Fifth Annual February is Fantasy Month: Join the Party

February Fantasy Month Banner

It’s no secret that I love winter. It’s been snowing lightly outside for days now, and the world is white and beautiful here. But not everybody loves winter, and a large number of people seem to hate February in particular with a higher degree of intensity. It’s gray, it’s cold, the excitement of Christmas is over, and to add insult to injury everybody’s least-favorite Hallmark-invented holiday arrives in the middle of the month to either guilt us into reminding our loved ones that we love them, or to make us feel lonely if we don’t have a significant other.

Enter FANTASY MONTH! A month-long celebration of all things fantastical, that will whisk you away on a virtual vacation and help speed along the month of February.

And that’s why I created this event. Because February gets a lot of grief, and there should be something done about it.

I honestly can’t believe this is the fifth year that I’ve been running this blogging event. It has been such a fun event to run, and I am so thrilled that so many of you seem to enjoy it with me.

I try to have a theme ever year, and this year, we’re focusing on World Building and Fantasy Creatures! I’ve got a ton of epic blog posts lined up for you in which we will take a closer look at the world building of some of our favorite fantasy realms, and then we’ll deep-dive into creating a whole new world and look at what is involved in that. There will be posts on every day except Sunday (yes, I’m already exhausted and the month has barely begun, but who cares! We’ll sleep when we’re old). I also have some awesome guest posters joining us each week, and many other bloggers already planning to join the fun through the link-up, as well.

The end of this month also marks the 8th birthday of King’s Warrior (and technically its paradoxical 2nd birthday, since I released it on Leap Day), so I’m having an epic giveaway to celebrate!

And if you want to join the fun, there are several ways you can do so.

You can enter the giveaway, leave comments on blog posts (you can get an entry a day just by leaving comments on various blog posts), if you have a blog of your own feel free to join the link-up (instructions below), or just read and share the posts with your friends on social media!

February is Fantasy Month 2

FEBRUARY IS FANTASY MONTH BLOG LINK-UP

The rules are simple:

1. Write a blog post about anything fantasy related. (Literally anything. You don’t even have to follow this year’s topic, though I’ll give you bonus points if you do… not that those bonus points are worth anything extra…. *grin* but truly, any fantasy topic is fair game. Fantasy book/movie/tv show reviews also count! If you don’t want to come up with your own post idea, then feel free to grab the Tag (I’ll be posting that on Monday) and use that as your fantasy month post).

2. Refer somewhere in the post that you are doing this for February is Fantasy Month and link back to this blog.

3. Put your post’s URL in the link up.

4. Have fun!

And that’s all there is to it! Simple, right?

Because someone asked: if you write more than one fantasy-related post, PLEASE FEEL FREE to post the URL here for multiple posts! This is a month-long celebration of fantasy and we don’t want to miss any of your fabulous musings on the subject. So you are definitely welcome to join the link-up more than once!!!

Join the Link-up – remember, this year, joining the link-up with your first post gets you 5 entries in the giveaway!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

The Epic Giveaway

Due to the massive amounts of treasure required to send anything larger than a letter via dragon these days, all physical giveaway items are open to US addresses only unless otherwise noted.

 Minstrel's Song Series graphic1 complete signed paperback set of The Minstrel’s Song series

1 complete e-book set of The Minstrel’s Song series (open internationally)

 

 

1 paperback copy of Five Poisoned Apples

 

 

1 paperback copy of Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams (original cover)

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-21 at 5.09.29 PM

 

1 paperback set of  The Story Peddler + The Story Raider by Lindsay A. Franklin

 

 

1 paperback copy of the Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales anthology

 

 

1 paperback copy of the Mythical Doorways anthology

 Hidden Dagger

1 signed paperback of your choice from J.L. Mbewe’s Hidden Dagger Trilogy

 

 

1 ebook copy of The Cursed Flame by Selina J. Eckert (international)

 

Bookmark Back Bookmark

 

Cursed Flame Bookmarks

 

 

1 audiobook code for Horseman by Kyle Robert Shultz

 

IMG_9504

 

Set of Awesome Fantasy Bookmarks

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 2.04.18 PM

1 Castle Magnet

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 2.04.27 PM

1 King’s Warrior key-chain

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 2.04.41 PM

1 Minstrel’s Call Bag of Holding

Mountain Segue

What do you think? Does this month sound like it’s going to be an epic blast or what? Which of these prizes would you most like to win? Leave me a comment letting me know! I will do my best to match up winners with their desired prizes.

