Sometimes my fantasy world building spills over into the real world. You see, my husband and I are building a house. We aren’t expert carpenters or plumbers. Even more challenging is it is in a remote spot and off-grid. Lots of hurdles to tackle there. I feel like creating a world with rules on magic, unique races and cultures, and making it all at least slightly believable makes tackling a stud wall seem rather insignificant.
We came to this juncture of designing a house and building it…well, because I didn’t like any of the cabin kits. They were blah and typical. They weren’t ME. It is the details that I put into this structure, details that would have cost thousands of dollars to add to a kit, that make this house unique and mine.
The same is true with world building. If I want a reader to stay immersed in my stories, it could be one detail that makes a place memorable instead of “yeah, yeah, yeah – substitute in the town from that other fantasy book I read.” Not a great start for originality or memorability.
When I developed Myrrah, I sketch out the coastline around the Sea of Sarketh first followed by the northern and southern regions. After that, I started thinking about the weather.
You see, I work in an environmental field with a strong focus on agriculture. Which leads me to a heavy focus on weather, day length, seasons and all the things that add up to a successful (or not) civilization. I build my cities based on storms and rainfall. If the region is hot and sunny, you get places like the island of Tiero, one of the many cities in the Archipelago of Bellaia:
Niri turned her steps up the hill toward the oldest part of the city. Here the streets were so ancient and worn that the spaces between pavers, which were made of the same shell-colored marble as the buildings, were invisible. The street appeared as one solid piece of stone carved flat by thousands of feet and myriads of storms.
The buildings were stylistically more frugal than those near the docks, but rose to towering heights as if mimicking the mountainside on which they were built. Any remnants of paint were in shadowed and protected corners, leaving the natural soft hues of the stone alone to embellish carved accents. Roofs of the same chiseled marble fed into elaborate gutters to channel away the frequent misty rain.
There is so much of Tiero that isn’t in that tiny snippet: the airy houses fronted with arched colonnades instead of window, the ancient warding stones that hold back the jungle from the city’s edge, that the city is built on the lee of the mountain to protect it from the frequent strong storms, and the smell of the daily rain mixed with tropical flowers. At night, you should hear the frogs!
Finndale, by contrast is on the southern shore of the Sea of Sarketh. At its back, the snowy heights of the Alin Mountains soar. It is a region of thick forests and mountain fed streams, isolated by the Coast of Storms, the sea, the mountains, and the Steppes.
“I love it here,” Ria said. Her gaze was riveted on the little town of wooden houses, each uniquely shaped with elaborately crafted beams. They were all nestled together along the banks of the Torfel river, before it spread out wide and deep to enter the Sea of Sarketh. The sea was gray today, muted by the thick clouds overhead, but for once it wasn’t raining.
“I want to come back and live here,” Ria said wistfully.
Zhao glanced over at her. His eyes were dubious, but he was smiling. “I don’t see any vineyards or olive trees.”
Ria turned around, her gaze scanning the rolling forested hillsides to the northern edge of the Alin Mountains. “I bet I could grow some, probably oranges too.”
“Yeah, I bet you could.”
Ria smiled. “I’d build a little house like the inn in Drufforth. Maybe I’d grow some medicinal herbs like the woman, Canta, we met today.”
“From what you said of Drufforth, wouldn’t you then be growing your house as well?”
Ria giggled, bumping Zhao with her elbow. She glanced over at his less than curious face. “You don’t like it here, do you?”
“Oh, it is nice…it just reminds me of Xiazhing. Different, but the same. I want to go somewhere…new. I want to see the Archipelago and Luthna Sithaine. I even think I want to see the Coast of Storms,” Zhao said, his voice as wistful as hers had been the moment before.
“Lus na Sithchaine,” Ria said with a smile.
She couldn’t argue with him. Finndale was a small town, the only one along the south shore of the sea really. In their four days in port, they had watched boatswains shaping incredible ships along the buildings by the waterfront. Everything was wooden and worked in wood, down to the plates. Only the pots used over the fires were metal.
That is how I created Myrrah and even Odarien, the setting of Black Blood, Black Throne. Coastlines, weather, and food!
I know these were short snippets, but do you get a feel for the places? Are they different? Believable?
I’d love to know how do you build worlds?