The Chapters - The Art of World Building
Apr 092020
 
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What follows is a brief summary of what’s included in each chapter in Volume Three, Cultures and Beyond.

Chapter 1 – Creating Cultures

This chapter discusses the differences between a culture and a custom, and that morals, values, and beliefs underlie everything. World builders can determine the scope of an invented culture, as some are regional or extend throughout a sovereign power. Cultural depictions can have visible, audible, and behavior aspects that can be defined. These include issues such as body language, hair styles, gestures, clothing, and more. Greetings and farewells should be defined because characters will use them. Similarly, swear words, slang, verbal expressions, and colloquialisms can be created to characterize interactions. The daily life of a culture is depicted in dining, bathing, sleeping, employment, and transportation rituals and behaviors; pastimes, holidays and more create a respite for the everyday activities. Even architecture can be influenced by culture.

Chapter 2 – Creating Organizations

Organizations for good or evil are a staple of both fantasy and SF. This chapter discusses both group types and their world views, plus common traits like goals, enemies, friends, and their source of (and quest for) power. How members join and leave such groups is an important element; some organizations might prevent or inhibit departure. Prerequisites can also bind a member to the group. The history and actions of a group are an important part of its reputation.

Chapter 3 – Creating Armed Forces

Military groups such as the army, navy, air/space force, and knights are a staple of both fantasy and SF. We can leverage existing ideas or craft our own. Doing so means deciding how someone joins and leaves a military group, including requirements, tests, and training. Some species and races might be forbidden or assigned special roles. Throughout history, famous members can inspire pride or loathing. When devising military units and ranks, it helps to understand Earth analogues, so some basics are included in this chapter. The world view, locations, place in society, and symbols are all important elements of memorable armed forces and this chapters covers them all.

Chapter 4 – Creating Religions

While some aspects of the societies we create have history as a minor element, history is crucial with religions, so first we look at where and how the religion formed, including a prophetic figure and the role of a god, should one exist. Creation and end of world myths, and the afterlife, are important elements that potential followers consider, along with the requirements for worship and the penalty for failing to follow the rules. How someone joins and leaves a religion can be trivial or significant and includes the possibility of expulsion. We’ll need holy sites, too, and a decision on holidays, customs, sects, relationships with everyone from species to other religions, and what members of the clergy are like and their role in society. Most importantly, we need the symbols and beliefs of this religion.

Chapter 5 – Creating the Supernatural

Supernatural elements exist in both fantasy and SF and can be used to add surprises. The audience may expect magic, for example, but not our version of it, so there’s room for originality here. We can create energies that give rise to phenomena, beings, or places like magic pathways or alternate worlds and realities that impact our setting and stories. How much impact and prevalence these supernatural elements have, and how to determine this, are an important focus of this chapter.

Chapter 6 – Creating a System of Magic

Magic systems can be simple or complex, but they should always be consistent. This chapter discusses the methods and principles of good systems and how to create them. This includes the importance of naming them, deciding if spells are needed and what those are for, whether spells can go wrong and how, and different types of magic we might want to include in our settings. We’ll also look at how much training someone might need, what forms that training takes, and learn how to decide what’s right for our setting. And no discussion of magic is complete without a look at how to invent spells.

Chapter 7 – Creating Items

Whether magical, technological, or more ordinary, memorable items exist in our setting even if we don’t mention them. SF likely expects them, and fantasy often has at least one magic item someone has or covets in a story, but even ordinary items can be given significance through association with important people, places, or events. This chapter discusses how to invent their properties, origins, and form, and how to determine who is likely to use or want them. The creation of an A.I. is included.

Chapter 8 – Creating Languages

Creating a language is one of the most challenging aspects of world building, but it’s also one of the few that we can outsource; how and where to do so is discussed. Even so, some basic terms must be understood so we know what we’re buying and receiving from our expert. If we choose to do it ourselves, we should consider whether it benefits our audience and how, or even whether it’s a burden that we can save both them and ourselves. This chapter will not teach world builders how to invent a language because there are entire books on the subject, and those are referenced here, but it will discuss the pros and cons of constructing a language and what we lose by not having one (or more).

Chapter 9 – Creating Names

Many techniques exist for creating names of people, places, and things, and all of them leverage our creativity to make the results and process more satisfying than using name generators, which are also discussed. Caveats and pitfalls abound, for while a great name elevates our story, bad ones turn off audiences, or keep them from talking about a character with an unpronounceable or unspellable name. We look at the differences between given names, surnames, compound names, and different ways to use parts of our invented world for all of them. The tips in this chapter will make this required activity fun and rewarding.

Chapter 10 – Other Systems

Other systems exist in our setting and warrant development. We’ll examine educational systems and their impact on employment, plus where and how people are getting educated or being disqualified from it. Health systems include medical and mental, and they range from great to terrible, each having significant impacts on lives. Information systems aren’t just for SF, because fantasy settings need to disseminate information, too, and have their own ways of doing so. Understanding monetary systems and how to keep them simple is another focus of this chapter and includes how to determine the value of time, labor, and materials. And no world is complete without laws, crimes, and punishments, so developing a legal system is a critical world building task we breakdown into a manageable one.

Chapter 11 – Conclusion

In the series conclusion, we look at how to organize our files of world building notes so that the info glut doesn’t become overwhelming; this includes some tools others have created, whether free or not, and the pros and cons of using them. We’ll also look at different approaches to world building and how each affects our working methodology and results. Final thoughts include the merits of following our own rules per world and whether partnering with another world builder is a good idea or not.

Templates and Newsletter

Effective world building requires having written down details about the created world. To help you organize and jumpstart your efforts, each volume in this series includes templates in the appendices. This volume includes twelve: cultures, organizations, armed forces, religions, supernatural energies, supernatural lands, magic systems, spells, legal systems, monetary systems, education systems, and games.

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