You can gain entries in a variety of ways, but the way to earn the most entires is by coming to the #FantasyMonth event and commenting on blog posts! You can get one entry each day through comments! You can also gain entries over on Instagram or Twitter by participating in the photo challenge. Here are the prompts for each day (no prompts on Sundays).

IG Fantasy Month 2020 Challenge

Make sure you don’t miss out on any of the Fantasy Month fun: Subscribe to my blog today! (I can’t figure out how to add it as a link to this post, but it’s right up there at the upper right-hand corner of the blog if you’re on a computer).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

~ jenelle

What if You Want to Include Technology in Your Fantasy?

Turrim Archive Titles (2)

Airships soar through the sky, floating above a city of brick and steel. A plume of steam puffs into the air, melding with the clouds, and on the horizon you can just make out the wheeling figure of a massive gryphon, the sunlight glinting off its golden feathers.

Although many fantasy stories set themselves squarely in the middle ages, your world does not have to be limited by a singular time period. Thanks to the subgenres of steampunk, gaslamp, urban, and super-hero stories, you can have a fantasy world set in just about any time period you like, with any level of technology you deem fitting for your story and realm.

Inserting levels of technology into your world can be fascinating, thrilling, and a little overwhelming. I’ve found that this is one of those places where I really have to do a lot of research.

But it’s fantasy! In a made-up world! You remind me… and yes, that is true. If you want a world that has airships, dishwashers, and microwaves, but hasn’t invented matches and cars… you are certainly welcome to do that. But there is a danger in losing your audience if you make the “this not that” technologies too complicated.

As there are exceptions to every rule, one place I’ve seen this done well was in William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride” (the book that the movie is based on). The “author” S. Morgenstern, inserts a lot of “asides” throughout the story with random details such as, “This was before fashion, but after Paris.” or “This was after mirrors, but only just.” At one point, William Goldman even interrupts his flow to tell you that his editor was going crazy with these asides, trying to figure out exactly when this story was supposed to be set, and he says, “I think Morgenstern was just trying to make the point that this is a made-up story in a made-up time and place.” (Which is even more entertaining when you realize that Goldman IS Morgenstern and all of that was made-up, as well). But that’s a topic for a different day.

Ahem.

Clearly, you can get away with just about anything if you do it well enough.

If you know the rules, you can break them.

For example: if you know that matches weren’t invented until 1805, but your story set in the 1600s requires them… you can make that happen. There’s no reason matches couldn’t have been invented in your world earlier than in ours. (Especially since sulfur matches were actually in use in China as early as AD 577 and you could investigate what those looked like and give them your own sort of twist). But you might want to include some little nugget of history in your fantasy world that helps the reader accept that this is not an inconsistency, but rather a quirk of your fantasy realm that is different than our own. In this way, you break the rules with style and your readers will appreciate it, rather than being annoyed by it.

Turrim Archive

With the Turrim Archive, I’ve been having a blast (and often getting bogged down) in the various technological achievements of the lands. The world is set in a sort of early-1800s time period in terms of food, clothing, and some basic levels of technology. But it is also a world where some large technologies have been artificially advanced before their time by magic. That means that I have things like trains and airships, but no electricity or cars. There is indoor plumbing in the cities, though rural areas still use outhouses. Wind-up clocks and even pocket chronometers exist. But weapons are still at the sword and crossbow level, as guns and cannons have not yet been invented.

It has been fascinating, studying different technologies and finding out when they were common and then deciding which ones would fit in this world and which ones would not have been invented or discovered yet due to the hindrance of magic being used to “meddle” in their technological development.

