Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: worldbuilding

Another Nano15 Update

I’m still going on my Nano project. I Validated the day Validation opened up and have been entering my wordcount totals since then. I’m going for the 30-day badge which is given for entering a wordcount all 30 days of November. I figured why not? I’m not sick of my WIP, though I’ve “slowed” to getting one scene written a day.

Right now, I’m letting the next plot card for the outline percolate. This has been a day when I haven’t wanted to work on it, though I know I’ll enjoy it once I get started. I just have to get started. LOL

Things in the plot are progressing well, and I’m guessing now that this book will come out somewhere around 200k. Gonna be a doorstopper. Frankly, I expect all the MOTS books to be pretty long. There’s a lot going on in this series.

I’ve decided some things for the worldbuilding. For one, while people get vacations, holidays aren’t observed by the government. So, there’s nothing like a Christmas shut-down, even in the locales where it would have happened previous to the current world government. There’s a firm separation of the religious from the secular, and secular things go on their merry way if they have no firm ties to any particular religion, and followers of all religions are expected to show up to work during their religious holidays, particularly if they work in the government in any capacity, unless of course they’ve applied for vacation time for the duration.

This changes some basic things about the school system—including the university of magic two of my MCs are attending. There’s no Christmas break from classes. There’s only a long summer break from May-August; school time runs from September 1 to April 30. And yes, I’m using our calendar. I don’t think they even celebrate New Year either.

I’m doing this not because this is easier than researching the holidays of at least the major religions in the modern world, though it is (and I expect to be looking at some point later on, so this is only a reprieve from the research, not a complete avoidance). I’m doing this because I’m trying to make Wevae different from our current, modern world. Though I’m including aspects of it in Wevae, I don’t want it to be a perfect mirror of our world. My creative mind doesn’t function that way. Yes, this is supposed to be steampunk, but I’m doing it my way.

Mages’ Names In Hatuni Stories

I’m going to tag this under “Why Do I Do Things Like This To Myself?” Really. Because that’s the question I’m asking myself right now. It’s the question I’ve been asking myself since picking up Degrees of Subtlety again.

I could have changed my mind, but, no, I blithely went along, thinking, “It’s only one series of stories. It won’t get that difficult, and, besides, I have a whole list of names for Wizards!”

I was not taking into consideration my subconscious mind’s propensity for slamming me with new and varied characters, stories, and worldbuilding facts.

My . . . . uncertainty? Fear? Stark raving lunacy? Whatever it was, it began when I picked up DoS and restarted it. I did this without first seeking out the writing log for the original version. All I had was the original version of the story, and I thought, in my innocence, I wouldn’t have any problems simply lifting names for the various characters who were to appear from this.

I’d forgotten one extremely important fact about the original version of DoS. This fact? It was incomplete. One lesser, but equally important fact, was that I hadn’t given all the Wizards whom I expected to play roles names yet. So I blithely restarted the WIP, thinking I was all set with just the incomplete original story.

About the time I got to the third scene, which is the first from Sweetbriar’s POV, I realized my mistake. At this time, I made a frantic search, certain I recalled a vast list of names, including some already attached to various characters in the original version, on the back of the logsheet. I looked everywhere. Could not find it. Continued writing, ’cause the story had gripped me. Finally found the logsheet in a spot I hadn’t looked—a nesting stack of sorting trays—they nest or “spoon” together if you don’t stack them properly, which makes them nice for moving. Anyway, I found the logsheet, flipped it over, and . . . found a piddly list of names in the upper-left-hand corner. Maybe half a dozen or so. Certainly not enough to supply the number of characters who I could now successfully envision populating the microcosm of the Government-Funded Wizards’ School in Revustere.

I thought, “Okay, so it’s not here, but I clearly remember making a larger list than this.” So duly searched again a couple weeks later, during an energetic day in the middle of radiation treatments. No luck. Finished the search with a much-neatened desk and a serious case of the confoundeds, because I could not imagine where I’d put that page with the list of names. It had been at least a year and nine months since I’d last tried writing on the original version, and, at the time, though certainly inspired, my heart definitely hadn’t been in it, because what I had in it was definitely lacking in a lot of important ways.

