Category Archives: world building

World Building: Miracle Magic

handmade jewelleryIf you’ve got gods in your world, chances are you have magic. Herein I’m going to give you the tools necessary to develop an in-depth god-based magic system for your fantasy world. A “Miracle” based magic system works better when you have multiple gods, because it allows you to assign a different school of magic to a different god. In my world [Etheros] there are 5 gods; Wind, Water, Stone, Fire, Life (very captain planet) and each one gifts its chosen in different ways.

The first thing you need to know is; who are your gods? I’ll be writing a separate section on manufacturing religions in world building, but for now, I leave that up to you. But consider what role your gods have played in the world, and what they represent. The god of love is not going to rain hell fire on one of her disciples enemies.

Forgetting Monotheism

Monotheism is a religion that worships a single deity, and unless you are creating a Christian fantasy I would recommend avoiding mono-theism. When creating a magic system powered by gods, there needs to be rituals and homage paid to a god to generate the desired spell. If you have a single god, it could get confusing for the reader.

Questions to answer

You need to answer the same questions that apply to every other article on world building magic, but there are a few extras when creating deity powered magic.

  • Ceremonies – Does calling on the gods for magic require a ceremony?

  • Homage – Human or animal sacrifice? Acts that the god likes?

  • Commune – Do characters speak with the gods? Do the gods talk back?

  • Will of the Gods – How much of the god’s own will a part of the magic system? In Etheros, magic combines all the systems, and is believed to be the will of the gods. Though, it may not be. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether the gods are real, or whether it is the belief of the people in Etheros.

  • Personality of the Gods – Is the god jealous? Tricky? How does that effect the way in which magic is used.

The limitations of miracle magic is defined by the strength of your gods. Can your gods shift mountains? Split the earth? Part seas? They do require some limitation though, which you can define by the characters connection to the god. Which is why I would advocate using a commune or ceremony to invoke magic of your gods. So unless your character has eighty goats handy, he won’t be able to lay waste to an entire army.

What do you think about miracle based magic systems? I actually don’t know of any outside of Norse, Greek and Roman mythology. Have you read a book where the gods where the source of magic wielded by the people? What did you think of it?

Thanks a lot for reading,

Cortez

 

World Building: Item Magic

handmade jewelleryOtherwise known as enchanting, item magic can be added to your magic system or be the stand alone source of powers in your world. Herein I’m going to give you the necessary tools to create a convincing item based magic system.

As with all magic systems, you need to (at least for yourself) know where the magic comes from. In my world Etheros, enchanted items are rare and they come from “the immortal age” a time when dwarves imbued magical runes upon weapons, armour and objects.

  • Who makes enchanted items?
  • When?
  • How? (ingredients? Tools?)

If you are working with a caster based magic system wherein spells require the use of a tool (wand, sword, staff), you need to think about how these items are made. Were they forged by a lost civilisation? Are they made by master craftsmen?

You also need to consider the limitations of enchanted items. It is not uncommon to see an item in a fantasy world with a huge amount of power, but not every item can be this way. You need variance in your enchanted items, otherwise you may wind up writing a guild raid in World of Warcraft, and not a beautiful fantasy novel.

  • How frequent are magical items? Is your world like D&D where every man and his dog carries a magical item? Or are they extremely rare, like my world Etheros?
  • What is the strongest enchantment an item carries? In my debut novel “Sword of Unity” [out in December], there are two: Vengeance (the badies’ sword) and Unity (the hero’s sword), they are matched only by each other in power.
  • What is the weakest enchantment an item carries? Think of D&D, Baldurs Gate and the old Long Sword +1. What is the weakest thing a magical item in your world will do?
  • Relevance to the story – Personally I like magical items to be a part of the tale itself, rather than simple attachments to the characters.
  • Make a list of common enchantments – As always, I don’t like comprehensive lists, but a great starting point is to make a list of commonly occurring magical items. E.g. Bracers of strength, sword of fire.

Item based magic was a short one because as I got into writing the realisation hit me that I could blather on for hours. So at some point I will be adding to almost every aspect of this tutorial.

Was there anything in here that you hadn’t considered while developing your enchanted items? Was there something extra you did take into account?

