Category Archives: Concept Development

World Building: Clothing [Pt.2]

worldbuilding clothingIn part one of World Building: Clothing, I talked about Why, what, and when, and covered ideas on how to get a stronger sense of depth when dressing your characters. In part two, I’m going give you some tips on maintaining continuity when writing your world.

  • Research, research, research
  • Time Period
  • Fabrics

Research, research, research

I really can’t say this enough. When building worlds you need to research, and clothing is no exception. You need to understand the purpose of clothing from the time period, and why they wore it. There are many ways to research for your writing.

  • I wrote a series of articles about using video games to research for writing, and it is very applicable for clothing. In a game you can see them in action, where they are warn, and [in the case of an item based RPG, eg. World of Warcraft] learn the names of them.
  • Watch films set in the times period. Creating a culture with gladiators? Watch the Gladiator.
  • Read novels with a similar setting.
  • Google. You can’t go wrong with Google. It should be your first stop for any research project.

Time Period

Even if your world is wholy fictional, establishing a period it is set is still quite important. It gives the reader bearings on what things look like in your world. Some time periods to consider researching are:

  • Victorian [steam punk]
  • Tudor
  • Medieval/Viking Age/Dark Ages
  • Ancient Rome
  • Ancient Greece
  • Ancient Egyptian [warm climate]
  • Biblical times

Fabrics

What your clothes are made of is very important to know. Not only so you can describe their feel to the reader, but also because you need to know where they come from. If there are very few sheep in your world, wool will be expensive and maybe even worn as a status symbol.

A list of fabrics

  • Silk – from silk worms
  • Linen – made from Flax
  • Cotten – from cotton plant
  • Wool – Sheep
  • Leather, animal skins – Traditionally cow, dear, wolf
  • Alpaca fleece – from an Alpaca (not a llama.. llamas are pack animals)

Hopefully you took away some good ideas and extra things to consider when designing your characters clothing. In the next, and final article about clothing I will be covering jewellery and accessories, in a similar vein.

Thanks a lot for reading. In the next worldbuilding instalment I’m going to give some tips on designing jewellery and artefacts for your world.  Are there any extra things you consider when developing clothing for your characters? What do you think of this list?

Cortez

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World Building: Clothing [Pt.1]

worldbuilding clothingFollowing on from my article on building cultures, I am going to go over considerations and ideas when developing the clothes that the people in your world wear. It may seem simple enough but there are a lot of elements that need to be taken into account when developing a culture’s attire.

There are three main things to consider when working out what to wear.

  • What does it look like?
  • Why do they dress this way?
  • Seasons.

What’s it look like?

Obviously, this is important. A large part of building a strong mental image of your characters is to describe how they dress. As with most aspects of world building, this comes down to research. If it is a medieval world, research medieval clothing, science fiction world; research synthetic fibres and consider how they would behave. I am doing a series on medieval clothing, the first instalment; peasant clothes can be found here.

Why do they dress this way?

Almost as important as what it looks like, is the why? People wear clothes for a number of reasons:

  • Protection from the weather
  • Fashion & Trends
  • Comfort
  • To hide our privates

When you write you don’t need to answer all of these questions, but you do need to answer them in your own mind. In Etheros, characters mostly wear wool hose, cloaks, leather chest armour and thick leather boots. While (as yet) I haven’t explained why; the reasons are as follows:

Wool hose: In the great southern grassland there are a lot of sheep. Wool is readily available, and is the cheapest form of clothing.

Cloaks: Winters are cold and windy, a good cloak protects them from it.

Leather armour: The great southern grassland has a lot of cows and (as mentioned) sheep. So there is never a shortage of hides to be made into armour.

Thick leather boots: Most of the characters walk a lot, and leather is cheap. They need quality shoes.

Seasons

Weather is will have its own section, filled with info about how to create believable weather patterns for your world. But the seasons need to be taken into account when developing what your characters wear.

  1. Summer – Is summer hot?
    1. If it is very hot, remember that they will need protection from the sun.
    2. Is it nice and warm, so lighter threads are chosen over wools?
    3. Is it tropical, with monsoonal rains, so are water proofed clothes needed?
  2. Winter – How cold is winter?
    1. Does it Snow?
    2. Is it a dry or wet? 

Spring and Autumn (fall), should be considered in relation to Summer and Winter. How early does it get cold? Is winter short or long? Etc.

