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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Series: Creating a Well-Imagined Fantasy World by Guest Blogger, Kenya Wright

As part of my "How To" series today I am handing over my blog to fellow author and fantasy writer, Kenya Wright so she can explain her experiences in writing for that genre. 

Creating an urban fantasy world can be extremely fun. There are so many paths and possibilities. Granted, a lot of this information will probably not be included in the book, but it will be in your mind as you write your story.  Sometimes the process of creating the world changes or expands the story.  Here are the three concepts I believe all authors should consider when they create their world.

Whether you have made a new species or not, I believe it is important to think about how your species developed. One example of this is vampires. How did your vampires come to be?  This popular species offers a wealth of potential that an author can use or revise. Some authors have utilized Christianity to explain their vampires’ existence by saying that the species is Cain and Lilith’s children. Others have explained the species through magic. 

In my book Fire Baptized, vampires were formed when demons bit humans and infected them with a virus. This is one of the many reasons why humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities. Additionally every species in my world has their own story of evolution. My fairies created shape-shifters by experimenting with human and animal genes. My pixies began as small magical organisms within the fairy realm that was accidentally transported by several trolls. Most of this information is not in the story, but these details formed the plot and characters.

Obviously, your characters will speak English, but are there different dialects? If you have many magical creatures do they all speak English? Consider assigning your species foreign languages. Perhaps, the werewolves in your story are all from Spain, and the elves are from South Africa.  Furthermore, you can invent a language or dialect for certain groups. Maybe your mermaids put the verb at the end of the sentence, when they talk. I believe an author should have fun with this and push the limits of their imagination. However, the new language should be close enough to English so that the reader can understand what the characters are saying.

In Fire Baptized, there are a group of shape-shifters called Rebels. They are revolutionaries that protest the humans for putting them in caged cities. They have chosen to reject everything that is similar to human culture; therefore they established their own dialect, coined Lib Lib. Instead of “I”, they say “me.”  There are a lot of other differences between Lib Lib and English. In order for the reader to understand what the Rebel characters are saying, I have another character present in the scene that is not familiar with the dialect and requires a translation. This way, the reader knows what is happening within the story.

Every magical group within your world should have their own beliefs, values, religions, arts, etc. You can create your own culture for each species or you can use the many cultures that exist or have existed within our world.  

Most of my supernatural groups’ beliefs and values are based on Afro-Cuban culture which is a combination of African and other cultural elements found in Cuban society. The caged city that my supernaturals live in is called Santeria. The Santeria religion originated in West Africa and was imported to the Caribbean by African slaves that later merged many of the beliefs with Christianity. This religion is practiced in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Columbia, and so on. 

I spent several months researching the religion and used what I learned to created Fire Baptized’s world. My entire caged city is divided into five districts. Each district is themed after a Santeria god or goddess’s colors, powers, and animals. Throughout the book, my characters are involved with festivals that are traditionally celebrated by Santeria practitioners. Additionally, my mystery plot was derived from the religion.
In conclusion, authors should push the limits of reality during the world building process. Taking the time to consider your characters’ evolution, languages, and cultures is what will separate a well-imagined story from another one riddled with cliché and seen before settings.

Here’s a mini excerpt of Fire Baptized displaying how I used the Afro-Cuban culture to create my world.

The rush of wind lessened to a breeze. I opened my eyes and peeked over his shoulder as we turned out of Shango District. The habitat was divided into five districts. Each district was named and themed after a popular Santeria god. I lived in Shango’s flaming orange district. Zulu lived in Yemaya.

We entered the sapphire gates of Yemaya. A life-size statue of the goddess stood near the entrance, carved from spelled ice that could not melt. It shimmered in the moonlight, giving the effect of wavering liquid. Blue and white flowers lounged at her sandaled feet.

Even though it was in the middle of the night, Supernaturals kneeled in front of her, chanting. Their voices rose above the jeweled gates. Teal silk robes covered them. Cowrie shells, dyed in blue ink, draped around their necks. Gone was Shango District’s smell of death and blood, poverty and depression. The soothing scent of the sea hovered in the air and seized me, stirring up memories of Orisha beach during the summer, salt on my tongue, sand between my toes, and the calming waves of the ocean pushing me forward. 

I sighed.

“You’re lucky to live here,” I whispered. Zulu’s body tensed under my arms.

“Luck has nothing to do with it," he said as we stopped at a light. "It’s a way for my mom to pay me off. To make sure I don’t call her Mommy in front of her Pureblood friends.”

If you would like to learn more about Kenya and her writing, here's a link to her site. Or you can find her on Goodreads.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. Creating a fantasy world does take a lot of planning. The fantasy author must have a great imagination to come up with unique characters and settings. Your advice should help others, Kenya. Congratulations on your book.