Posts Tagged ‘world building’

There’s a lot of world building that goes into a second-world fantasy like BECOME.

Become 5

There’s the physical world and the creatures that inhabit it. The systems of government and the economies. The magic system. And more.

Sometimes, not always, it helps to start with a map.


(Admittedly, I don’t do the very best maps you’ve ever seen.)

See all that forest area? That’s a really important part of this world and it’s not your typical fantasy-setting forest. It’s a temperate rain forest, like this.

Princess Louisa Inlet

(That photo was taken, by me, in Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia.)

But, because this is my world and I can make it however I want (as long as I can make it believable), I’ve included a different kind of tree in the Heart of the Forest. This tree is something of a composite. Mostly, it’s based on the Giant Sequoias that grow at around the 6,000-foot level on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Like this one:


I think this picture was taken in Calaveras Big Trees State Park (North Grove), but it could have been in another grove. That’s my mother in the pinkish outfit in the foreground. Could be Dad ahead of her, but I can’t swear to that from that angle. The hat’s right, anyway.

Here’s another view that shows the bark better.


This one I know was taken in Calaveras Big Trees.

These trees are not just tall, they’re massive, literally big enough around that the trunk would not fit in most average-sized rooms. Or, if it fit, would fill the room completely. They can grow to almost 300 feet tall and more than 50 feet in diameter (though most are not quite that big). They’re so impressive that many of them have names, like General Grant, General Sherman, or The President. (The names reflect the time period in which these trees were first discovered by non-Native Americans.)

But, since it’s my story and I can make up what I want, I combined these giants with a related tree. Thought they don’t–quite–grow in temperate rain forests, the Coast Redwoods would be more comfortable in that environment. (These are the ones redwood lumber at your hardware store comes from. The wood of Giant Sequoia’s is not actually useful–too fibrous.)

The Coast Redwoods actually grow taller than the Giant Sequoias, but not nearly as massive and they don’t have the distinctive cinnamon-colored bark. But the main thing I included in this story is the incredible quality of the light filtering through a grove of Coast Redwoods. It’s probably due in part to the fact that they grow so much closer to the coast, in an area prone to fog. And it’s not something an amateur photographer could ever hope to capture. Hopefully, I can capture it in words.

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Sometimes writing goes fast, like all you have to do is let it flow out. Sometimes it’s slower than that.

This chapter is a pivotal point in the relationship of the two brothers so . . . I need to make it right. Of course, it doesn’t have to be perfect–yet. This is still the first draft. But sometimes, especially on the pivotal chapters, I have trouble reminding myself of that. And, the revisions really are much easier if at least the right bones are in place to begin with.

Between some new ideas, which I think will make the chapter much better, and some annoying real life distractions, this chapter is taking its time making it onto the page.  Sometimes, I just have to go with that.

Become 5

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When I rewrote the original versions of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????and THE VOICE OF PROPHECY,

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I was essentially polishing and tightening a story that was already there. Essentially, just applying the improved writing craft I’d learned since I first wrote those stories.

MAGE STORM is turning out to be a different problem. For one thing, I’m making the main character a bit older in this version. And so, some things that worked before, with a younger character, have to be significantly changed for this version because the character’s reactions would just be different.

I’ve been stuck for days on a particularly thorny chapter near the beginning. Actually right around the Key Event (in the Three-Act Story Structure).  In case you’re not familiar with that, the key event is what makes the hero (who may have been pushing the story problem off for others to solve up ’til this point) becomes personal to the hero. So, it’s not a trivial place in the story. It’s one of those turning points that need to be really, really right.

It’s not that I haven’t been making progress, though it feels like two steps forward and three sideways, some of the time. But some of what was there just really won’t work that well in this version. And they tie to other places, so any change proliferates.

This isn’t going to be as quick or as easy as I was hoping.

Then again, what is? Ever? And what fun would that be?


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I’ve always planned to put out a boxed set of the DUAL MAGICS series some time after I publish WAR OF MAGIC.


