Thursday, April 14, 2011

Worldbuilding 101: Geography part 2

Okay, so yesterday we covered some good basics. Maps, and how to make them. Geography that makes sense. Asking basic questions to the internet. All good stuff.

So, let’s get into some more advanced stuff here.

I’m going go back to maps for a moment. Don’t let the fact that you’re not an artist in the slightest stop you from drawing a map. The map you make for yourself does not have to be pretty. It just has to make sense for you. Squiggly lines for a forest, a blue crayon to draw the rivers, triangles for mountains. In fact, crayons (or colored pencils if crayons are too kiddy for you) are a great idea. Green for forests, yellow for deserts, brown for mountains, blue for water. It makes it a lot easier. And don’t worry about being specific. A vague shape for the forest is good enough. A circle for the towns and cities, with a black line to note important roads and trails are fine. And note that by important, I mean important to the story, not the map. Remember, the story is the thing here, the map is just to help you give visuals, to keep some kind of consistency in your story. If the Kingdom of Nogg is to the north, you want to make sure that your characters always refer to it that way, and a map can help with that.

When your book is finished and you get it picked up and published, then the publishers can hire a professional cartographer to make the beautiful maps that will appear inside. Just like they hire someone to paint your book cover. So for now, a basic, crude map is just fine.

Now, let’s talk about something more interesting.

Previously, we’ve discussed sensible geography. Making sure that the rivers flow from north to south, and that the desert doesn’t run into the Arctic Circle, that sort of thing. Let’s talk now about fantastic geography.

This is where you want to have a city under the water, or the villain’s hideout built into the side of an active volcano. I’m going to stick here with real world geographical features, so no Crystal Forests of Nogg, or castles built on top of clouds. Not that you should avoid those. I’m a fan of that kind of thing. If you’re writing a fantasy world, or even a new world in a sci-fi story, there’s no reason at all to make the world fantastic with things like that. But those are magical things that should be part of your magic system, or just part of your world’s history. They’re not part of what I am talking about here.

For fantastic geography, you need to combine the fatures of realistic geography with things that we can’t do in the real world. Like how would a medivile-era civilization build a city under water? Well, with magic obviously, but there still needs to be a city there. What’s it made of? This is where the internet comes back into play. Some basic research will reveal building materials underwater. Maybe the buildings are all built of coral, or using the rocks that are native to the oceans bottom. Maybe the villain’s hideout is built out of the cave itself, with no extra material. What kind of cave would exist in a volcano, anyway? Are there any animals that live in active volcanoes? Check that out, and use their homes as blueprints.

This is not to say that you can’t just go all magical on this stuff. If you want your city under the sea to be built from rainbow crystals, by all means, do so. Inventing special properties of minerals or materials that only exist in this world are perfectly acceptable. I’m just suggesting looking to the real world first. There’s some pretty fantastic stuff in nature for you to draw upon before going to the truly magical answers.

Okay, I think that’s all I got to say for now.

But, before I go, I want to ask you all a question. These posts on worldbuilding seem to be the most popular I do on this site so far. Would you be interested in this becoming a weekly feature? Let me know!

Until tomorrow, keep writing!

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to add that it is important for the characters in the story to have ownership in the setting. They mold it as much, if not more, than the author...