Histories, Cultures, and Religions Oh My! Building Societies Out of Nothing

I have already professed my undying devotion to research and in turn pre-writing. So of course when I began this journey one of the first things I did was set out to find a society creation list. With the aid of Google I began to find some pretty decent lists, though the vast majority were for role-playing games, the basic concept was about the same. Like a true dork I copied down or downloaded every one I liked. And then I made my own list (which of course has morphed and changed as I actually employed it).

And so without further ado here is my list:

  • A larger scale map of the region/country/state I am fleshing out, with cities and villages, roadways, significant points of interest, ports and rivers, ect.
  • Population estimates (this is my biggest weakness I am really struggling to decide what appropriate population estimates) I try to break down population by whole region and city/village
  • General Physical Attributes of Population height/weight/build, complexion, hair basically a generalized description of the average man and woman of this region
  • Clothing  I found that it was far more realistic to breakdown clothing by class, it is very rare for a society to not have some variation, in quality at least, from class to class
  • Age Demographics  Average lifespan (and any variants here based on class/race)
    ages of schooling, other rites of passage (marriage, tradework, childbirth)
  • Family Demographics marriage type (monogamy, polygamy, ect)
    family structure
    avg number of children
    how extended family is treated
  • Generalized Personality
  • Favored Occupations
  • Standard Weaponry
  • Domesticated Animals
  • Means of Travel
  • Economy import/export
    money form
  • Education
  • Food
  • House/Building structures
  • Recreation
  • Government & Law
  • Punishment System
  • Diplomacy & Relations with other nations
  • General Overview of Nation History (real and common lore)
  • Religions

So, that is a breakdown of all the categories I am going through with each and every region on my map. Some of it just flows from my mind. Some things, i spend hours researching, like population counts, clothing, weaponry,  and ship building (okay, actually, I have spent so many hours pouring through history books, fantasy books, and don’t even ask how many Google searches). Some aspects are arduous; religions and history take some serious effort. So this is where I am right now in my someday novel. Laying the groundwork through pre-writing (a lot of pre-writing). Maybe, I am doing more than I need to, but I don’t think so. I have no doubt that while not every single fact I generate will make it into my writings, they will all be there lurking in the background.

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Finally, it’s raining!

I was on a roll. I had worked my way through fixing my map and had begun the long process (well, long for me at least) of populating my realm. And then, out of no where, spring had to go a rear its ugly head (okay, actually I realized it was coming, but it was late and I thought maybe I had some time). Next thing I know every spare minute was filled with yard work, yard sales, house repairs and all sorts of other joys my wife could think of. (She falls on the ads for garden stores and home repair stores with a rabidness I thought she reserved for Starbucks coffee and the two actors in Supernatural.) And so like that my momentum was gone, drained away by hours of manual labor and shopping trips. Not only was my time gone, but it seemed all the creative mojo I had built up had wilted like the weeds in the front yard. Last night, sore and thoroughly exhausted, I logged into my Facebook page for the first time in days. I contemplated writing but sleep sounded better.

And then today something amazing happened. Moments after unloading mulch and dirt for the blueberry bushes we apparently really need in our backyard the sky clouded over and it rained. For five minutes. I don’t think I even had time to build up hope that I was being granted a reprieve before the sun was back out and my wife was eying both myself and the shovel. Half an hour later and something amazing happened (and this time I mean it, I swear), the sky went dark and the downpour began. Now hours later and its still raining; in fact the weather guy claims its going to be like this for days 9not just two but several!)

And here I am, setting out to get going again. I don’t know about everyone else, but it always seems like it takes a couple days to really get going and get writing. Maybe its the tedious nature of working out the background of each individual society in my world that makes the going rough at first. Maybe I’m normal and we all go through this, and maybe I’m a complete weirdo either way I am a writing  and that makes me happy in a way nothing else does. So that’s me today, a tired sore normal writing weirdo; a very happy one at that!

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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World Building (In other words How Many Times am I Going to Re-Draw this #@$& Map!)

I am not artistically inclined. I am not even stick-figure inclined. So there should have been some concern in my mind when I realized that one of the first steps I was going to have to face in writing a fantasy novel was going to be drawing a map. The reason I wasn’t steeped in fear is that my lovely wife is rather artistically inclined and I knew with some prodding I could get her to help me draw a map. What I didn’t realize was that the map we created that first night was not going to be the last version. It does not, in fact, even kind of resemble the map that I have presently, the one I am hoping will be a rough mock up of what will be the final draft. My first two lessons in map creating were: your first draft won’t be nearly your last and if you’re hoping someone else will draw your map for you be careful how many different drafts you ask for because apparently eventually they will tell you to do it yourself.

So my wife left me to fend for myself after map five (she didn’t leave leave she just refuses to draw anything more for me because apparently its not amusing to her to have to re-do it every night). Needless to say map six was quite an atrocity. Around map eight I started to get the hang of things and thought I was set in my world layout. It was around that time I also downloaded onto my Kindle a copy of “World-Building for Beginners A handbook for role-gamers, LARP-fans and fantasy authors” by Carla Erpenbeck. As I read through her book I realized there may have been a few concepts I completely glossed over. It as at this time the late-night doubt started to hit me. Laying in bed I would wonder if x people were supposed to be aligned closely with y people why would there be a large mountain range separating them. And so I started again, this time I didn’t start from scratch, but instead looked long and hard at not only the map I had but what my story needed. Taking both of these things into account and re-reading Carla Erpenbeck’s book as I drew over the span of three nights I finally created a map that made sense to me, to my story, and to the laws of nature and common sense. Of course as I stated before i am not an artist, and I may have used my toddlers crayons and colored pencils to create said map so I know deep down it will have to be re-done once more to make it presentable. But I know what it is right now, and that’s functional! Maybe I will get lucky and the wife will consider reprising her role of cartographer for me just one more time….. Maybe…

GE DIGITAL CAMERA Map Draft # 10, 11… Let’s just say its the one I have right now and I like it!

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The Journey Begins

It’s fitting that outside the winter snow has begun to fade away and spring’s gentle touch is reawakening nature all around me. Inside my mind it feels like a self imposed freeze of creativity has finally thawed and the muse which lives there has been reawakened. Lao-tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For me, this journey has begun with about 20 single steps, each in different directions. Already an entire drawer of our file cabinet is full; notebooks filled with scribblings, books for guidance,  maps drawn and redrawn, and a collection of pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, post-its and colored pencils (okay I may have also borrowed a few of our daughter’s crayons but only blue and green I swear).

I have always been one of those people who loved research. Assign me a project in high school and I was bound to have 5 pages more than I needed. In college i used my entire printer paper allotment within 30 days, all from printing research for a myriad of one to three page papers.  Knowing this about myself, I have paused to wonder once and a while if I am taking this pre-writing too far. Maybe I am, maybe one should just sit down and let the story flow onto paper, but I doubt it, and I know that’s not how I work. So for now this blog will follow me as I build my World from the ground up. Hopefully someone out there will find this useful (maybe you too are taking this very same journey) or maybe there are those out there who have been there already who will reach out to offer advice. Whatever your reason for being here; welcome and please feel free to share your thoughts, tips, suggestions, or the issues you too are facing!

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