All posts tagged world-building

IWSG – Always Second-Guessing Myself

Published August 5, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, following July’s Camp NotNaNo, I find I have new problems and complications.

A couple of months back, I posted about my plan to make a video game set in the world of my low-fantasy-with-a-few-steampunk-elements novel series.  (I call it a series, but I’ve only written the first novel, and it’s still in the rewriting phase.  Although the current draft is light years better than the first draft.)  A lot of July was spent working on developing and filling out a template containing all the information I would need for each country.  I only got through the first five…and technically didn’t actually get through any of them, because I added a bunch more questions so late in the month that I never answered any of the new questions.

Thing is, it took me that long to do that much world-building prep for the countries where I didn’t need to do a lot of research first.  Meaning, of course, that the other countries will take even longer to complete.  But that’s only a minor complication, not a problem.

The problem is that my plan was to have 26 countries in this fictional world.  (Although after putting together a really bad attempt at a map, I have been toying with the idea of reducing that to about 23 or 24, because one of the continents turned out much smaller on that map, which made me just stop and think about how hard it would be to create really distinct countries for a continent based on pre-European-contact South America, since most of the cultures we only know about archaeologically, leaving a lot of gaps in what we know, particularly since none of those cultures had writing.  Anyway, whether I end up making 23 countries or 26, if I made the international trade and travel game, that would mean a minimum of 23 cities to visit, yeah?  A bit large for a traditional RPG (I think most of the JRPGs I play tend to max out around 15 towns), but these wouldn’t be full towns for personal exploration, so on the surface that doesn’t sound too bad.

Only it would actually be a lot more than that.  The plan for the game, so far, is that you start out in the Britain-like country, working for an international trading conglomerate, and doing trade runs within the country.  Then after an event involving sky pirates, you end up moving up in the company, and get to do trade runs with the rest of the world.

If the home country has 5-8 towns and all the rest of the world has only one town per country, that’s going to be really lame.  But if all 23-26 countries also have 5-8 towns…!  That’s a minimum of 115 towns and a maximum of 208.

Even 115 towns is way more than I would be able to create, I’m fairly certain.  Not by myself.

I haven’t entirely given up on the idea, because I think it really would make a kick-ass game, but I’ve put it on the back burner, as an “after I’ve finished the novels” type thing.  And fortunately, I don’t have to do as much of the world-building in order to work on the novels.  They won’t be visiting every single country in the world in the novels, so for any country they don’t go to, I don’t need the nitty-gritty details, just the big picture, particularly about how the country relates to the other countries around it.  And some of it is not really relevant even for countries they do go to.  For example, the care of the elderly never came up in the first novel, so if I failed to answer that question on the Britain-equivalent, then that’s all right.  And it isn’t likely to come up in the brief time they’re in the France-like country at the beginning of the second book (they end up leaving pretty quickly, escorting the deposed-queen-in-hiding to her brother, the king of the next country over) either, so if I have proven unable to answer that question there, too, it’s not important.  On the other countries where I don’t know yet what the plot of the book will entail (technically, I don’t even know how many books there will be total or how many countries they’ll end up visiting, though I have definite plans for the ones based on Rome, Greece, Egypt, Japan and the Incan Empire), for the most part as long as I can answer the bigger questions, I can fill in the smaller details later if I realize the novel in question will require it.  But there’s still a massive amount of work to be done, in both research and world-building question-answering, and it’s still feeling quite overwhelming.

Meanwhile, a brief burst of renewed love for ancient Greek mythology had me spend a few days rereading large chunks of my quasi-Young Adult novels about the daughters of Achilles and Odysseus and the son of Aias, and I’m feeling like maybe they’re worth polishing up and releasing (for free via LeanPub and, of course) after all.  And although when I first realized that I said “no, after the world-building and its related novels,” wouldn’t it make more sense to do the rewrites on a completed novel series first, as that’s a shorter process than all that research and world-building and rewriting and writing?

Or am I just trying to make excuses to get out of so much tedious, low-level research?

Part of me fears it’s just excuses, in all honesty.

Right now, I’m still trying to finish the fanfiction piece I started in the final days of July, but after that…well, I want to start rereading Emma to be able to polish up the fusion piece I wrote based on it (since I kind of promised (well, strongly implied, anyway) I would start posting it in the fall) at the end of this month/beginning of next month, but after I’m done with that….I’m not sure.  I might go back to Atalanta and Ariadne for a while instead of keeping going with this tedious world-building.  Between what I’m working on right now and Emma, I want to keep working on the myths associated with the world-building; there are a lot of myths still to write for pretty much all the cultures I’ve already got myths for (I stupidly forgot to include tales of heroes (outside of the epics) in the ones based on Greece and Rome!), and I haven’t even started the myths inspired by the Scandinavian/Teutonic myths.