So tell me, how do you go about desiging clothes for your world? Do you focus purely on fashion? Do you want your characters to look cool? Or do you focus purely on functionality, like in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Pt.2 Coming right up.

Thanks a lot for reading,

Cortez

World building: Cultures

world buildingCultures are one of the most complicated and important parts of constructing a fantasy setting. They need to be believable, but also whimsical and interesting. The key to creating a unique but believable culture is research, but there are a lot of things you need to consider before putting pen to paper.

 

 

 

 

Considerations

There are three main things to consider when developing a culture.

  1. Hierarchy
  2. Traditions
  3. Day to Day

Hierarchy

Humans have gotten to where we are because of structured society. Whether we like it or not, we need leaders to tell us what to do, and make tough decisions based [hopefully] for the greater good of the people.

It is a tough thing to consider and as you’ll hear me say a lot during this series of posts; you need to do research. Lots of it. Trying to make up a hierarchy yourself will undoubtedly be a great deal of effort to create something that has already been done. So below, I have a list of different hierarchical systems for you to research and develop.

  • Communist
  • Democratic
  • Ancient Greek Democracy
  • Feudal System
  • Monarchy
  • Empirical
  • Anarcho-syndicated commune
  • Corporate Hierarchy
  • Tribal Hierachy – Indigenous Australian, Native America, Neanderthal,
  • Matriarchal
  • Patriarchal
  • Catholic Church
  • Religion – Judaism, Christianity, Islam

This is not a conclusive list, but it is a strong starting point. Can you add anything to the list? Which systems have you adapted in your own writing, or seen adapted?

Traditions

Christmas dinner to sooth sayers and human sacrifice – everyone, for all time has had traditions. Whether they are religious or coming of age [or both] cultures can be defined by their traditions. To add depth to a culture their traditions need to be illustrated. Think of how many stories have begun in the midst of, or leading up to a traditional event – Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” begins the day before Bel Tine, a festival held each year – this adds tremendous depth to the work, and imerses the reader.

As with hierarchy  creating traditions isn’t easy, and most of which have been done before either in fiction, or reality. The key to building a world is to take these ideas and add your own twist to them. Below I have a short list of traditions that could be researched for inspiration.

  • Indigenous Australia – Walkabout
  • Vision Quests
  • Aztec human sacrifice
  • Pretty much everything the Catholic Church does

These are some historical references but looking at your everyday life and you will find a whole host of traditions. Think about your family – How do you celebrate holidays? Where do you go, is it the same every year?

Take these ideas and then change them. If you want to give a culture a vision quest; invent your own drug, or element to it. In Etheros, the orcs of the White Wolf Clan venture into the snow drifts to claim a giant wolf as their mount.

Day to Day

Creating new traditions and a system of government is a lot of fun, but the real question that needs answering is what do the people of your world do from day to day? A list of things to consider can be found below.

  • How do they get food and water?
  • What are some regular chores?
  • How do they spend their spare time?

Wrap up

Obviously there is a lot more that goes into developing a culture but this is a strong place for you to start. I have been deliberately sparse because I’ll be covering so many different elements during this series of posts that it would be huge, to read all at once.

Did you find anything useful? What are some other things you consider when developing cultures?

Thanks for reading,

Cortez

There are two kinds a Worlds in this World…

world buildingTo you want to be a fantasy author? Cool. The first thing you’re going to need is a world. Over the course of the next month I’m going to be turning this blog into a fantastic resource for all things world building. To provide a method for generating fantasy and science fiction worlds from scratch, or turning our world into one of whimsy. Whether or not you’re a writer, or simply like to lose yourself in creating factions and races for a pen and paper RPG, this series of articles is going to be a great source of inspiration.

To kick things off I’m going to talk briefly about the two different types of worlds that I believe all world building falls into:

  • Parallel worlds [Harry Potter, True Blood, Twilight, Superhero comics]

  • Alternate Worlds [Lord of the Rings, Mass Effect, Forgotten Realms]

Parallel Worlds

It’s a common mistake to believe that if a movie or book is set in our world, that it was not an exercise in world building. The few I mentioned above, despite of being heavily rooted in contemporary society are still deeply involved worlds that are not our own.

