to day. Different situations would arise based on the actions of other players, and I would have to react, not as myself, but as Morganne. And I didn’t have days or weeks to mull the implications of those reactions, either. I had to quickly base them on what I knew of her as a person and stay true to her integrity as a character. Whatever I did, whatever I said, could not be taken back or re-written later.

With real-time roleplaying there could always be unanticipated consequences, of course. After all, I was dealing with the varied personalities of other players’ characters and their background stories. I might make new friends who would come to my defense in times of need. Or I might make new enemies, who would from then on make a point of coming after me. But every decision, every interaction became a part of who Morganne was, and got woven into her larger narrative, until thread by thread, a rich and complex character came into being.

Take the characters you love beyond the game.

The game gradually changed; friends came and went, and my own life circumstances left me little time to play. The day I shut down my account, it literally felt like a part of me had died. It’s a strange thing to grieve over people that aren’t real, yet they had become real to me. What would become of those characters I had invested so many years, and so much of my inner self, into developing? Instead of shelving all of those old stories, and resigning my beloved characters to oblivion, I preserved them in the form of my first novel, and then my second, with still more to come. Not just my characters either, but the memories of so many others that I had met and been influenced by along the way. Fifteen years later I’m still drawing from that infinite wellspring I discovered in, yes, a video game. I’ll probably still be drawing from it fifteen years from now, because I truly love my characters and the new world and storylines I’ve made for them.

Other ways video games can help your writing.

I still play other video games on occasion, though I’m careful not to let them suck too much of my writing time away. Here are some other simple ways they can help.

  • If you’re in a game where roleplaying is possible, this can be a great time to experiment with unusual characters or story lines—particularly those that take you out of your comfort zone. Try them in the game before making them part of your current work in progress. Let the other people you play with serve as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of. See how they react to your experimental character/storyline, and ask for feedback that will help you decide if it works or not.
  • World building can be challenging. If you’re having trouble visualizing your own world, how can you make it a real place for your readers? Maybe you are trying to figure out a castle’s layout, how a certain village would look, or describe some other important location in your book. Build it in Minecraft. It’s not a roleplaying game, but in it you can build just about anything you can imagine, block by block. I’ve terraformed landscapes, made castles, medieval villages, seaside mansions, and all sorts of other things. Sometimes through the building process you realize that the vision in your head isn’t actually possible or practical, or takes up way more, or way less space than you thought.
  • Sometimes when I’m struggling with ideas or something I’m working on isn’t quite right, video games provide a much needed mental break. Ideas can still be percolating in the back of my mind while I get myself refocused, or re-energized.

So the next time you’re looking for a video game diversion, don’t feel guilty about it—make it count. Pick a game that can actually help you hone your writing skills while you play. You might get more out of it than you ever thought possible.


 

Thanks to Chris Graham for posting my article on The Story Reading Ape blog!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

No, I haven’t lost my mind, and I’m not a video game addict either—I am totally serious. I’ve been passionate about writing my whole life; participated in writing groups, gone to conferences, taken more classes on writing than I can remember, and even majored in writing in college. But it was through a video game that I learned to really be a story teller and develop characters that breathed a life of their own.

Find a game where you can roleplay with others.

I’m not talking about your standard shoot-em-up, follow the canned story line from point A to point Z until you defeat the big boss kind of game though. I’m talking about the open-ended kind. The games that give you an interactive world full of other players, and opportunities to challenge yourself by building skills and going on quests, either of the game’s making or your own. The…

View original post 1,405 more words

Dare to imagine an unforgettable place.

fantasy_worldWhat gives an imaginary place life?  You can see its landscape across the written page so clearly that you could very well be watching a movie.  You can touch the objects around you, smell the air, hear every sound.  The author has successfully transported you from this world into theirs.  You’re on a journey with a cast of characters you’re just getting to know, swept along the road to wherever the plot takes you.

Some books make for a fast, entertaining read.  They are enjoyable in the moment, but ultimately forgettable amidst a growing mound of other books you’ve read over the years. But other books stay with you.  For whatever reason, they speak to your heart, burn into your memory.  When you think of that imaginary place, there is a deep sense of longing within you.  You want to go there again and again—you want to believe that it is not just imaginary…that it is real.  When the book ends, you go into a form of silent mourning because you’ve left a little piece of yourself between the pages.  The only way to go back is to read it again, and so you do, and over time that place becomes part of who you are.

How does the author do it?  There’s no simple answer to that.  What speaks to one person’s soul might put a different person right to sleep.  In addition to a well-crafted plot and lovable characters, there are certain qualities that seem to exist in each of those unforgettable imaginary places that withstand the test of time.

  • The world contains wonder and beauty, so vividly described that I can imagine myself there. Going to that world is like taking a vacation from my own, and I care what happens to it as the plot progresses.  When a world contains nothing but darkness and hardship, I can’t get away from it fast enough—what incentive do I have to stay?
  • There is still an element of mystery. The world of my daily routine is pretty tame; well-groomed and largely cemented over.  Convenient, yes.  Inspiring?  Not especially.  But I won’t be braving the wilds of the Alaskan frontier any time soon, so getting to explore an unknown landscape is fun, even if I can only do it from my recliner.
  • The world has its own distinct history and culture. I lived in Germany for 6 years, and driving just a few hours in any one direction could take me to a completely different country, with its own language, traditions, and history.  Each culture was distinct and fiercely guarded.  The best imaginary worlds are those that feel as authentic as the real one, as if I could hop in my car and drive there (or walk, or ride a horse, or take a boat depending on the era).  Authors who can infuse their worlds with a rich history and culture really make us believers.
  • The people have a faith, or at least a mythology, that ties in with its history and culture. This has been part of our humanity from the very beginning—it is who we are.  The nature of our beliefs may be diverse, but we all believe in something.
  • The way people live is real. A whole world full of royalty, or perfect, rich, Hollywood types would make me roll my eyes and close the book, I fully admit it.  While interesting in small doses, that’s not the kind of life experience I can relate to, and what makes me keep reading is the ability to make a connection.  I need to be able to empathize with what the characters are going through and put myself in their place.
  • The author doesn’t gloss over the details of daily life, but lets the reader see how people work, eat, play, sing, learn, and create. This puts me one step closer to being a character myself, and becoming immersed in that imaginary world. When I can mentally make a life for myself there, and all of the other elements of a good book fall into place too, I’m hooked.

For all of you who have fallen in love with other people’s worlds over the years, what won your heart?  What is the source of that internal ache, that longing to go back even when the adventure is long over?