Ultimately, I’m feeling really torn about what to do.  Especially because now that I’m unemployed, I want to be spending my time working on something that I could somehow make some money at, which means I absolutely should not be writing, because my writing is garbage and will never get me paid.  (Yeah, I could try to make money off it, self-publishing my novels and asking money in exchange for them, but it’s not like anyone would actually cough up said money.  They’d look at the preview chapters and nope right on out of there.  If it’s free, there’s at least a tiny chance one or two people might think the story sounded interesting enough to put up with my crappy writing to get at it.)  Unfortunately, there’s not really much I can do that people would pay me for.  There are all sorts of roadblocks cropping up in between me and getting paid to proofread others’ works, and there’s nothing else I’m good at.  (Okay, technically, I was pretty okay at my job, but no museums are going to be hiring for a couple of years at the rate things are going, so that’s not really relevant.)

Maybe I should try writing non-fiction.  I did have an idea to get together with a former co-worker and put out a book about a particularly underdocumented doll line, but that would depend on her still having her notes on the subject and on our being able to convince the director of the museum to give us copies of all the photos that were taken a few years back of the museum’s large collection of that kind of doll.  It would also depend on getting photos from other museums and from private collectors.  The private collectors part would probably be a lot easier to accomplish than the museum photos.  Still, I should call her at some point and see if she’s interested.  It would at least be something slightly productive to do…

Surprisingly late to figure this out…

Published July 22, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Today actually started out awful. Like, don’t even want to talk about it awful. (Though in a very petty, insignificant way, I hasten to add. Myriad inconveniences and trivialities, nothing seriously wrong.)

But just as I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself and trying to decide what self-indulgent way I wanted to spend the rest of the morning on, I had a sudden epiphany about the myths for the France-like country.

I decided the creator god for it is called the Mother of All; she’s basically a Virgin Mary type figure, because the people from France were among the later people taken to this world, so they actually were taken from the early Middle Ages. They had their memories of Earth wiped, of course, but the mythos they developed still retained much of the same character and flavor of the religion they had practiced on Earth. Of course, I’m not going back on my earlier decision to have only one monotheistic country in this world (based on Akhenaten’s Egypt, naturally), so once I figure out what to call them, they’ll have additional gods similar to Christian saints.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I need to add some questions to my template regarding when the people of each country were taken from Earth (and in some cases, where they were taken from, like for the Mesopotamia-based country, since the individual cities in Mesopotamia were culturally discrete), and possibly any reasons why they were taken sooner or later (or instead of) their neighbors, all of which may eventually come out when I get to the point that the narrative of the native species that kidnapped them all from the Earth in the first place.

Today’s time: ~1:19 (I was so into getting started on the myth that I forgot to turn on the timer for like half an hour. I think I ran it over roughly the right amount of time, but as I hadn’t paid attention to when I started, I can’t be sure.)

Time in July to date: 22:32:28.52 (Might have gone on longer, only my stupid chair broke, and now I have to wait while the glue dries in fixing it. 😦 )

World-building process slowing down

Published July 18, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I’ve gotten to a point in the process of trying to define the entire world’s cultures for my novel series that I’m going to have to change how I approach things.  I’ve already come across several questions for the France and Germany-analogue countries where I had to just leave them for later because I wasn’t going to be able to answer them without writing the country’s myths first.  But for those two I’m using historical periods I know pretty well as my inspiration, and I’ve already had to write a lot about them since they’re such near neighbors of the country in the first novel.  Once I’m done with those two, I’m going to need to do much more serious research before I can even answer the questions, let alone write the myths.  And I think I’m going to want to write the myths before I try to answer the questions, because they give me such a better feel for how I want the culture to develop.

Now, a few of the remaining ones I could probably try to muddle through without doing the research first, since this is all just world-building in-my-own-head stuff, and very little of what I’m writing now will actually make it into any of the finished products, novels or game alike.  I may know enough about the real cultures to work with the ones inspired by Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Meiji-era Japan, and possibly even the Persian Empire, but…I think it would start getting very generic.  Technically, I might also remember enough from my classes on the Aztecs, Maya, Inca and Moche, but again, I don’t want to start getting generic.