And throughout the story, some new technologies get developed and invented, so that was even more fun to explore how that might come about and delve into how the characters would react to some of these new inventions and how their lives are changed or impacted by them.

Mountain Segue

What do you think, dear Reader? Have you read any fantasy books with interesting technology (whether it be a sub-genre or not)? Do you enjoy steampunk/gaslamp/or urban fantasy? Why or why not?

How is Fantasy Month going for you?

On Monday we will be discussing magic and magic systems for our fantasy worlds, so make sure to come back for that!

~ jenelle

Politics and Money: how you can build them into your fantasy realms for an extra dose of realism

money-1595995_640

Politics and money.

Wait! Before you head for the hills, because those two words tend to incite some rather violent reactions… today we’re only talking about the FANTASY versions of those topics. You get to make them up!

Political Structure

When you are considering your world, you will want to figure out how and where these things fit into the fabric of the realm you are creating. Who is in power? What kind of government exists in your land(s)? Are there multiple countries in play? Do they all have the same type of government? Do the leaders of these multiple governments get along?

There are a lot of fun questions to think about and answer when you are writing a new story world. In fantasy, we often see monarchies, but that is not the exclusive type of government in fantasy. I’ve seen quite a few other types represented in the stories I’ve read, everything from nomadic desert tribes to kings to  the full-on creation of a sort of a cross between a parliament and a republic to evil dictators.

In the Minstrel’s Song, I went pretty basic with this one. I had a bunch of island countries, and every one of them was its own kingdom. The islands were far enough apart that they did not interact a ton (there is some trade between some of the islands, but others don’t even know the rest exist). Later on in the series, the politics got a little more complex as the nations were forced to work together, but for the most part, the politics were pretty simple.

In the Turrim Archive, on the other hand, the politics are far more central to the story, since you have six separate nations sharing a single continent. On one half of the world, you have Telmondir: three nations that have banded together and formed a Council, comprised of elected officials from each nation, who work together and represent their people as the heads of state. They share a single military force and trade without restriction across borders. On the other side of the continent is the Igyeum, three nations that spent centuries under the rule of warring chieftains, but a single ruler has risen to power and subdued that half of the world through military might. There is an uneasy truce between Telmondir and the Igyeum, but the Council knows the peace could end at any moment and are working to prepare for it. This leads to a lot of tension and some interesting political interactions as we start the story.

It has also been quite a growing experience for me, writing more political intrigue and interactions into this series. I’ve had to think very differently whenever the story called for events dealing with the various political entities. There has been a lot of research into different types of government systems, as well. Writing political motivations and intrigue just does not come easily for me, and has definitely stretched me as a writer!

In Revelod, since it’s such a big world, there are a lot of interesting ways we can play with the political structure of the various continents.

Here's the map of Revelod again for reference

Here’s the map of Revelod again for reference

The Eldoran Commonwealth

The Council of Eldoran is made up of 5 individuals: the King of Eldoran, the High Mage of the Arcanium, the Lord General of Revelod, the Archon, and the Citizen.

The Citizen is the Prime Minister of the People’s Hall, a Parliament made up of representatives of the different states/provinces of Eldoran.
The Archon is the Highest Judge in Eldoran. The Lord General of Revelod is the Supreme Commander of the Revelod Army appointed by the King.  The High Mage of the Arcanium is a representative of the Arcanium Order, the educational and magical organization of Eldoran. And finally, the King is the hereditary monarch of Eldoran. He represents the Lord’s Council and the Aristocracy of Revelod.

The Tundarin Empire

The Tundaran Empire functions as a Hereditary Empire, that has been ruled by a several dynasties for the past 1000 years. Cultural Layers are firmly adhered to and structured as such:

Aristocracy – Hereditary Peoples, of many races, though not all
Merchant Lords – Financially established merchants who can rise and fall within this class, including fall from it.  These are unable to ascend to the Aristocracy without familial ties (usually marriage).
Citizenry – This is the common class of people throughout the Empire.
Slaves – Persons owned by any of the classes above them Most often Aristocracy and Merchants, though a few citizens have slaves in their keep.  Slavery can span anything from dregs of society to entire family lines bought in servitude to a Aristocratic house or Merchant Lord guild or company. Some slaves have more power and influence than aristocrats or merchant lords.