Creating parallel worlds is not a short cut in world building, if anything, it is just as complicated. A writer must consider the contemporary environment, and how the fantasy or science fiction elements would fit into it. The world needs to feel real, because every reader has hands on experience in the world, and knows what’s what.

Alternate Worlds

The only real difference between alternate worlds and parallel worlds is geography. When you create an alternate world, from scratch, it still requires a massive amount of research and development. While many people will be immersed in a medieval fantasy world, many, especially those who read a lot of the genre, will see through a poorly thought out world and it will ruin their experience.

Throughout the course of these articles I will be covering aspects of both. For the most part though, the subject will be medieval fantasy settings (because that’s what I know), but at the core message and processes of each section can be applied to parallel worlds and science fiction worlds.

I know a lot of people read high fantasy in alternate worlds but read a lot of parallel world. What type of worlds do you prefer to read and write?

Thanks for reading.

Cortez

The Birth of Etheros

world buildingI am a lot of things; graphic designer, illustrator, writer, game-designer, blogger (duh), but above all: I am a world builder. Most everything I create is driven by the desire to create new an interesting worlds as a setting for what I create. Over the next week or so I am turning this blog into a resource for all you other world-builders out there, and will be giving you bucket loads of tips and ideas to consider when building yourself.

So, what better way to start then talking briefly about the world where my debut high fantasy novel “Sword of Unity” [currently being edited] and Blogovella: Into the Firelands is set.

Etheros in a nut shell

Etheros is a continent on a planet named Rar’Orthon, though characters rarely leave Etheros. It is a relatively small place, and would take about four months travel from one side to the other, and about ten months from top to bottom.

It has two suns, one appearing once every two years, and three moons; one visible during the day, the other two at night. The suns and moons are also representative of the Five Gods. Often referred to in fiction as oaths [“By the five!”].

Within Etheros there are five Kingdoms [so to speak]: Leonir, Eldorad, So, the Nordeland, and The Orc Terrirtories. Each with their own structure and somewhat unique geography.

How did Etheros come to be?

Well, I woke up one day and decided I wanted to write a high-fantasy novel. After all, that’s what I mostly read. So I needed a world to base it in. It started out with the idea of having more than one sun, then escalated with the addition of three moons. Magic was taken into consideration, and the history, races were added and developed, and a map was made.

Etheros was an empty shape, a blank area with a mountain range and a couple of rivers; then I started writing. In about three weeks time I had a 72 thousand word rough draft and the left half of the map was filled with locations and landmarks. Then I did my first edit, and expanded it to 120 thousand words, adding more to the map.

With the book finished, and editing under-way  I started writing short stories, to build up the world. The right side of the map started to fill, then the top. Adding, adding, adding. New locations, new factions, new ideas, and new landmarks.

Will it ever stop?

By the five, no! The story takes place during the “Second Age of Etheros” when all the Elves and Dwarves have become extinct (mostly) and humans are the dominant race. I have plans for a third age, which will be a black powder age, and Etheros will be the setting for science fiction one day.

It is my dream that the community will grab a hold of Etheros and make it, its own. I look forward to the day when someone sends me its first piece of fan-fiction (and I will shower them with gifts :P).

The world building Resource

Over the coming weeks I will be going through the ins and outs, considerations and considernots of world building for fantasy and sci-fi settings. It’s a complicated process, but over the years I’ve picked up a few tricks that hopefully you’ll be able to use to improve your own fantasy writing endeavours.

Thanks a lot for reading,

Cortez

Character art in novels

melisande wayfarer
Melisande Flamestouch Character Art

A great deal of this borrows from the article I wrote a short time ago; 5 reasons to get a professional cover artist. The same principles apply, but I’ll be going over a few more in this piece. Also deals with similar concepts to my character sheets article.

Why should you draw your characters?

Whether you draw every day, or just like to doodle from time-to-time, drawing is a great form of release. It can also help cement your ideas and give you a visual platform to work from. Think of it as a character sheet – it will help remind you of your character traits.

When it comes to learning, most people benefit from visuals, when you start out writing a novel, you are learning the characters you create. This is very much so if you write character heavy fiction. So, draw some sketches of the character with his/her clothes items, hair colour, etc. It’s a faster method of generating a character sheet.