I was not discouraged, though I had reached the point where I was beginning to wonder why I did this stuff to myself. I can be clever with my writing, and make sensible decisions regarding plot. Consistently coming up with names like Razorthorn, Arrowroot, Shadowshale, and Yellowcliff, however? Not quite so easy. I distinctly recall having asked for assistance with this naming convention before, with the original story, because I was enamored enough of it I hadn’t been able to convince myself to go without it, and of course I felt that way now. There are some things my subconscious, especially with regards to worldbuilding, will not give up on, and this was one such aspect, and I knew, though it seemed small, inconsequential, and thus something I should easily be able to change, my subconscious had an excellent plot- or worldbuilding-related reason for clinging to this naming convention.

So, there is a reason why I do these things to myself. I just don’t know the reason at first.

Having requested help previously, back in 2012, when I first conceived of this story, I knew it wouldn’t be an issue to ask it again. So I did. And this time received, like a shaft of light through clouds, something which could consistently help me. A link to a site which generates many things, from character names to, well, I can’t recall off the top of my head, but was certain to be a boon. I went there, ordered up some wild elf names, and . . . mixed and matched the components to create names which were at least halfway decent and sounded like the kinds of names male mages would pick for themselves, though none were as ominous as Razorthorn happened to be (and which I considered one of my more clever names in DoS; second would be the names of the twins Shadowshale and Nightstone—because I wanted names with similar components).

In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not much good with creating names for characters if they need to have specific components which have nothing to do with an alphabet I created. I do a little better on straight made-up names using the English alphabet, even if I don’t create a specific alphabet for them. The names of all my mundane characters on Hatu Napor are such names, and they come from me combining some words, mangling others, collecting obscure and/or foreign names from real-earth name lists and altering them enough to be fantasy names, and pulling them out of the air at need. With this type of naming, I’ve had years of practice, and I do even better if I have a firm alphabetical system to fit them into.

But names like Razorthorn, Yellowcliff, and Arrowroot? My mind freezes. And, worse, I decided the fairies had nature-oriented names.

This is why I ask myself now, “Why do I do these things to myself?”

But I can’t let these nature-oriented names go, because I now know the reason why Wizards take them. It is, for the Wizards, one of the very few things they have left of the Old Ways of fairy-gifted magic. And the fairies have nature-oriented names because they always have. When they were first created, the ones who created them – mortals with the gift of manipulating nature itself, who adopted nature-oriented names as part of a rite of passage into their full power – gave fairies nature-oriented names. So, even after fairies could reproduce on their own, they adopted on their own or were bestowed by other fairies nature-oriented names.

So, I’m stuck with this naming convention, but at the same time absolutely love it – because of the worldbuilding behind it. And the worldbuilding, my friends, makes all this struggle worthwhile.

Curveballs from the Muse

In each of my minor downswings last year, I was creative. I also came out of them focused on Chraesti stories. I had other worlds I’d written stories in, with other magic systems, in various states of worldbuilding, but nothing about them called out to me. I even dropped the one non-Chraesti project I’d been working on for the Two-Year Novel Course, Degrees of Subtlety.

This time, when my writing mind fully surfaced for more than a gasp of air, I found myself focused on this project and world. I was not expecting this at all. The writing urge has tapered off (likely due to the new phase of cancer treatment, which I’ll blog about later), but I spent a number of days last week writing on DoS and worldbuilding for it.

Then I got the concept and basic storyline for another story set in that world.

Unlike Chraest’s stories and worldbuilding, this other world, which I’ve tentatively named Hatu Napor (one guess about where I got the first half of the name), is pure fantasy. No history of spacefaring humans, no alien species and backstory relating the humans’ current situation.

Hatu Napor isn’t the only pure-fantasy world I’ve got which my writing mind could conceivably have decided to focus on. I have one which is tied to our world through places like the Bermuda Triangle; this I’ve called Elindu, and it has vampires, dragons, and a small variety of elven races. There’s also Nahela, where all mages have twins, and all true priests, whether they adhere to a religious philosophy or not, have more than one soul.

