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Thread: I had an idea (and it hurt)
February 16th, 2010, 05:00 PM #1
Tales of the Western Woods
I've decided, in the loosest sense, to create my own fantasy universe in which to write. I don't plan to use it for novels, just shorter length stories.
My queries are:
1) How much planning should I do?
I'm considering writing a list of details on some characters before I write any adventures. I might whip up some portraits in the Dragon Age: Origins character creator - It's not the most flexible thing and I'd be sort of tied to some degree of limitation with what I could do, but it might be better than nothing.
2) Are there any good computer programmes (preferably free, I'm a cheapskate ) that could help?
Maybe some software that could help me create a map of the land (what fantasy series would be complete without a map?) and something else for me to put ideas on.
3) Are there any 'traps' or 'pitfalls' I should look out for?
I'm a bit worried I'd be biting off more than I could chew, but I suppose that would be a rather common feeling.
4) The title! What do you think of "Tales of the Western Woods"?
Last edited by Loerwyn; February 19th, 2010 at 05:47 PM. Reason: Title Change! :)
February 16th, 2010, 05:53 PM #2
February 16th, 2010, 06:14 PM #3
February 16th, 2010, 08:21 PM #4
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As far as world creation, you can go top-down by creating a large-area map, devising the various peoples and culutres, national boundaries, location of cities/forests/mountains/etc...
Or you can go bottom-up by starting small, just sketching out the area you need for your first story, fleshing out a few salient details, and then expanding as you go.
Both ways (and there are surely others) have their pros and cons. The latter, obviously, is less work-intensive up front.
February 16th, 2010, 11:30 PM #5
I've done a couple or so strings of short stories but I didn't do a lot of planning up front. But if you're someone who requires a lot of world building then you should do so. Usually most of the world building (in my case) is accomplished in the first story (or two), then I tend to build on those. Sometimes there are new elements in the next story, sometimes not.
It helps to have a general direction, but by definition a short story should stand alone, there is no guarantee that anyone has read the last in the "series". If a story doesn't make sense by itself, you may have just entered one of those pitfalls. Rely upon beta readers for an impartial view when you can.
As far as biting off more than you can chew, you should remember that you don't have to actually use any story that you write. If it doesn't fit in with the rest, change the names and enter it into a short story contest. (Or hope no one remembers.) If you leave it open new stories will sometimes take you in directions you would have never thought of.
February 17th, 2010, 08:14 AM #6
Thanks Jon and MrBF1V3.
@Jon - I was sort of thinking of a world map just so I don't end up contradicting myself too much. It was one problem I think I had with this month's short story entry. Due to me not having it mapped out in my head, I don't think I seemed overly certain of places and I tended to be quite vague (e.g. "it's to the west").
@MrBF1V3 - That's true, I could always just do a Find & Replace if I'm not overly happy with it.
As to your point about standing alone, I couldn't agree more. That's one thing I'm hoping I can try to do well. It's going to be a small struggle at first to make stories that offer more to frequent readers but that are still rewarding to first time readers/one-off reads.
One critique I've seen applied to my work on more than one occasion is a lack of direction, and I have a strongish feeling that if I can get some planning done (plot, maps, minor details such as basics on racial culture etc) then I would be able to sidestep it as much as I can.
By the way, Tulsa, that programme is brilliant!
February 17th, 2010, 09:25 AM #7
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Very cool idea. In answer to a few specific questions:
I would not create the map prior to the first story... I would create the map in conjunction with the first story. If you do create a map, do so in a very vague sense: Group #1 north, Group #2 west, Group #3 east, etc (or perhaps the first story all takes place within a city... in that case I'd only mark the landmarks that are central to that story, and not try and create a bunch of landmarks for the sake of merely... creating landmarks). I don't think you want to be battling to fit your story within a well defined map. I think you'll have an easier time with rough area outlines that you can fill in as the story unfolds.
As to the characters - are you planning on having a core set of, say, 10-15 characters that you follow through the stories, or will the stories pick and choose among the whole population of your world (ie, the same characters are unlikely to appear again... at least from their specific POV)? If the latter, I would think designing your characters should be the last thing you'd want to do. With the former, I'd write just your first short story and design only its characters. If you go about designing all of the characters, by the time you get to them, you may find that your world had "evolved" from your original vision, and those characters no longer fit.
If they are stand alone (what I'm assuming) - As this is a fantasy world, I assume there will be, in the loosest terms, some form of "magic". I would keep the magic system (or any other non-real world systems) interesting, but simple. You don't want to have to spend 1,000 words of each short story rehasing "how it works".
February 17th, 2010, 09:44 AM #8
In regards to point 1:
- I've got a "core" group of 3 people so far but I do have plans to add a fourth. I've two moderately developed characters, one starting to be developed and the fourth's a floating idea.
- I would suspect that there would be recurring characters at times but for the most part it'll be my core group.
