Monday, January 10, 2011

Taking a Fantastical Approach

Today I am hosting fantasy author, Susan Gourley.


(The winner of the Best Trailer Contest will also be announced this morning – I’ll let you know the results in my right sidebar the moment I know!)

Now, take it away, Susan!

Thank you, Alex, for having me as a guest on your very popular blog. Today I’d like to talk about world building. Of course, I’ll relate everything to my recent release, Beyond the Gate, Book #2 in The Futhark Chronicles.

So many things must be considered when creating a world different from the contemporary Earth we take for granted everyday. Sometimes the simplest part to create is the physical parts of a fantasy world. What is the topography? What is the climate like? Are there seasons like our world? Are the flora and fauna the same or similar? This can be kept simple. In my fantasy series, Futhark is an island kingdom sitting high above an unexplored ocean. It has seasons similar to a temperate climate on Earth. Oak trees are still oak trees in the world of Futhark and horses are horses. In movies, such as Avatar, a totally colorful and exotic world can be created for the eye to see. It would take pages of composition to describe even a first glimpse of Pandora. I wouldn’t try it. Your readers will either put down the book or snooze.

The government and societal rankings must be considered. Some glimpses into history usually needs to be mixed into a good fantasy world as the past so often comes back to haunt mankind. The Futhark Chronicles take place in a medieval society with class rankings of nobility, merchants, and peasants. Going further into depth in a fantasy world, one must think about education. Can most people read? Do they all use a common language? Religion is often huge in fantasy and can be the center of many conflicts. Going along with that will be customs on the treatment of the dead. Do they bury them, cremate them and believe in an afterlife?

In The Futhark Chronicles, illnesses and injuries are treated with herbal remedies and sometimes-magical intervention. Most fantasy and science fiction novels involve some fast, exciting action. Believe me, someone will get hurt. How will they be treated? By a medical professional, magical healing or leeches?

What types of homes populate your cities in your fantasy world? Or is the world a collection of small villages? Will they know brick making? Do they construct domiciles of skins and roofs comprised of straw or reeds? Perhaps the world in inhabited by nomadic people or seafaring races. I’ve never tried that, as I know nothing about sailing. What type of clothing? Manufactured? Homespun cotton? Wool? Leathers? What is the coinage or the realm? Are gold and silver valuable there? What is the agriculture like? What crops are raised?

I’ve saved perhaps the most important question for last. If the world you’re created is for a science fiction novel, how is that science different from contemporary Earth? If it is a fantasy novel, what are the rules for the magic of this world? Science and magic may affect a writer’s decision about all the things I named above. Do they ride horses, hovercrafts or perhaps fly by their own powers? Can they create food, buildings and clothing with magic or science? Can they use magic or science to keep themselves warm or protect against an attack. Does the magic and science make sense even though it isn’t real? And how is the science or magic limited? And it must be limited or there can be no conflict beyond emotional.

After all these things and many more have been decided, you can create a fantasy world. Don’t dump all the information in the first chapter. Let the reader discover it as they travel through your tale. I keep a journal with a roughly drawn map for all my series. I call it my book bible. Inside are details of all the things I mentioned and many more. If I didn’t write them down, I couldn’t keep them straight especially through multiple novels.

Beyond the Gate is now available from all major book retailers. I hope you’ll check out the fantasy world I created. I’d love to hear your insights.

Thanks, Susan!


Purchase the eBook of Beyond the Gate HERE and visit Susan's awesome website and blog.

75 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Sounds like an excellent book, I wish Susan all the luck with it.

Thank you Alex for hosting Susan.
Wonderful to read.

Have a good day
Yvonne.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Congratulations!!!!!! just read on Spunk On A Stick you are the winner. well deserved.

Yvonne.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes!! Thank you Yvonne - I just saw that as well.

Vicki Rocho said...

Great post! I don't write science fiction, but there were still lots of great nuggets to consider.

Congrats on the Spunk win, Alex.

Ocean Girl said...

This is really great. I learned a few tips on how to write/blog. Thank you Susan. And thank you Alex.

And Alex, 67 (so far) blogfest is amazing!

JayPower said...

very interesting bro

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great tips for world-building here. Best wishes for Susan's new release.

And congrats, Alex, on winning the best book trailer!

Hannah Kincade said...

this couldn't have been posted at a better time! I've been sitting on a fantasy idea for a while but this helps make it seem less scary. Thank you Alex and Susan!

Pk Hrezo said...

Awesome info! It'll really help as I'm ready to write my new fantsy novel. Thanks for posting, Alex.

And thanks for your info, Susan! The book looks great.

Good luck with the trailer, Alex... I"ll have my fingers crossed.

Renae said...