Of course, since I’m counting any time working on a writing project, including research, that won’t have any impact on my Camp NotNaNo hours.  In fact, it might actually improve my time! But it’s much less personally satisfying than writing.  Though at least once I’ve done the research I’ll get to write the myths!  (And after what I went through today, I am definitely making one of the countries address cramps in their myths, making them specifically a curse caused by a particularly unpleasant and misogynistic deity.)  Of course, I still have to finish up the myths for the British Isles and France inspired countries; the former needs a replacement for the Arthurian saga, and the latter needs everything that’s going to accompany the Arthurian saga, which of course needs all new names.  And I haven’t written the Teutonic/Norse-inspired myths yet, either.  I probably want to brush up on my Norse mythology before I try that one.  (Also need to brush up on Irish, Welsh and Scottish myths before I try to finish those myths…)

That’s why I may take a detour (as it were) and work on a fanfic I had abandoned a long time ago.  It was a fix-it fic for the Wonder Woman movie, trying to repair the horrible, glaring problem with the first five minutes of the movie.  And since I’ve been reading a (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) book about Greek mythology since last night, I suddenly have that on the brain again.  Even opened up the file to have a look at it briefly.  It would be pretty cool if I could finish it and post it before the sequel opens.  (Though who knows when that will be!  I doubt enough theaters will reopen this summer for any studios to be willing to allow their new movies to open.  Certainly they’re not going to want to open new movies before California and New York are back online.)


I feel like I had something I actually wanted to say, but I don’t know what it was, or if I’ve already said it.

Guess I’ll just hope I did, and close off the post for the night.

Today’s time:  ~49 minutes

Total time in July to date:  ~17:30:42.89

(They’re both approximations because I accidentally forgot to start the timer when I first sat down to write, and although I tried to run it after that to about the right amount of time, I’m not sure if I ran it long enough.  I am quite positive I didn’t run it for too long, though.  So I may be closer to 55 minutes than 49, but…eh, not a huge difference, y’know?  Either way, I didn’t even go a full hour, let alone catch up to where I should be.)

I can’t believe I forgot to post, again!

Published July 18, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Man, this is embarrassing! I even made good time yesterday!

(I blame my terrible plumbing; it takes so long for my bathtub to fill that my bath took more than two hours, by which time it was 11:30 at night and I was too tired to remember to post my daily time log for Camp NotNaNo.)

Anyway, I didn’t accomplish much in terms of writing (though I did move on from the France-like country to the Germany-like country (well, actually it’s more like Prussia with some Bavaria and large dash of Scandinavia), but I spent a long time working on the map.

Which might have anyone who actually reads these boring updates thinking I’m being a hypocrite, considering how I rail against the new NaNo site for thinking we’re graphic designers rather than writers, but my results make it super-duper clear that I have less than no skill in the graphic arts.

Having at one time tried to sketch out a world map on my own, I realized I needed some kind of map generation program. I found a couple of good ones, though I never got them to generate a whole world map, just a continent or two. So I saved a whole bunch of these randomly generated maps and tried to fit them together as one…. Read the rest of this entry →

Another weird day

Published July 16, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

On the one hand, I spent most of the day completely failing to get interested in doing any world-building work. And once I did get going, I nearly lost all momentum when I answered the phone and got stuck in a half-hour long survey about the local race for State Senate. (Ironically, if they had allowed it, I could have saved us both a lot of time by saying “look, just put me as max opposed to the incumbent on everything because he’s a legitimate monster and max in favor of his opponent on everything because she’s awesome and I’ve been her supporter since her first campaign for State Representative like ten years ago,” but they would never have gone along with that.)

Um, anyway, I did manage to get back into it a bit after the call, though I did run out of steam before I could finish the template for the France-inspired country. But I only have three sections to go (Gender Roles, Clothing and Fashion, The Arts) so that’s at least something.

Anyway, it was before the call that I came to my big “oh, wait, what’s really going on here?” moment.

See, one of the few strong moments of borrowing specific historical events as well as borrowing cultural influence is that the France-inspired country had a revolution not too long before the books. (Though I did actually come up with a good excuse for it. All the humans on the world of these novels were brought there from Earth between two and four thousand years ago (I haven’t decided how long it was between the arrival of the last humans and the events two thousand years before the novels that broke the humans free of the control of this world’s native life forms) and although their memories of Earth were wiped, they maintained their languages and some concepts of their cultures. The beings that brought them here now live in hiding in the shadows, and they like to mess with the humans, secretly influencing their behavior, including things like inciting a revolution in the group descended from Gaulish Celts in order to imitate the French Revolution.)