Seyberron

Nine tribal/nomadic communities make their home on Seyberron. The wild lands are roamed by these tribes and are governed by the peaceful if tenuous relationships between the chieftains and their families.

The Sovereign Territories

This is an archipelago, and each island has its own nation/kingdom as follows:

The Orc Nation of Votar – Loose association of Goblinoid City States

A continent sized region populated by Goblinoid Tribes. There are several regions that are controlled by Warlords and the borders are constantly moving based on warlord control. Areas are effectively defined by regional names only. Formal political boundaries are not recognized.

Tathamor Dominion – Human Mix Kingdom

Mixed Kingdom heavily reliant on trade. Ruling council operates the most of the functions within the kingdom. There are cities and provinces that operate within the kingdom. Constantly at war with Votar.

Rekar – Elvish / Gnomish Equatorial Jungle Island

Wilderness continent heavily covered in Tropical forrests. Many settlements can be found around the coast, but there are hidden realms within the interior.

Haedrus Spire – Arid Mountain Island home of the Titans

This is the cultural homeland of all Titans. Their holy site stands at the middle of the island on the highest peak. It is capped with a monument to the Titon Lords who blessed the ancestral Titans to defeat the giants who invaded their land. The Titan culture is one of no aristocracy caste system. The only power resides at the individual communities, however there is an order that guides the culture as clerics to the Titons.

Itascan – Elven Stronghold of a Temperate Forest

This island is shrouded in mystery. Surrounded by a large evergreen forrest there are two primary mountain peaks on the island nation. One peak is a light tan golden color, while the other is a dark gray blue rock. There are two factions of Elves represented in this stronghold, the Light Elves and Dark Elves.  They each reside within their respective territories and both lead to a vast maze under the island that stretches far beyond the coasts of the Itascan island.

 

Currency & Commerce

Once you’ve answered some or all of the questions about how your world is governed, this could be a good time to turn your attention to how things will get paid for.

Hehe, sorry, Aladdin GIFS are just working for me today.

We talked a little bit about currency when I posted about Middle Earth earlier this month and pointed out that Tolkien didn’t create a specific currency for his world. But I’d like to talk about it a little bit more, for anyone who didn’t join us in the comments. (Also, I did some more digging, and Tolkien DID come up with some currency names: in one of the Appendices we learn that Gondor used silver coins called Castars, and a smaller coin called a tharni, and the Shire had a system of copper and silver pennies (which I believe we do see come up at the Prancing Pony when/after they purchase Bill the pony), but again, he does not go into detail on this at all in the books, rather making general references to “coins of little worth” or the descriptions of the vast amounts of gold and wealth within Erebor.

As George Bailey famously says of money in It’s a Wonderful Life (can we count this as fantasy since an angel comes down and we see an alternate reality? No? Okay then), “It comes in pretty handy down here, bub.”

We don't use money in heaven

And yet, not many fantasy books include it. As Sarah and I were discussing, some of that probably stems from the fact that, while money is extremely important for us in our everyday lives, most of our favorite fantasy characters are either royalty (and therefore have plenty of money to pay for whatever they need so it’s not important to tell us exactly what that money is called), or they’re dirt poor and spending all their time questing through the wilderness-y areas of the world where they aren’t exactly going to market to purchase things (and therefore money just doesn’t come up).

I did find a list of fictional currencies, and I thought it was interesting how few of them there were. (I have no idea how exhaustive this list is, but it was the only one I could find with titles I recognized on it).

Mistborn (which we also talked about earlier this month) uses a system of imperials and clips.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series has the Ankh-Morpork dollar, as well as several other regional currencies.

Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle uses crowns.

The Chronicles of Narnia uses crescents.