- Stand alone stories but hopefully all would be linked together. I can't think of how they'll link yet, but it might just be character development at first.
- My magic system's rather basic, just needs a small bit of development to work well I think.
- Couldn't think of anything better :P
February 18th, 2010, 10:35 AM #9
Right, the basics of my magic system so far:
- Each race "specialises" in certain forms of magic
- Majority of magic is used via magical objects
- The objects "amplify" the bearer's innate magical ability
- Ability to freely manipulate magic (e.g. spells) has to be learnt
- Natural affinity for casting is rarest amongst Dwarves, most common amongst Elves
- Often used to enhance one's powers (e.g. Archers usually learn to increase accuracy with bows/arrows via something similar to telekinesis; Farmers learn a more basic form of magic which can help crops grow)
I'm not sure how to avoid your typical "invulnerable, invincivle, immortal, incredibly dangerous mage" though. I'm wondering if I could make it so that "too much" magic will destroy you.
February 19th, 2010, 12:26 AM #10
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Dwagginz...C.J. Cherryh says "Never draw the map first". I would say "if you draw the map, don't be too specific about distance, or at least let terrain influence working distance." Write at least one story first...then draw the map it needs. Write another. That may extend your map in one direction or another (or two.) Let the stories rule the map, as long as you don't have a city that's north of the river in one story and the same story is south of the river in another. (Why I drew the first map: I had a river-hopping city that was trying to evade trouble. Army A approached from the north, and it was "across the river." Army B approached from the south and it was now "across the river." Can't happen. Well, not unless you're Diana Wynne Jones and expand Howl's Moving Castle to a whole city.)
Your mage problem--magic use imposes a cost. Figure out what it is, and have it apply to mages as well, not just archers and farmers and such. Or, create a system in which mages are limited to a small number of magical forms--five or fewer, and one or two would be better. They can't be all powerful in everything because they can't fit more than that in their allotment (for some story-logical reason.) So Mage A can bend iron bars into pretzels--anything iron obeys his/her will--but is useless with copper, tin, aluminum. Mage B can do copper. Mage C can't do any metal, but is incredible with strawberries. Mage A, being allergic to strawberries, can't use iron magic against Mage C without getting a strawberry up the nose, which causes anaphylaxis and death.
February 19th, 2010, 03:49 AM #11
Good ideas there, E_Moon. It's certainly something to think about whilst I drink the first of many daily cups of tea. Woke up about 4-5hrs earlier than normal, got up 2hrs after waking up - so I need this.
Ooo, idea similar to yours, E_Moon. How about too much magic contradicts itself in a way? If a mage has a shield of strength 10 (numbers just for the example), if they learn a magic spell that does 10 damage it cancels out part of the shield (and the shield cancels out part of the spell) resulting in 5/5?
EDIT: I made a quick version of Serdira in Dragon Age: Origins just so I had some permanent point of reference.
What do you think?
Last edited by Loerwyn; February 19th, 2010 at 11:30 AM.
February 19th, 2010, 05:47 PM #12
And, without further ado, I present the first draft of the first story. This was written within one two hour time frame between 12am and 2am, so I apologise if it's not that great. Serdira and Larii (still not sure on her name, but I needed one) were taking control of my mind and begged me for their story to be told. In the post above this is my concept of Serdira created within Dragon Age, and I've yet to do one of Larii.
February 19th, 2010, 08:53 PM #13
If I'm understanding you it seems like a wide open field. If one can be four "i", then some young upstart could do the same, or better. Some group can figure out how to make colaboration work better than the one primadonna could do alone, the possibilities are many.
Also, like in any game (contest whatever) anyone can make the wrong move for the move their opponent is about to make. For that matter, anyone could trip over their own feet at the wrong time. No game is ever totally a gimme. (You might want to look into game theory, a worthwhile pursuit.)
February 20th, 2010, 09:19 AM #14
For every Achilles there's a heel, yeah.
Well, with the second story I'm working on, there's been no need for magic (and no plan to use any yet) so I've still got time to hammer out all the particulars
February 24th, 2010, 12:51 AM #15
There's any number of limitations you can put on magic.
The simplest magic might only need a word or gesture - a spoon that stirs a cup by itself, or lighting a candle.
A potion or spell though might call for more elaborate preparations, from a simple enchanter's circle that takes moments to draw with chalk to one that takes a week. Better ingredients - the purer or fresher, the better. Or has to be done in stages, like brewing then distilling a potion. Specific instructions, where tone and inflection make a difference.
And don't forget people. You cast a spell on your horse to make it run faster - but everyone else is casting spells to slow your horse down. If everyone is doing all that to all the horses in the race, how many will manage to stagger out of the box?
If you're a planner, you might want to check out Patricia Wrede's Worldbuilding questions.
Last edited by Expendable; February 24th, 2010 at 12:55 AM.