A few days ago, I had another thought. I could put out a boxed set of the first three books for a limited time as a lead up to the release of the fourth and final book, WAR OF MAGIC. And, tempting as it is to jump on this, the best time to do that is when I can include a buy link (or pre-order link) at the end of the set. So, this can’t happen until I’m withing three months of publishing WAR OF MAGIC (because that’s how long Amazon currently allows pre-orders to run).

And, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’m still working on the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC. I expect I’ll finish that within the next two weeks, but that’s not even close to being within three months of publication. One of those months is just to let the first draft cool, so I can look at it with fresher eyes. Then I have to do a couple of rounds of revisions before it goes out to critique partners (who usually need about a month to read and critique a full novel). Then another round of revisions and a polishing edit. So, yeah, longer than three months.

Nevertheless, I’ve started to work on cover art for the boxed set.


This will, of course, eventually be replaced by the full boxed set.

And then, someday, I plan on putting out a boxed set of the first books in different series. Of course, that has to wait until I have another series or two under my belt.

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My last post was about part of the world I’m creating from BECOME.


This area of the story’s world will be very important, so it needs description.

My first drafts tend to be pretty spare on description, generally. But this is one of those places that requires a full description. I have to make this part of the world real to the reader. I don’t think I’ve done that yet. I’ve got the bones, maybe, but not the flesh. I’ll need to engage more of the five senses–the ones that are harder for me, like smell and touch. (I’m really not sure how a forest tastes, so I think I may have to leave that one out.) So I know I’m going to have to revisit this in the revisions.

And I have to describe it not just as I saw it (twenty years ago), but as my character would experience it. Some things that I recall might not be important to him. And some things I barely noticed might well draw his attention. So that’s going to take some thought and digging a little–or a lot–deeper.

Meanwhile, it’s time to build to the climax in WAR OF MAGIC.


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I posted a while back about having to go back and clarify some of my world building for BECOME. But that was the world building relating to the cultures and religion of this world. There’s another kind.


I’ve now reached the part of the story where my main character will first encounter a new part of this world–one that will be very important to most of the rest of this story. And so I need to describe it.

Now, the physical aspect of this part of the world is based heavily on the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. In particular, on Princess Louisa Inlet. So, I thought it would be a good idea to refresh my memory. Since a trip there is, unfortunately, impractical at the moment, that meant getting out the photo album from that trip. I thought I’d share a few.

This is the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet. It’s actually called Malibu Rapids, and it’s very narrow and only about 30 feet deep–at high tide.

Entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet

That little spot, black below and red or yellow above, you can see off the point? That’s the zodiac going ahead to make sure of the channel.

The forest is the very definition of a temperate rain forest.

Princess Louisa Inlet

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 4

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 3

It was September when I was there, and the Fall colors were just starting.

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 2

And, at the head of the inlet, there’s Chatterbox Falls.

Chatterbox Falls Close Up

Chatterbox Falls 2

This is the valley above Chattebox Falls.

The Valley Above Chatterbox Falls

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What I’m doing right now (well not right now, but you know that) is to go back through the early chapters of BECOME and try to make sure that the world building comes across to the reader. This is the foundation on which a fantasy novel is built. If the reader doesn’t understand the rules of the world, how can they understand the story?

At the same time, it’s absolutely necessary to avoid the dreaded info dump. This where a story essentially stops dead for several paragraphs or several pages (or, in the worst case I’ve ever read, an entire chapter) while the author explains the world. That’s just boring–and the one thing an author can’t do is bore the reader.

I always try to do the learn-as-you-go method of world building. Explaining–or better yet, showing–only what’s necessary at the moment and letting the world sort of accumulate. But it’s a delicate balance. And obviously from the critiques I’ve received, I missed that mark with BECOME. I really don’t feel I can go ahead with the story until I’ve got that solid foundation under it.

We’ll see how well I’ve succeeded with the patches.

As soon as I think I’ve got that in hand, I’ll go back to the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC. Got to get that done.


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