Harry Potter (the wizarding world side) uses bronze Knuts, silver Sickles, and gold Galleons (and I love the names, but I just now realized that basically this is just the standard D&D system of currency with fancy titles)

The Wheel of Time uses the penny, mark, and crown.

And of course, Star Wars has credits. (shush, Star Wars is fantasy).

Those were the names I recognized. I’m sure there are others… I’m sure. None of them are coming to mind, though. But it struck me that this is a thing that seems to often get left out of most world creations. So, it’s up to you. Does money play an important role in your story? Will your characters need it? Does your world have actual currency, or does it work on a trade/barter system?

My own Minstrel’s Song series has a fairly elaborate currency system in the country of Aom-igh, though it barely comes into the books at all:

Stater – just a copper coin, small and round with a circular hole in the middle used to buy trivial things such as single drinks

Silver Stater – a silver coin, round and smooth-edged, with a square hole in the center, worth approximately 10 staters

Silver Ryal – a silver circular coin banded with gold worth approximately 5 silver staters 

Gold Stater – a golden coin, circular in shape worth approx. 5 silver ryals 

Gold Ryal – a golden coin roughly circular in shape with a wavy edge like the petals of a flower and a hole stamped in the center worth approx 10 gold staters 

Rose Ryal – a coin made of rose-gold, roughly circular in shape with a wavy edge like the petals of a flower edged with silver worth approx 5 gold ryals

Pretty sure that all made it into approximately two lines of the book. Hehe. So… a lot depends on what you want to pour your time into. And remember one of the guidelines we learned about earlier in the month. Spend your time where it will most affect the plot and characters of the story. If you don’t need a currency system, don’t create one! But if you do, know that you’ll be one of the few, and perhaps that will be a detail that will help allow your readers to really immerse themselves in your world and make it come alive around them as they read.

Perhaps more important than currency, then, is the idea of commerce in your world. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to have the GDP of each of your countries hammered out, but it does mean that you should have some idea of how trade happens from one place to another. If you are writing in a small-scale world, how does your character acquire the things they need? Do they barter? Do they trade? Is there a currency?

If your scope is a bit larger, how does trade happen between villages? Do the villagers of one town trust those of the neighboring town and accept coins from them, or do they regard their neighbors with suspicion and only accept things in trade?

Going to the national or global scale, how is trade handled between nations? Is the currency of Rohan good in Gondor? Is there a global currency, or do your nations weigh money differently?

If you’re looking for a resource that will give you a quick run-down on the evolution of currency throughout history and a better grasp on how countries interact, I highly recommend the book Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? It is one of those books I read with my kids for school this past year to help teach them a sort of intro to economics, and then it kind of revolutionized the way I look at my own fantasy worlds now when it comes to creating commerce between countries and how I think about currency when I consider creating it for my fantasy realms. I love it when I learn stuff about writing and world building when I’m least expecting it!

Mountain Segue

Can you think of any other fantasy books you’ve read that described a specific and unique currency system? What about politics? What types of interesting governments have you encountered in the fantasy realms you’ve traversed? Are you enjoying Fantasy Month? What are you reading this month for fun? Are these posts making you think differently about what you’re reading? If you’re an author, are they helping you as you think about world building?

Make sure to come back tomorrow as we will be discussing technology in fantasy, and that is sure to be a fascinating conversation!

~ jenelle

How to Insert Unique Cultures into Your Fantasy World

February is Fantasy Month 2

Yesterday, we discussed the various races you might want to include in your books. Today, we are going to talk about the culture(s) of your world. What are they? How are they different? How do you show that they are different? What kind of hierarchy or caste-system do they contain, if any? And where do your characters fit within the culture of the realm?

Think about the differences between Rohan and Gondor in Middle Earth. Even though these are both human cities, they are vastly different in terms of culture. Their cities are different, their architecture is different, their clothing is different, and they value different things… and yet, it is still easy to believe that they both co-exist in the same world.

