This is the fourth in a series of world building articles! Today’s theme is world figures like heroes and villains. This will get you started, but you can read more about this in Chapter 4, “Creating World Figures”, from Creating Life, (The Art of World Building, #1).
Tip #1: “Decide Who the Heroes and Villains Are”
There are many types of world figures, some hated, others revered. In your world, what kind of people make good figures to reference? Warriors, explorers, inventors, and leaders come to mind. Determine what they did and what they’re famous for by deciding how you’re going to use them. As characters? Someone to mention?
Tip #2: “Determine Their Status”
Living figures provide ongoing opportunities for new fame, but dead heroes tend to be more revered. If they’re alive, decide what they’re doing now. Retired? In hiding? Imprisoned? Read Creating Life for more ideas.
Tip #3: “What Items Did They Have?”
Whether the figure is alive or dead, they might’ve had cool items, including ships or steeds, that are lost or in the wrong hands. This is a great way to make these figures still relevant if current characters have their weapons and armor, for example. Invent some items and reasons they’re famous. What can they do that others can’t?
Tip #4: “Who Were/Are Their Relatives?”
So often, the relatives of world figures aren’t mentioned at all, as if everyone was born in a test tube and raised by no one. Determine who their relatives are, including descendants, and how they feel about this figure. Don’t forget that every species probably has a different opinion on this guy, too; he might be a villain to one and a hero to another.
Tip #5: “Where Did They Learn?”
Most famous people have special skills. Where did this guy get his? This can be important if he was a villain who killed his master for knowledge, for example. A hero might’ve inherited knowledge from a mentor grooming him for great things. These aspects characterize our figure and make them “human.”
Summary of Chapter 4—Creating World Figures
Villains, heroes, and more give our characters admired or despised individuals who’ve shaped the world and inspired them. Using Earth analogues can speed the invention of such world figures, though it’s best to change some details to obfuscate the similarities. Living figures can provide ongoing usefulness but the deceased can cast a long shadow, too. Their possessions can be just as famous and offer opportunities for our characters to find something helpful or dangerous. Family, friends, and enemies also provide ongoing possibilities for their life to impact our current characters.