2 Reasons why character art should be kept well away from your book:

Imagination… .nation…. nation…. nation… ation… ation

Character art, even on the cover can inhibit the reader’s mind’s eye. When I was a young sprout, and Harry Potter was the business; the picture of him on the front always irritated me. I knew what harry potter looked like, and it wasn’t anything like that little fellow on the cover.

People very easily build characters in their head, and so, having a picture of your protagonist can actually weaken this. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but give a person a ten words, and they’ll imagine ten thousand.

Distracting

If you should keep character out away from the cover it goes ten fold for inside the book. I toyed the with the idea of a novel with graphics but after a few trial pages I realized the imagery was just distracting. It draws the reader away from the real content and to the image. Which slows down and jars your audience.

The blogovella project

I am currently working on a novella odyssey that I am releasing piece by piece on this ‘ere blog. Each post has artwork drawn by myself that shows characters or a scene. There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. limited time: I have been restricting the entries in the blogovella, trying to keep them short and exciting. Trying not weigh it down with heavy descriptors.
  2. The art is a part of it. While I edit my début high-fantasy novel “Sword of Unity” I am writing the novella to keep me writing new content in the world of Etheros. I decided that I also wanted to keep drawing for the duration so I am forcing myself to make a new piece of cover art for each section, each one in a different style.

Have you ever been jarred by a character design on a book? Do you draw your scenes or characters? Where do you sit on this [minor] issue, for or against character art in literature?

Thanks for reading,

Cortez

 

Sex in medieval fantasy

In a genre that is notably void of coitus, I have been researching and formulating ideas on how to incorporate the [the quote Maude Lebowski] natural, zesty enterprise in writing.

We all do it [most of us anyway]

Sex is the driving force behind much of early adult life. If you’re honest with yourself, it’s probably the only reason you ever take a shower. Erotica is also building steam as a genre in itself, and is no longer the home-base of freaks and lonely house-wives.

With fifty shades of grey’s incredible popularity, fetish has been vaulted into the mainstream, and really shaken up how people look at sex in in fiction. What are your thoughts on the topic? For or against?

Sex sells

If the fore-mentioned title is anything to go on then this adage is very much the case. Adding sex to your novel or short story gives your writing selling power. Some people get squeamish  but by and large, we like to read about it. We live vicariously through characters in fiction and romance and the act of sex, are integral driving factors in a persons life.

Off Camera Vs. On

There is a fine line between erotica and sex in fiction, so where, as writers should we draw the line? Should sex between characters be implied? Or should it be a full throttle, passionate thrill ride? It’s really hard to know, and I think it depends heavily on who is actually having sex.

If it is your protagonist then, I believe, it needs to be a little more than, ‘and then they went into the bedroom, wink.’ I would be more inclined to build up to a fade out, if you want to avoid writing about the actual act.

Some aspects will need to be off-camera. If you are writing from one character’s perspective, and they are not involved, then why would they know the intimate details? Although you could communicate these details through dialogue at a later stage.

Humour

Personally I keep erotic scenes in my writing quite light hearted. Sex isn’t a monumental thing any more. It’s just not that big of a deal. In the early days of a relationship it can actually be quite awkward, even for experienced participants, so there are lots of little details that you can add to a sex-scene to make it interesting and a little bit amusing. Like teeth knocking, tangled sheets.

Be comfortable with it

Probably the most important thing about writing sex into your fiction is you need to be comfortable doing it. If you feel dirty writing it (aside from the fact you really shouldn’t), you need to keep going, keep practising until you are happy to let the scene play out. Alternatively, you could include your own writer’s thoughts into the scene. If you feel uncomfortable writing it, perhaps your protagonist is anxious also.

The fade out

This is a technique I will be going into more detail with in a post of its own. If you are writing Y.A. Or even adult fiction, the fade out can be a great way to build an erotic scene without making it erotic. You leave the actual act to the imagination of the reader, but give no illusions as to exactly what’s going on.

All in all, sex is something we’re going to see more and more of in writing. Coitus in mainstream fiction has been a long time coming, and, in my opinion it’s good. Love between a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman, or a man and a man, really isn’t anything to get upset about. We all do it (in one way or another) and is something that adds an extra layer of realism to your writing.

This won’t be the last I talk about sex in fiction, that’s for sure. I actually haven’t read any medieval fantasies that have sex scenes in them, any recommendations? What do you think about the trend of sex as a story telling element as opposed to a genre?

Thanks for reading,

Cortez