Highlighting different cultures in my world is something I focused on heavily when writing the Turrim Archive, and I’m sure I will tweak and work even more to bring out in the edits. But on a small continent that is home to six different countries, I wanted to make each of these regions distinct from each other with different foods, customs, clothing, names, and beliefs. Their architecture is different from one country to the next. Their political structures are different. And as my characters travel from one country into another, I wanted them to be struck by some of those differences (just as we notice differences when we travel abroad). My hope is that the world of Turrim will feel real to the reader. That it will be a place in which a person can become immersed because it isn’t just one sort of place, but has interesting things to see and experience in each part of the world.

I want to share an excerpt with you that exemplifies what I’m talking about a little bit, as my main characters have a day in which to explore the city near the Academy they have enrolled in, which is located in the country of Ondoura, the neighboring country to the one they grew up in. (This is still a VERY rough draft excerpt, so be kind):

Grayden wasn’t sure what he had expected, but Doran was nothing like any place he had ever been. He had half assumed the capital of Ondoura would be a kind of mixture of Elricht Harbor and Dalton, but he was wrong. The first thing he noticed was the heat. Even though it was late autumn, the air blowing in from the sea was warm and sticky, and carried a scent of spices on its back. He knew they were much farther south than Elricht Harbor, or Dalsea, but it was still difficult to truly grasp how different the weather was here on the southern border of Teldorin. As they stepped out of the carriage onto the cobblestones, Grayden noticed that the gaps between the cobbles were wide and filled with yellow sand. Tall trees the like of which he had never seen before rose up here and there, providing shade from the hot sun. He and Wynn made a valiant effort to keep their mouths closed and act as though they were something resembling nonchalant, stoic Academy students, but they failed miserably. After a while, they stopped trying.

The stone buildings were another new sight. Their own home village was comprised of either log cabins or huts made from wattle and plaster with large timbers helping keep everything together. Some of the houses had wooden shingles, though most were thatched. But these buildings had slate tiles covering their roofs, and their walls were made from a gray or reddish-hued stone and covered in elaborate carvings. The designs were wholly unfamiliar, but beautiful. Many of the structures were supported by various columns, all of them short and squat. Grayden had to admit that the city was impressive, but he secretly preferred the white stone and soaring arches of Dalton that drew one’s eyes up towards the mountain top.

The buildings drew closer together as they ventured closer to the harbor. Cathrin, who was leading them, stopped abruptly.

“The Doran Market,” she said, sweeping her hand out in front of her.

Grayden stared. It was so different from the Dalton marketplace, which had been set up in a huge courtyard, with all the sellers at tables or booths that were open to the sky above. Here, the booths appeared to be part of the outsides of the buildings, though upon closer inspection Grayden realized that they were separate, but so heavily decorated with each seller’s wares it was impossible to see where the booth ended and the building it was set up next to began. Glowing lanterns hung down on either side of the path, illuminating the various items for sale, and casting some eerie shadows on the faces of the merchants who had gathered to sell their items. Above them, large, colorful fabrics stretched between the buildings overhead, creating a false ceiling for the entire marketplace that daylight filtered through. And everyone appeared to be shouting. Bells chimed, animals whinnied and brayed and bleated, and sellers clad in simple robes of cloth as brightly colored as that of the makeshift roofs called out the items they had for sale as Grayden and his friends passed by. The smell of fish and herd animals mingled with scents of perfume and spices in a strange, not unpleasant way. It was at once overwhelming and amusing, as various entertainers were also situated throughout the criss-crossing streets of the market showing off their talents and begging for stin from anyone who lingered to watch.

One of the tiny details that I chose to focus on with giving each country its own unique culture was in my naming conventions. I have a set list of real-world cultures that I am drawing from for each of my 6 countries, and I make sure that any characters from each of those countries has a name that originates from one of those real-world cultures. Behind the Name is one of my most-heavily relied upon resources for this series!