Thanks for reading,

Cortez

 

World Building: Caster Magic

worldbuilding: magicCaster magic is by far the most common form of magic in fantasy writing. Throughout this post I am going to give you ideas, and a things you need to solidify when creating a magic system that is hinged by the people who use it.

The first thing, which was detailed in my last post “World Building: Magic, getting started” is to decide who uses the magic. Everyone? A select few? A chosen one? In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, only women can use magic, while men go insane when they harness it. There are two major factors in developing caster magic;

  • How is it used?

  • The spells

The how needs to be answered first and foremost. How do wizards or witches; warlocks or liches utilize the magic in your world? Beneath is a list of different method that can, and have been used in fantasy.

  • Vocal – Power words, incantations. If your spells need to be vocalised you also need to actually write what needs to be said. Tips for writing incantations:

    • Maintain a theme within incantations. Take Rowling’s Harry Potter as an example. The spells have a whimsical, Latin feel to them.

    • Consider having the incantation imply the effect of the magic – Lumos [Harry Potter] illuminates their wands. Luminous means lit.

  • Tool – Do your characters require a item to utilise magic? Be it a wand, a book, some other item of power [see Item Magic].

  • Ingredients – Do the spells require any special ingredients. Powders, leaves.

  • Gestures – This is a tricky one to write. If you put in a complex list of hand gestures, people will lose track of what the characters are actually doing.

    • KISS it [Keep it Simple Stupid]

    • Use simple gestures

    • Use blanket terms e.g. Peter’s hands moved all about in all directions, before flame sprung from his finger tips.

Creating spells is fun, and to be perfectly honest I would recommend you write them into your story as necessary. Creating a list of spells is a great way to better understand your magic system, though. But it should act as more of a guide to creating spells as you write, as opposed to an end-all list of what a magician can or can’t do.

  • Purpose of the Spell – What does it do? Why would you use it?

  • Who can use it – Does your character need to be a skilled mage to use this spell? Or will a young, new wizard be able to use it?

  • Gesture(s) or incantation or tool required.

  • Ingredients (if any)

These are just a few of the things one needs to consider when developing caster magic. It is a massively complex process but this is a good starting point. Once the initial set of articles are up, I will be going more in depth into each element of caster magic (eg. Ingredients, tools, etc).

Hopefully you learnt something that you can apply to your own world building exercises.  Is there anything you would add?

Thanks a lot for reading,

Cortez

World Building: Magic, Getting Started

worldbuilding: magic

I feel like I say “things to consider” in almost every post. Perhaps I’m a terrible writer, but either way, I know world building and in this post I shall impart some of the jewels in the crown that is; creating a brilliant magic system.

 

 

 

  • Origin
  • Capacity
  • Who?

First thing to work out is the origin of magic in the world. Keep in mind that it is perfectly fine to say “it’s just there” but to better understand your own magic system there are a few questions you should answer that will help give your magic depth:

  1. Where did it come from? Do people know its origin?
  2. Who discovered it? – Was there an ancient wizard? A demi-god?
  3. How long have the races in your world been using it?
  4. Is it considered good or evil?
  5. Why is it considered good or evil?
  6. Does it come from something, or someone? eg. Winds of Magic (Warhammer), The true source (Wheel of Time).
  7. Are items required to use it? Wand (harry potter), crystal ball (that creepy woman at the carnival).
  8. How is it controlled? Mental, hand gestures, voice, items?

The uses of your magic, or magic’s capacity is another extremely important thing to consider. You need to give characters a level cap, so to speak, and you also need to have room to grow. A magic user who just discovers their power need to learn how to use it, or perhaps control it. There are some questions to ask yourself about the capacity of your magic.

  1. What can your magic do? Break mountains, cause rainstorms, move things around? Generate a list of stuff that people in your world do with magic. But keep in mind that this is a loose set of guidelines and not a strict can or can’t system.
  2. How is use attained? Is the person simply gifted? Is it taught? Little form column A, little from column B?
  3. How do they improve? Practice harnessing the powers or do they read spell books and learn new things?

Who uses your magic? It was a question answered loosely in the capacity section but I wanted to go more in depth. Can the magic in your world be taught to any old joe? Can it be used by anyone who possesses a certain item? Are wizards a secret order? Or does everyone know (and perhaps fear) them?

