Tuesday, July 5, 2016

World Building Part 1: Initial Ideas and Brainstorming

I love world building. I guess anyone who follows this blog or my other works might have surmised as much. It is a constant thing with me, building worlds. I have dozens of them going at any given time and I am always spinning more off into the void, just to see what they look like. Worlds are never complete, sure. I am always at work on one or the other, fixing this or adding that. Some of the worlds I have build span galaxies and more, others are only a building and a few personalities. Others still are mere pitches with nothing to them other than the barest hint of an idea. In this series(I think it will be a series) I plan to showcase my methodology and hopefully help my self out of a bit of writers block I have been experiencing.

So here goes, my methodology for building a world:

Step one for me is the Initial Arbitrary Idea(s). In this step I just lay out the things I want to play with and try and figure out if those ideas can go well together or if there is enough depth to a given idea to merit a whole world. For this project I came up with a couple on my own and a couple were given to me by some friends(thanks +Tore Nielsen +Cameron Corniuk +Reagan Taplin +Mitch Williams +John Helmuth  and +James Husum for all your interesting thoughts). Here is the list of idea seeds that I will be working with for this world:
  1. Airships
  2. Points of light(monsters are everywhere)
  3. The Elements are magical/conscious/crucial in some way that is weird and interesting.
  4. Summoning/super form
  5. Humans dominate but there are other intelligent species(thinking maybe a cutesy magic species and a four legged barbarian species. Maybe others)
  6. major city that sits on a bed of water, surrounded by a waterfall on all sides. Airship and magic only safe ways to get there.
  7. Lizard Men
  8. Land/Sky pirates whose ship/lair is built upon the backs of enormous striding beasts
  9. Cloud Wizards who make ships out of clouds and fly about
  10. A sect of priests who maintain the ships(possibly with a secret group controlling them, possibly repairing stuff through superstition and ritual rather than actual knowledge)

And that is what I have, my initial arbitrary decisions. I went with a lot of them, because I like to play around and I kind of want to keep doing world building for a long time on this project. You can start with just one, in fact any one of those ideas would be a solid.

Once you have your initial idea(s) it is time to start brainstorming within it(them). Find the parts of the setting on which the other parts hang. The elements seem like a pretty solid main point to branch off of(heck the final fantasy games have been using it for thirty years, there must be something to it), also the species thing seems like a good central thing to play with. Lets start with those two, mostly because those are what jumped out at me as the most interesting. I like the classical elements, but there are only five of them and I think we can have more fun with more. I did some digging and found a few extra classical elements from various other philosophies and I have a list of eight: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Metal, Wood, Void/Space, and Spirit/Consciousness. In digging around for them I came up with a silly thought that I like. 

In this world(which I have not named yet)There are the four main elements, fire, water, earth, and air. Then their are four secondary elements that are a mix of two other elements, Fire and Earth make Metal, Water and Earth make Wood, Water and Air make Void, and Fire and Air make consciousness. Then I had a follow up thought, what if there was a sentient species for each of the secondary elements. I really liked that so I had to work out what that meant and what the meaning of each element was. I will probably due an in depth breakdown of each element and how it plays out in the world and the magic in the world, but for now here is the initial idea on which species matches with which element. 

Metal: Combining the energy of fire with the permanence of earth makes for creativity and ingenuity, passion and stubbornness. The species of Metal is the Njan, a catlike people of mechanics and sword masters, artists and revolutionaries. 
Wood: Combining Water's unfathomable depth and adaptability with the earth's unchanging nature leads to wisdom and patience. The species of wood are the Sprites(need a better name) tiny folk who value knowledge and survival. They ride flamingos(I just wanted them to ride flamingos, this is not derived from anything)
Void: Combining the air and water is a dangerous mix. Air is free and unchecked, water is adaptable and ever moving. The Fa-chia are a people of great passion and whim, nomads who roam the skies and lands with impunity. They are quadrupedal winged lizards who are considered barbaric and simple by most. Those who know better often go to them for advice, the nomads of sky and sea know many things. They hold no grudges and are quick to forgive. They live in boundless optimism and hope tempered with understanding and empathy. 
Spirit: Combining fire with air leads to truly great things, either great creativity or a great conflagration. The air is flighty but sees all, fire is passion, properly directed it is a wondrous thing. Humans are the species of spirit. They have great plans and must do them now, for tomorrow is a promise to no one. 

Now that we have this I am starting to see the shape of things. Airships are held aloft by the magic of air. The city on the water with waterfalls all around it is obviously the center of a great deal of water elemental energy, perhaps there is a great water spirit there or it is the source of all water on the planet. Does that mean that there are similar cities at similar places related to other elements? Maybe. Does the sect of priests who maintain the airships follow or worship the elemental spirit of air? Is that a real thing or is it something they made up long ago to explain how things work? The great beasts of the pirates, where do they come from and what do they eat? Actually, what do they eat, is a solid question to ask at nearly any point in world building. It nearly always adds a little more verisimilitude to the world, and that is always handy. I have a lot more planned for the future of this world building but I think I have nailed down the basics of the setting. Next we start getting into the why's of certain things. Like why airships, and what would cause people to develop them over land or water travel? That is it for now. Let me know what you think, comments, critique, and questions are always welcome.

Part 2: Airships
Part 3: Species and abit of history