But this time, the Muse decided to remind me of my characters Sweetbriar and Arrowroot and their story. It’s been fun working on Hatu Napor and this story and the new idea. They’re markedly different from my Chraesti stories, which makes working on them a nice break. For one, while Chraest’s humans are in a verge-of-industrialization-level society, Hatu Napor has passed that point to some extent. Electricity is present. New weapons are being developed (guns), the automobile has recently been invented and is attainable by those of some financial prominence, though they aren’t exactly reliable. They have factories, and different religious factions vie for prominence. Where in Chraest’s stories homosexuality is almost universally accepted to some extent, in Hatu Napor, or at least the country where these two stories occur, it isn’t quite as welcome.

It’s definitely a nice change.

I’ve restarted DoS and am about four or five chapters in. It’s been a fun rewrite. The original partial manuscript left much to be desired in plotting and characterization, and I’ve been able to make both a bit more complicated this time around. I’m right now doing one or two plot cards per scene written on it while I work on the outline for the other story set in the same country/world. I’m experimenting with this a bit, too: doing two scenes per chapter from one character’s point of view before switching pov for the next chapter. So far, it’s working out well, and I’m going to try the same thing with the other story, only it looks, so far, as if I’ll be doing three scenes per chapter in it. It’s also a nice challenge.

All in all, I’m glad I came out of my most recent downswing with a focus on my fantasy work, even if it isn’t what I’d anticipated working on. It’s proved to be challenging, fun, and a nice break from the intensity of some of my other fantasy work. I also look forward to seeing what other ideas I come up with for Hatu Napor. I’m sure they’ll be just as fun to work on.

Writing Ramble

I think Real Life has finally caught up with me. I haven’t written consistently since the fifteenth of this month. As writing downswings go, this hasn’t been at all severe, which is good. It’s just taken my muse, but not so much I haven’t been able to work on any of my writing at all.

In the past two weeks, I’ve actually gotten a lot of writing-focused things done. Things which needed doing. For far too long I’d put off dealing with officially completing the first two books of my TPOM trilogy. Both had been languishing for months with missing scenes. I also needed to go through the second one to make sure I kept up with all the plot threads and had no discrepancies in characterization or worldbuilding. The latter was rather important, as I started writing on Chraest with these two books, flowing right into the second from the first in a single file because I didn’t originally see where I could cut the first book and start the second. I hadn’t built a Fantasy world from scratch in about three years, and I needed to make sure that with all the changes I’d made to the worldbuilding recently I’d kept up with things in the edits.

Since starting TPOM1 in on 21 Dec 2012, I’ve done several things with the worldbuilding. I’ve started collecting lists of spells for the Mages to perform. I’ve established some facts regarding Mage training in books like TPOM2 and a prequel novelette. Another thing I’ve done is established Chraest is not a world humanity evolved on and created a calendar and timekeeping system to reflect that fact. Since determining humans are “new” to the planet, I’ve figured out there’s a native intelligence, determined some of the humans’ history on the world, and begun building a conlang purely for fun and entertainment.

I do know the humans of Chraest, at least those on the continent where I’m writing these stories, are completely aware they’re not native to the planet, and that they’re followers of Gods who led them from the planet’s other continent where they were enslaved by the native intelligence. Part of the background is that the leader of the Gods helped free a number of humans who wanted freedom and led them back to the site where their ancestors’ ship crashed to collect knowledge and other things from the ship. They then, as per their agreement with the majority of the native race, built ships and sailed away (assured there was another continent by information on the ship) to settle where they knew they would be safe. Part of the agreement with the native intelligent race is that they won’t follow the departed as long as the Gods don’t lead anybody back over to free the humans who remained on the first continent. The native intelligence is not technologically advanced, never invented even sailing ships, and has no other way to cross the ocean. They were actually rather happy to get rid of the troublesome Gods and be relieved of the uppity humans who had enough memory of humans’ history to foment the remainder into rebellion for freedom. I may write this story in some detail at some future point, but it right now is far back on the list of stories I have planned.