Anyway, I was getting to the questions about religion, and how important it is to the culture, and realized I was sort of in a bind. See, one of the major characters to be introduced in the second book is the deposed queen of that country, because she and her children survived, having already been replaced with body doubles before they could be executed. (The king was not so lucky.) Anyway, because she’s a major player in the next book, I already have a pretty good idea of what her character is like, and that’s where the problem comes in.

So, in the French Revolution, the revolutionary government actually attempted to disestablish the Christian religion in France and make their new nation exclusively atheist. In most of my earlier plans on the subject, the revolutionaries in my France-like nation were going to be similarly anti-religion and especially anti-superstition. But then I thought, “wait, wouldn’t it be more cool if they were reactionaries instead, trying to force an outmoded and outdated religious practice on the people?” And I do like that concept still, only the more I think about it, the more I realize that the queen is anything but scientific. She’s not religious, either, though. To most people’s eyes, she’s superstitious, because she’s one of the few who can see the planet’s native life forms, which are now believed to be mythical by most humans. (There is a reason they’re invisible to most people, but it takes about a book and a half (at least) to get there.)

Anyway, so I’m not sure what to do about that. I haven’t written all their myths yet (technically, I’ve only partially written one, and the only reason I have even that much is because I decided that the mythic saga inspired by the Arthurian myths belonged more accurately in France than in Britain, since all the oldest texts were written by French authors and the myth is more of a Breton thing overall, plus there’s already such a wealth of mythic traditions in the British Isles without it, between the Irish, Scottish and Welsh traditions, all of which were there much earlier than the Arthurian cycle) so I’m hoping I’ll have a better idea what to do about it after I do.

Today’s writing time 1:05

Total time in July to date: 15:18:47.21

*sigh* Am I ever gonna stop trying to catch up and get ahead of my goal of an hour a day for Camp NotNaNo?

Yet more I left out of the template…

Published July 11, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Today as I was doing something else entirely, I found myself remembering a passage near the end of the current draft of the first novel in the series where the character from the Rome-like country is looking at a man from the Britain-like country, who happens to have a neatly trimmed little beard (think Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark), and this happens: “Fergus rubbed his goatee in a way that made Cal’s fingers and chin itch” because the fashion in his country (being based on Ancient Rome) is to be clean-shaven at all times.

And that suddenly made me realize that I hadn’t put in anything about things like clothes and hair. So I added a bit more to the template:

Yeah, I didn’t want to type all that out again. Especially not on my phone. :p

So, yeah, the basic world-building template is getting ever nearer to true, proper completion. I even got through a chunk of the Roman-like country’s answers today. It was both more time-consuming and less boring than the first one, because there were more things that required me to go look up stuff about Rome.

Today’s time: ~1 hour 21 minutes

Time in July to date: 10:2936.77

Whew, getting close to caught up!! 😀

And, in case you were wondering, yes, the people of the Rome-like country still wear togas. 😉

The addition to yesterday’s template

Published July 5, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Since I forgot something as important as gender roles in the template I posted yesterday, I of course went back and added that to the world-building template today.  What I added was this:

  1. Gender roles
    1. What is the cultural conception of gender?
      1. Are there more than two genders?  If so, what are the others, and how does society view them?
      2. Is it purely biological, or is there another component?
      3. Are there transgender individuals?  How are they viewed by society?
    2. Are certain duties or behaviors reserved for one gender rather than another?
      1. Are these privileges or punishing requirements?
      2. Do people envy the duties/behaviors of other genders?
        1. Does anyone impersonate those of another gender for reasons of these duties or behaviors rather than out of gender dysphoria?
        2. If so, how does society react to them when they find out?  Is it a different reaction than to transgender individuals?
    3. Are there places that specifically exclude people based on their gender?

Again, I’m sure I left out a lot of important stuff, but this is at least a start.

I also started filling out the template for the country in which the first novel takes place.  I didn’t actually get very far before I moved on to do something else, though.  (In my defense, I went out to run some errands this morning before it could get too horribly hot, and did not get home in time to escape the worst of the heat, so I was feeling a bit beat when I was trying to work on it.)

Today’s time spent at Camp NotNaNo:  ~29 minutes

Time spent in July to date:  6:01:28.39

Today, a Template

Published July 4, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

While it’s not the only thing I accomplished in my writing today, one thing I did was to set up a template to use in the world-building for my low-fantasy-with-a-dash-of-steampunk novel series.  (Which I am also using in a video game where you get to control one person in the employ of an international trading conglomerate.)  As most of this template feels like stuff that would be useful in almost all world-building endeavors, I thought I would share it:

Read the rest of this entry →

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