Hopefully you took something from this piece, maybe even got a few ideas for your current project. What do you think?

Thanks for reading,

Cortez

 

World Building: Magic

worldbuilding: magicSo your world has wizards? Where does their magic come from? I dunno, and you need to tell me. In this post I’m going to give you some of the tools necessary to create a solid magic system for your world. This will be a five part piece, covering everything from developing spells to how it works.

To start things off, you first need to decide what kind of magic your world has in it, so, to make things easy I’ve broken down every kind of magic that exists! I’m just kidding, but here are some loose categories:

Miracle Magic

Mircle magic is any type of magic that involves gods. I don’t necessarily mean the christian god mind you. I consider the magic in the world of Etheros (my world) to be miracle magic, because it is used by communing with one of the five gods.

Caster Magic

Incendio! Caster magic, is magic that is cast by a magic user. Caster magic is seen in Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, Pratchet’s work, and well nearly every piece of fiction that shows off a wizard. It is also one of the most complicated forms to make believable, but don’t fret, there is a full guide in store!

Item dependant Magic

Enchanted items that are used to make magic, if your wizards require wands, you have an item dependant magic system.

Elemental Magic

Earth, fire, wind, water, heart, go planet! Elemental magic is any kind of magic born from one of earth’s resources. If you are developing an elemental magic system, try to think outside of the box. What about wood magic?… Fear the incredible ability to make a table…

Creating a solid, believable magic system is the true sign of a master fantasy author. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has the best explained system of magic I’ve ever read. George R.R. Martin depicts it as almost superstitious, and Rowling makes it exciting and hidden.

If you want magic in your world, even if you do not explain it to the reader, you must solidify how it and why it works in your own mind. If not, you will have one wizard capable of bending time itself and another unable to start a small fire. You need limits, and you need the power to grow. It is the reason RPG video games are so popular.

Over the following days I will go over techniques you can use to add validity and realism (such a funny word to use here) when developing your magic system.

Thanks a lot for reading,

Cortez

World Building: Jewellery and Accessories

handmade jewellery

People love stuff. Something I covered in my article about merchandising your work. Throughout history humans have adorned themselves with all sorts of crap, plenty of which was merely for show. To add depth to your fantasy world, you really can’t avoid it. Not to mention, that when your characters accessorise it gives you the opportunity to bring these items into the real world and merchandise your book.

There are a great many things to consider when designings jewellery and accessories for your world. All the things I covered in World Building: Clothing [Pt.1] and World Building: Clothing [Pt.2] need to be considered, along with a few other things:

  • Purpose

  • Does it look good

  • How was it made 

Purpose

When designing jewellery in your world, the purpose is a little different to developing clothing. Often jewellery is a simple adornment, it does not need a purpose. It’s purpose is simply to be pretty, and make the wearer feel good. But, in a fantasy setting, there might be magic which means there are oodles of things you could use your jewellery for. Here’s a short list to consider.

  • Membership – the item could be the signet of an organisation

  • Magic – sky’s the limit here

  • Ornament – Just looks pretty

  • Hidden tool

  • A key – It does not have to look like a key, mind you

  • Birth right – similar to membership, an item could entitle the person to their family’s wealth

Does it look good?

I can’t imagine writers thinking up hideously ugly pieces of jewellery for their characters, but, visual appeal is something to consider. Does it have a pronounced stone, complex metal work. If it full fills a task (like a hidden tool), how does it do it.

Making items appealing, both in your head and in your description is a great way to turn them into a real world product. In my own writing rune stone amulets occasionally appear. Sometimes they are meaningless trinkets, other times they are used to case spells or further the plot. On my etsy store, I made versions of them available to the public. They look nice, and they suit the rustic setting of my medieval world.

How was it made?

It’s important to consider the technological setbacks associated with the world you are building. I might be alone in this, but I often read about items and think but how did they make it?… I’m sure I can’t be the only one. That said, if it was crafted using magic, this is not so much of an issue.

That’s about it for clothing for now. I’ve had fun writing these, and I hope I’ve given you some good ideas to take to your next world building project. If you want to read more about ideas on merchandising your book, and add another string to your indie publishing cash-flow (if you’re lucky enough to have one); have a read through this.

