World Building: Dare to Landscape
Let’s face it. It takes bravery to create our own worlds. This week, I asked Twitter’s #WritingCommunity to discuss landscapes they had created in their world building. I was blown away by all the courageous sharing of amazing places! If you haven’t seen the thread, really take a look at it by searching #AuthorNook on Twitter. It was a pleasure reading everyone’s responses and I hope others enjoyed the discussion too. I realized our landscapes are the cradle that our stories are born from. Some landscapes even become their own characters, interacting with our MCs.
This week, #WritingCommunity authors discuss their world building in regards to landscape; how they crafted the worlds their stories are set in.
I hope you enjoy! And please join the conversation in the comments if you’d like. Do you have any questions for the authors? Do you have a landscape that you would like to share?
There is so much to the writing process that I enjoy. The development of worlds or simple landscapes is one of them. Sure it’s daunting, but the license to be free; like a painter before a blank canvas, holds amazing possibilities. There may be a need to stay true to some aspects of a world crafted. The beauty, though, is no matter the world, and no matter the previous creator, it is still just a “their” draft of that world. Certainly, if you are aiming for accuracy in known histories or modern times, a sense of exactness may be important. In my opinion, you can still add a strong sense of your style to the depiction. Who says demons can’t hold a poker game in the bowels of Mt. Fuji. Locked behind the cherry blossoms and a snow-capped peak?
“Flesh scatters into ash, dotting the sky like dead stars. Finally, the smell evaporates and silence takes over. If one listens close enough, one can hear the soul weeping, as it descends into hell.”
A little over a year ago, a prolific indie author helped me to unlock this freedom in my own work. From it came Hell’s landscape. Crina (Lilphain) finds herself buried in the darkest lore of Hell. Her journey sees many similarities in Hell’s past. Dashes of mythology, Dante, and a sprinkle of lesser known works. She will travel many roads that are unspoken until now. This creative process lets you emerge yourself and your reader into a boundless world of your making.
“The Gates of Hell are stoic masses of ivory and light, but to the damned, they are dripping black from the blood of sinners. Hell opens these gates to those who must atone, and their torment awaits.”
Descriptive voice enables you to craft something unique, something “you.” I don’t know anyone (besides my inner demon) who is an expert on Hell and can comment on my descriptions. Doesn’t matter, it’s my world, my process, and I’m sticking to it. I love the process of creating and I adore the voice that can craft it. When the time comes, I hope you’ll give Lilphain a read. In the meantime, I have some short stories that will give you a taste of my voice, and the dark rendition of a cold, yet fiery world. Let your voice reign. Cheers.
A man of many faces, Spyder Collins haunts the caves of Colorado, where he weaves disturbing tales of horror and suffering. When he’s not agitating the minds of unsuspecting readers, he pens soul-shattering poetry.
You can find Spyder on Twitter @Spyder_Collins and at spydercollins.carrd.co.
I’m honored to be joining you again on Laken’s blog to talk about the underground realm in book 3 of my Maer Cycle trilogy, The Place Below. It’s definitely my favorite environment I’ve written, a sealed-off ancient mine featuring a 2,000-year-old undead scholar, a tribe of Skin Maer who have been trapped underground for millennia, and a handful of carrion trolls. I will try to give you a sense of the environment without too many spoilers; difficult as that may be in book 3 of a trilogy.
The book alternates between MCs in two places: the world above, full of mountains and various tribes of Maer (the hairy humanoids in the trilogy), and the Place Below. Sasha, the main MC, is the product of a mystical surrogacy involving one human and two Maer, and she was born with the ability to sense the dead, what is called the Death Link in the book. In her travels to uncover the secrets of the long-buried Ka-lar, or Forever Kings, she senses a presence under a mountain and is compelled to go back to meet the being she felt through the rock. His name is Kuun, the other MC, and his perspective shows the underground society of the Skin Maer.
This is a map of the Place Below (made by Dewi @dewiwrites on Twitter). I wanted something that felt like it came from an old D&D manual, and Dewi surely delivered!
The mine was built in the Time Before, to excavate brightstone, a mineral that glows when exposed to air. Its energy can be harnessed to power the ancient technology Kuun spent his life building, which is why he was laid down there. But the world he wakes up in is far darker than the glorious future he imagined.
The Skin Maer, a reviled group of Maer who only have hair on the tops of their heads and a few other places, were hounded into near extinction by the Maer of yore, and found refuge in this abandoned mine. An earthquake over a thousand years before sealed off the exits, except for two tall chimneys, remnants of the old mine. Only a very small number of fit and agile Skin Maer can climb the chimneys to get the few things they need from the outside world, and their laws forbid the use of outside materials except when absolutely necessary. Most of their tools, clothes, etc. come from things that grow underground, and from the bones and tendons of their dead.
Though it might seem grim, the Skin Maer honor their dead by using what they can from their physical bodies. Their undertaker, Tuthana, tends to the dead, cleaning the bones and drying the tendons for further use, leaving the rest for the carrion trolls, who play a sacred role in their mythology. The Skin Maer make ladders and all manner of tools from the bones, supplemented by fabrics they make from special mushrooms they grow, using guano and rat droppings for fertilizer, with the help of a fungus mage.
The Skin Maer legend tells that once they awaken Kuun, he will lead them to the Place Above, but he may have other plans, and their long history and traditions developed from centuries underground make them hesitant to venture out from their ancestral home. I felt the same hesitation leaving this world behind once the book was complete as the Skin Maer did as they debated whether to venture out into the sunlight or stay behind in their place below the mountain.