When considering cultures in your fantasy realm, you don’t necessarily have to have everything figured out. Maybe you have an image in your mind from a movie or a picture. Maybe you had an experience traveling to a different country that fascinated you and you want to bring some of that experience to a reader. Maybe you are making the whole thing up as you go. But this is where you get to describe things and do your best to help your reader see what you see. This is one of those places that I usually have to go back and work on in edits. As someone who is not at all a “people-watcher” I tend not to notice or care what people are wearing or doing around me, and so I often forget to put those details into my first drafts. Whenever my husband and I are in a crowded place like a mall or an amusement park, he will often ask me things like, “Did you see what that woman’s shirt said?” or “Did you see what that guy was wearing?” And I’ll generally respond with, “There was a person?”

However, while description is good and necessary, this is also going to be one of those places where you will want to insert those little details as much as possible, without necessarily going into massive amounts of background information. If the people in your culture greet each other with a salute or a kiss on both cheeks or a bow or by touching ankles, you don’t need to go into a dissertation on where this practice originated in your world and why it’s still used. Just show your reader that the character does it and move on. Your readers are intelligent, and if they’re willing to suspend their disbelief for magic or made-up worlds or mythical creatures… they can probably figure out from context that, “Ah, that’s how people in this world greet each other.” And they will appreciate you assuming that they are smart enough to figure that out.

Consider the climate in the various parts of your world, as well. The weather patterns over different areas will affect the culture in that area. (I’m a bit of a weather nut, so this is something I probably overthink, and a lot of it never makes it into my stories, but it’s fun for me and I enjoy it).

Mountain SegueWhat is the most unique or intriguing culture you’ve read in a fantasy book? What made it so compelling or different? What details did the author give that made it stick in your mind? Do you like it when things like clothing and architecture are described, or do you not notice things like that?

Tomorrow we get to talk about politics!!!! (No, not the kind that make everyone mad… the fictional kind, where you get to decide how your world is run).

~ jenelle

Elves and Dwarves and Humans, Oh My!

Dwarves Elves Friendship

Ah, the conflict between elves and dwarves in Middle Earth! Which do you prefer? Elves or dwarves? Why? Most people have a fairly strong preference. One of the reasons behind that is because Tolkien took the time to create deep cultures and histories for each of these races, and he made them complex and varied, as well. And he made them relatable. They aren’t so very different from humans that we can’t empathize with them at all.

One of the reasons I love the above quote so much is because it so perfectly encapsulates much of what we know about the interactions of elves and dwarves. With these simple lines he shows their history and their humanity. He gives us a picture of two races at odds with one another, and yet, like in many feuds we have seen time and time again in our own world, neither side has any idea of what they are actually fighting over. 

Today, we get to ask a question about one of my favorite aspects of world building: what intelligent species inhabit your realm?

One of the most fun things about world building is deciding and creating the intelligent races you want to see inhabiting your story world. Part of the reason it’s fun, is that it involves character creation… and while world building is something I’ve had to learn, characters are blissfully easy for me. They sort of step into my imagination fully formed and full of their own ideas and back stories (yes, very a la “The Man Who Invented Christmas”), and usually they bring all of this along with them and are pretty willing to share it with me right away. I’ve had a recent few give me a bit more difficulty, but characters are usually the part of the process that comes easiest… so today we get to hang out in comfortable territory for me! (lucky you!)

When you are creating a fantasy realm, you get to decide who inhabits your world, and since we’re playing in the fantasy sandbox, that means you get a few more options than people writing say… just about anything else outside of the speculative fiction boundaries (speculative fiction, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a way of lumping everything on the fantasy-to-science-fiction spectrum together in one easy to say genre label).

So, who do you want in your realm? The sky is, quite literally, just the beginning of your limits. You can stick with just humans, as I tried to do with the Turrim Archive (that failed miserably, but I didn’t even mean for it to, and I’m not going to tell you what other races showed up, but I didn’t invite them, they just jumped into my story without my permission, took up residence, and refused to leave).

You can follow the high fantasy 3-race structure of humans, elves, and dwarves.