Great advice on world building. Good luck to Susan with her new release.

DEZMOND said...

extremely interesting, I especially love the cover of her book!

BTN Hip Hop said...

ill have to check it otu!
following

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Alex, have the ten songs for the blogfest have to be in order?
Number one to ten.
Have my list already done and photo's just the poems to match.
Don't want to leave it to the last minute. as usual.

Yvonne.

Michelle Gregory said...

good info to remember, and congrats on winning.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Nice guest post!

Ellie said...

Thank you Susan and Alex; an awesome post, full of relevant advice and questions. I shall remember it when I come to write a story not based on Earth.

Stephen Tremp said...

All I can say is Wow! This is a very thorough post. I read it twice and am saving it to my favorites. There is much that goes into developing the frame work of a fantasy book. Let's hope your character don't have to be healed by leaches.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

OceanGirl, the blogfest is rocking!

Thank you, Elizabeth!!

Dezz, yes, her cover is great.

Thanks, Michelle!

Glad everyone's enjoyed Susan's post.

Charles Gramlich said...

Love the cover on that. Sounds interesting.

Clarissa Draper said...

Cool book! And congrats on the contest.
CD

Old Kitty said...

Thanks for hosting Alex J Cavanaugh and thanks Susan Gourley for pointers to remember when creating a fantasy world!!!

Good luck with your Chronicles!!

Take care
x

Julie Dao said...

This was an excellent post! It's a little intimidating to think how many considerations have to be covered in a fantasy novel. Thanks both for sharing these tips!

gideon 86 said...

Thanks for hosting Alex and congratulations!

Thanks for the tips Susan and good luck with the book!

Michael

Melissa Bradley said...

Great post. These are things I have trouble getting an aspiring writer I know to think about. They want to plunge ahead with the story and make the details up as they go.

Whoo Hoo, Alex!! Congrats on the wins.

Talli Roland said...

Great post, Susan - and thanks to Alex for hosting you! :)

Congrats on the win, Alex!

Matthew Rush said...

Congrats on that win Alex, well deserved!

And this is an excellent post. The devil is in the details I suppose, with world building, and that's probably why I avoid, because I would end up contradicting myself most likely.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Great tips on world building. It’s easy to forget how many thing need to be taking into consideration.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Congratulations on winning the trailer contest! Oops...maybe I should have started with a spoiler alert.

I think it’s difficult to create a believable scene in contemporary fiction, so I can’t imagine creating an entire universe. However, it sounds like Susan knows what she’s talking about and has created a real sounding world.

Colene Murphy said...

Congrats on winning!! Book sounds pretty darn good too.

Cheeseboy said...

I like her thoughts on creating a fantasy world not like ours. She sounds very creative and her book series sounds like it might be up my alley.

Chris Phillips said...

good thoughts here. I liked the part about healing leaches. every good book has them.

Mason Canyon said...

Susan, great information on world building. I think a fantasy writer has so much extra work because of the worlds they have to create in addition to their characters and plot. Best of luck.

Alex, congratulations on winning the book trailer contest. Way to go!

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Patricia Stoltey said...

I have a feeling the world-building part of fantasy is just as time-consuming as the research needed for historical fiction. Those are two genres where I'm a happy reader but don't think I'll tackle as a writer.

Melissa Gill said...

Great post. I'm writing dystopian and I'll keep these issues in mind.

N. R. Williams said...

Congrats Alex for winning the book trailer contest.

Susan, I am also posting about World Building in my book tour. You've covered many things that I didn't. Good luck on the release.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

~Sia McKye~ said...

You make some good points to ponder for world building, Susan. Than you. :-)

Hey, Alex, congratulations on your trailer win! Yay!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Patricia, I love reading historical fiction but the research has always scared me away from writing.
I'll be checking out your posts on your tour, N.R. There's always more to learn.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad everyone's getting so much from Susan's tips.

And thanks! The trailer contest win was a great thing to see this morning.

Arlee Bird said...

I have not attempted to create totally fanciful worlds in my writing yet. I've dabbled in a few short stories, but very little. You've made a good list of things to think about when doing so.

Lee
Tossing It Out

The Golden Eagle said...

Congratulations on the book trailer!

Great post on world building.

Belle Wong said...

Great article - I've always found world building so fascinating!

M Pax said...

All success to you, Susan!

Great tips on world building. It's probably my favorite part of writing. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks for stopping by. M, I love the world building part also. Some of my favorite fantasy authors excel at creating unique worlds

Christina Lee said...

GOOD Stuff, Susan. Yes magic (or supernatural) is always the world I need to work on. But with magic realism you still need it to fit and sound logical in the real world. THX for this!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I like that term, magical realism, Christina.