Have you thought of a good idea of an item in your writing? What do you think about the idea of bringing objects out of the fantasy world and into the real one?

Thanks a lot for reading, next up on the chopping blog: World Building: Magic!

Cortez

Why to World Build Clothing

worldbuilding clothingI recieved a great comment on my World Building: Clothing Pt1 from Alice Leiper. As I started writing a response, the realisation hit that it was a bit to long for the comment box. So, I decided to turn it into a quick article, that will give you some little tips, as well as explain why you should consider developing your characters clothes in a fantasy setting.

Alice started off by saying, ‘novels are not visual,‘ which is true, in a literal sense. Unless you consider letters “visuals”, which I suppose they are. But world building, and writing Fantasy as a whole is a very visual experience.

A little bit about show vs. tell:

This adage is one I’m sure nearly everyone has heard in their writing life, so I will be brief. When writing Fantasy in a constructed world, the reader has very little point of reference, so to improve immersion you need to be a bit more liberal with description.

Examples:

Allen’s jaw dropped as he looked upon the fair maiden, she wore a fine silk dress, and a pretty necklace.

Meh.

Allen’s jaw dropped as he looked upon the fair maiden, her red silk dress slid on floor behind her, as she walked into the room. Around her neck an emerald – the size of a man’s fist – hung from a thin gold chain.

Better

Define your world’s clothing Parameters

She wore a fine silk dress,” is OK if you are writing a contemporary piece. People have a pre-conceived notion of what a fine silk dress is. I’ve been coding a lot of CSS lately so I’ve unfortunately taken to writing as if it was code (haha). At one point or another, if you want to build a strong sense of the world you need to define the parameters of what constitutes a fine silk dress [in your world].

  • Are they dyed in strong colours?

  • Do they have complex embroidery?

  • Are they embroidered with house emblems?

  • Do they have trains? Are they long, or short?

Once you have given the reader a clear idea of how people dress, then you can use shorthand down the track to convey a great deal more information.

You can tell a lot from a man’s shoes

Another cliché, which rings true. But cementing the look and feel of clothing in your world has far more uses than giving a little bit of character development. Clothing plays an integral role in building a scene, conveying action, stress, and character ticks and your world as a whole.

Building a scene – Summer’s end Festival in Etheros

In Etheros [my own world], Leonirians have a festival at the end of a long summer, where they all dress in brightly coloured clothes because they believe it will bring warmth over the winter. Without clothing description here, the scene will seem flat, and the description of the festival will be a boring info-dump.

Conveying Action

If a character is wearing leather, then they will have some protection from grazing. If a character is wearing wool, it could get snagged if they are running through a dense forest.

Character ticks

Do characters pull at threads? Thumb earrings or other jewellery?

What not to do

This is probably the most important thing to consider when developing your world’s apparel: Do not info-dump! If info-dumps are boring, clothing info-dumps are waiting at a station for a train that don’t come here no more.

The reason you need to consider the look and materials of the clothing your characters wear is so you can pepper your story with details and maintain continuity. You need to describe the characters clothing subtly, over time.

Times to describe clothing:

  • When a character changes clothes

  • When a character gets a new piece of clothing.

  • Character ticks: E.g. [when a character is nervous] “Allen tugged a stray woollen thread on his sleeve.”

  • Action: E.g. “Allen’s sweater caught on the undergrowth. Its woollen threads ripped apart as he tried to free himself.”

  • Impact: Anytime a character needs to stand out, describing their clothing can be a great way to do this. E.g. “Allen pushed through the crowd when a fair maiden suddenly caught his eye. [description of woman].”

  • Weather: E.g. “Allen’s cloak flapped in the wind, as he pulled the hood up.”

When not to describe clothing

  • Every time a new character enters a room.

  • Right at the beginning of your story.

Clothing adds depth of feel to your world. Long winded, detailed descriptions of clothing are bad. But if you avoid any in-depth description your world will be in danger of becoming flat. There are a great many tools a Fantasy writer can use to separate their world from ours, and because everyone needs clothes, clothing is one of the best and easiest.

Any thoughts? Thanks for reading,

Cortez