I’ve decided to treat Chraest as a Fantasy world with some hints of Science Fiction for the present. This is not the first time such a thing has been done by a writer. Some many years ago, I collected the Darkover books by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and those are described as Fantasy with hints of Science Fiction, or Science Fiction with some hints of Fantasy. For now, the main hints of SF on Chraest will be the calendar, timekeeping, and mentions of the fact the humans aren’t native to the planet. I don’t intend to bring spacefaring humans in for a while yet, but I do have plans to do so. I need to make a wealth of decisions about it first, and I still have quite a bit of basic worldbuilding to do on Chraest before I’ll be willing to take the time to really focus on the SF aspects.

Now I’ve gotten the edits of Stirrings and the first two books of TPOM done, and have established this much worldbuilding of Chraest, I feel like I’ve accomplished quite a bit. There’s still a lot more for me to do, though. I need to do a lot of research of religious institutions’ organization (particularly that of Catholicism, I’m thinking) and military structure and behavior for one of my started projects. I also need to work out the timeline of my stories and the foundation and building of the Édalain Empire, Lissau’s history, and figure out the essentials of Ghulia’s governmental and societal structures for my 2YN project.

So, as writing downswings go, this has been a very productive and fun one. I may not be writing or doing plot cards regularly, but I’m getting lots of other writing-related stuff done, and I’m having a ball with it all.

Chraest’s Calendar

I like fiddling with calendars in my worldbuilding, but for Chraest, I originally slapped a 365-day/12-month calendar into the worldbuilding and told myself I’d figure things out later. Later has arrived.

I’m never happy with worldbuilding calendars based on our year and numbering system. It’s actually harder for me to come up with holidays and celebrations and the history of the fictional calendar if I do that. I tend to slide into simply letting them share our seasonal habits. It also makes my world a little less interesting than if I take the time and put forth the effort to create an original calendar for it.

I was talking about the calendar in FM Writers chat this past weekend. Mostly voicing my displeasure over the fact I wasn’t pleased with what I’d come up with just slapping an earth-standard calendar into it. I was struggling with references to holidays in my wip, which I make every so often, because it seemed so bland. Then, Zette, the site’s owner, reminded me of my usual habit of worldbuilding an original calendar by suggesting I change the length of Chaest’s year.

I was hesitant at first, but eventually dove into it. What came out was a 540-day year divided into twelve months of three Cycles. Each Cycle has four months in it, a two-week Holy Month at the beginning, and three six-week Secular Months. The weeks are nine days long, and there is no leap year. I’ve used the magic numbers 3, 6, and 9 to determine pretty much everything to do with the calendar, and need to worldbuild the philosophy behind them now I know what they are. As for the 2 weeks in the Holy Months, I’ve decided 18, the number of days in them, is special because it’s a factor of all three magic numbers.

After determining the month and year divisions, I determined the seasonal equinoxes and solstices. To do this, I declared the spring equinox the first day of the year and counted from there.

Now I’m down to naming the months. Getting those for the Holy Months was pretty easy. Getting the names of the Secular Months is a challenge. I don’t want to simply number them—that feels like cheating. I don’t want to name them after seasonal changes, because the worldbuilding behind this particular Calendar is that the True Gods dictate the calendar to their followers, and they have faithful in every part of the world, including locations with little or no seasonal change at all, or which do not have the seasonal changes typical of middling northern/southern hemispheres, where there is a definite progression through defined seasons. It’s hard to make months named “Frozen Waters” or “First Snows” fit for a tropical or subtropical area where the water doesn’t freeze and they get a period of rain instead of snow. I considered naming them after animals, then realized I can’t do that because not all areas have the same animals. I went to Think Tank, a group brainstorming event held in chat from 7-9 PM Mountain Time each Sunday and Friday, to get suggestions for names based on familial relationships, and the philosophy handed down, but don’t much like what I got.

And my work with it won’t be done with that. Once I have the months named, I need to go through my stories and adjust mentions of time passing, character ages, and the names of months to reflect the new calendar. This is something I look forward to. Having a calendar that isn’t earth standard will make my stories more fun to write.

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