Lynda Young said...

World building is crazy difficult because of all the different factors the writer has to think about to make it believeable. I love world building and I love a challenge. Great post.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

World building is tough! Even with urban fantasy, you have fantasy elements that require a certain degree of it. But it's tougher with high fantasy or sci fi where worlds are radically different from our own. Great advice from Susan!

WritingNut said...

How informative! Thank you very much! I need to start looking into this for my next novel, and these are excellent tips :)

Great post Susan!

And Alex... congrats on winning the contest!

Abby Minard said...

This is why I love fantasy- I love all those details the author made up. I love coming up with all that for my own books. I love imagining these wonderful new worlds. This was a great post- thank you Susan!

Jemi Fraser said...

Alex - congrats!!! :)

Susan - great advice! I love your world building tips - the book bible would be a must!

Nicki Elson said...

Sounds like you almost need to write a whole separate encyclopedia on the fantasy world just to keep it straight. It's an interesting point that for a book, the visual differences from Earth should probably more limited than you can get away with in a movie. I agree that I zone out on too much physical description.

Congratulations on Beyond the Gate, Susan. And Congratulations to you, Mr. Cavanaugh on the book trailer win for your awesome sci-fi world!

Jules said...

Congrats on your trailer! Thanks for hosting Susan. Seems there is more to fantasy than just having one :) Wonderful insight !
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Golden, Writing, Jemi, and Nicki - thanks so much!

Susan, thanks again for visiting today. They don't get writing or world-building tips from me!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks everyone for stopping in and reading my tips. Nicki, you're so right about zoning out with too much description. I've read manuscripts where the author tried to describe the entire workings of their fantasy world in the first chapter. Snooze time.

Carol Kilgore said...

I basically stand in awe of fantasy and science fiction authors who create whole worlds. It's difficult enough creating characters in the world we know. Kudos.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks, Carol. It's as much fun as it is work.

RaShelle said...

Hey - These are some great ideas. Thanks for the tips. I agree about not dumping all the info into the first chapter, too. The book sounds great.

Copyboy said...

Sounds really interesting. Love those fantasy worlds. I'll have to check it out.

Will Burke said...

That is a LOT to consider! Plenty of questions that I've considered, but many more that I hadn't. Thanks for the inspiration. And congrats on the Trailer victory!

Pat Tillett said...

First off, CONGRATS Alex!

Second, I'll be checking out "Beyond the Gate." thanks!

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I'm inspired by the sci-fi writer's creative mind. It's fascinating just to consider all of these nuances.

Congratulations, Alex. It's well deserved.
xoRobyn

Margo Benson said...

Such an interesting post, which will be useful for situations both on and off Earth. I really enjoyed your thoughts.

Alex, there's a little award for you over on my blog!

Glynis said...

Pat on the back for winning the trailer contest, and for such an interesting post. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Carol, I agree with Susan - it's a lot of fun.

Will and Pat, thanks!

Robyn, thank you, and our minds are wired just a little bit different.

Thank you, Margo.

Thanks, Glynis!

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, what an amazing post! I loved the answers about the worldbuilding. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Good stuff, Susan - lots of details to consider. And I love your cover art.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks again, Alex, for having me on your blog. And thanks everyone for the compliments about my cover art. I hope you found something to take with you from my post.

Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Thanks for the advice Susan. World building is one of my favourite things, and building a balanced magic system is so much fun to do. Good luck with your blog tour; I'll look forward to hearing more about the book :D

Clarissa Draper said...

My novels are based on the real world - earth - but in one of my novels, aliens come to earth and they have to describe their planet. I had to really get into another world (so to speak) to write those sections. Fascinating blog post.
CD

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks again everyone for your comments and showing Susan the army rocks!

Julie Musil said...

Wow, this makes me appreciate fantasy writers even more. I'm amazed at the information that must be thought out when writing in this genre. A book bible is a great idea. Thanks for the fun information!

Jai Joshi said...

Great guest post, Susan. When building a world there are so many different considerations. You touched on a lot of fascinating points like death customs and religion and the natural world. So many things to think about...

Jai

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I can't express the pleasure I've received from reading all the comments. Thank you everyone for visiting.

Christian James said...

well done on the spunk, Dempsey also passes his congrats.

And to Susan, a really great post with brilliant advice, thank you

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I am still attempting to play ketchup, but better late than never, I hope.

This is such a fantastic post, Susan. I am not a great one for fantasy, but I am a science fiction buff (or was), and I totally hear you on the believeable worlds with known rules credo. The makers of Avatar had it easy - they could dump it all in the first few minutes. Writing it is so much harder, but so much more fun.

Thanks for hosting Susan, Alex.