The trilogy, including an ebook omnibus with bonus short fiction and character art, can be found in all formats via the usual online vendors, handily assembled on my page on the Shadow Spark website.
Dan Fitzgerald is the fantasy author of the Maer Cycle trilogy (character-driven low-magic fantasy) and the upcoming Weirdwater Confluence duology (sword-free fantasy with unusual love stories). The Living Waters comes out October 15, 2021 and The Isle of a Thousand Worlds arrives January 15, 2022, both from Shadow Spark Publishing.
Find Dan on Twitter or Instagram under the handle danfitzwrites, or on my website, www.danfitzwrites.com.
It’s fun to create places in an imaginary world because through them you get to show and explore culture, beliefs and societal issues. They can evoke emotions and allow the readers to feel the vibe of the world. They can make your world seem tangible.
It’s amazing to think that you can transport people to a place that exists only in your imagination. Come to think of it, each reader will perceive it in their own way, so everyone gets to go to a slightly different place.
Luonmi is a vast rainforest in the southern hemisphere in the world of my WIP. It’s separated from the technologically advanced northern hemisphere that is filled with modern cities by the Great Akkuassa Desert.
The desert used to be a forest too, where many tribes that are now gone lived. But it was mined for resources and turned into barren land because of the ecosystem destruction and climate change driven by human action.
A treaty from over a hundred years ago keeps Luonmi forest safe from the humans of the Northern hemisphere. The tribes that had always lived there got to keep their land and lifestyle, and neither group now has the right to intrude into the other’s world, even though they did in the past.
One of my main characters — Balika — lives in a small tribe in the northern part of Luonmi. She gets to explore the desert and the South of the forest in different parts of the novel, but I’ll tell you about the places in her tribe’s land that I loved describing.
One of them is the tree of Balika’s loved one. Each person of the tribe has their own tree — the one they choose for themselves. They go to it for support or when they need a moment of quiet. And when they die, they are buried under the tree with pieces of the sacred Tatama mushroom in their mouth, navel and under their eyelids. The people of the tribe see this mushroom as the protector of the land that keeps it healthy and can revive in times of disaster. They ingest the mushroom in some of their ceremonies, so they are proud to become food for it after their death. As the mushroom consumes their body, it forms a symbiosis with their tree. In over a hundred years, Tatama caps grow on the tree, ready to be harvested or spread spores. This way, Balika’s tribe directly engage in the cycle of life, making sure the mushroom is always there for the land and the future generations. I’ve got a touching scene where Balika comes to her dead loved one’s tree, hugs it and talks to her loved one for a while, telling her about her life, lying among the roots and feeling as if she is being held.
Another important place is the communal fire. It’s in the center of the tribe’s settlement and the center of their life — a place where they all meet and make decisions, where they hold ceremonies and celebrations. By the way, their ceremonies involve various mind-altering substances and usually end in orgies, but I guess it’s a story for a different time. There are at least several crucial scenes that happen there. The fire has some primal magic to it, and it creates possibilities to play with the shadows, smoke and different senses. I love the idea that it’s a place where the tribe can sit in a circle while they eat and talk. This arrangement creates intimacy and represents equality, since their society is non-hierarchical. Sitting around the fire, everyone can see each other, and every place is the same — there are no more or less important ones, just like all the people are equally important and have an equal say.
Alina Leonova is a sci-fi author, a nomad, a dreamer and a reader on a quest. After realizing that most of the science fiction she's read was written by men, Alina decided to discover as many sci-fi books written by women, trans and non-binary authors as possible. She's got a website where she reviews books by famous and new, traditionally and self-published writers, creates lists, posts interviews, short stories and more.
In her writing, Alina tries to take the readers on a thrilling journey with plot twists and some bewildering ideas, while staying focused on the personal struggles of the characters.
Find Alina on Twitter @AlinaLeonovaSF and alinaleonova.net.
Silverden is a southerly land of gentle rocky hills, shallow valleys, wide expanses of rich woodland, and long shimmering rivers. Idyllic and pastoral, it is home to the spirit-form denomination of the World Serpent faith. In Voerlund to the north, a much more rugged land home to the old god-form of the faith, they believe the Serpent is a mighty protector who watches from afar, and revere countless saints. But in Silverden, the Serpent is a divine ordering force, whose coils permeate all things and hold the world together, whose saints have glimpsed the Serpent and its order in totality.
Over two thousand years ago, when Silverden was still a sparsely populated and fragmented region, before it got its name, a priest beheld a vision of the coils along the banks of the Asoliad River, and founded a monastery on that spot devoted to study and contemplation. In time, this radical new faith spread, six other monasteries were founded, and a priesthood of scholars established. Villages and eventually towns sprung up around and near these monasteries, and Silverden made a name for itself as a land of fervent faith.
Throughout this time, the old feudal system began to wane as the monastery-towns became more populous, and people flocked to their walls in times of peril. Eventually, the old lords were absorbed into the monasteries as orders of holy warriors who held form, discipline, and restraint above all in their martial exploits.
Today, Silverden is a theocracy that is led, rather than ruled, by its Venerates in the monasteries and the Archvenerate who resides in the capital Silverden Canton monastery. The law of the land is the law imparted by the World Serpent, and it is held in deepest reverence.
Sean Hill is a ghost story lover, fantasy world builder, and powerful wizard living in Dublin, Ireland.
Find Sean on Twitter @SeanCRHill and Substack.
I do hope you've enjoyed this week's Author Nook! Please remember to join the #AuthorNook discussion on Twitter every Tuesday and the blog post here every Sunday to read more from featured #WritingCommunity authors and artists. - Laken 🌹