In The Minstrel’s Song, I included humans, dragons, gryphons, merfolk, unicorns, pegasus, and a few others, giving each race their own unique cultures and characteristics, but making each race fully capable of both good and evil, just like humans. Dragons in my world are not “all good” or “all bad.” They have the ability to be either. In that story, the human and myth-folk kingdoms have had a long and varied history. In the ancient past, the human and myth-folk kingdoms experienced peace and viewed each other as allies. Dragons and their human riders patrolled the skies, helping to keep the peace. But all it takes are a few misunderstandings to form a rift. Eventually, the humans came to fear the myth-folk. Wars were fought, and the myth-folk retreated into hiding. At the beginning of King’s Warrior, most of the humans in the world have never seen a dragon (or any other myth-folk creature) and don’t even believe they ever existed. (We’ll talk more about dragons and the like later on next week, I just mention them here because in this series I treated them more like a cultural entity than like a fantasy creature).

When you are creating different sapient creatures for your story world, I recommend thinking carefully about why they exist. How do they help you tell a better story? If your main character is a half-elf or a dragon or a gnome, how does that help you tell the story better than if they were simply human? What characteristics does that allow you to play with? What tropes does it allow you to subvert? What tropes does it allow you to hit in a unique or brilliant way? Remember, tropes aren’t bad. Tropes exist because audiences love them. You don’t always have to subvert them, but if you’re going to include a trope (and you probably are, because there is nothing new under the sun), be careful it doesn’t become a cliche. Use it purposefully, and make it work for your story to develop your character, give depth to your world, or further your plot.

In Revelod, there are quite a few different races. There are humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, orcs, giants, drakin, and titans. The humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and orcs are all fairly standard to other versions you’ll find in most other fantasy novels. The drakin and the titans, however, are ones my husband created from scratch.

The drakin are descended from ordinary humans, who used to be enslaved by the dragon lords in Seyberron. However, 300 years ago, one of the Ari took pity on them and gave them the strength of their oppressors, allowing the human slaves to rise up and overthrow their overlords. This strength and other draconic traits gifted to them by the Ari were passed along to their children, causing the formation of a new race. While their heritage is human, they are now something that is partially human, partially dragon. They live in nomadic tribes and have a slightly longer lifespan than most humans. They love history and lore, but are deeply emotional and often unpredictable… a side effect of their draconic side.

The titans are a race that also descended from ordinary humans. During the Tytan War, the Haedrus Spire was the land of turmoil and destruction thanks to the Tytan Giants.  Driven by two of the Vanimor, the people of the Haedrus Spire lived with war and death as their constant companions.  After  a decade of war, two of the Ari took pity upon the Haedrian people and bent the Rules of Intervention and provided the strength and resolve the Haedrian people needed to stand up to the Dreadlord Tytan Giants wreaking havoc on the land.  Thus, was born the Titan people. Titans are a hearty people like dwarves, but they prefer wide open spaces.  The innate power of their Ari patrons blessed them with the ability to enhance their size and abilities to bolster their ranks on the battle field. They are forces to be reckoned with on and off the battlefield.

When you are considering what sapient races to include in your world, an additional question you might want to consider is: where do they come from?

Have these races always existed, side by side with the humans of your world? Does your world even have humans? Why or why not? Are they like traditional elves and dwarves, where they were created alongside humans? Or are they similar to the drakin and titans of Revelod and were once human but were somehow altered to become something new?

The good news is: this is YOUR world and there’s really no wrong answers here (huzzah!) If you want dragons, you can have them. If you want elves or purple-spotted gorantulas who live peacefully in the highest branches of an impossibly tall forest… be my guest! I am currently considering a flash fiction about crotchety old ice elementals who are rather put out at a perceived lack of respect by mortals… so… that should be fun to write.

Mountain Segue

Let’s chat! What fantasy races do you get most excited about when you see them featured in a story? Do you prefer elves or dwarves? (or neither?) Why? What are your favorite fantasy races to write about? What are some fantasy races you think are underused that you’d like to see more of? Are you enjoying fantasy month? I truly hope so! Make sure to go to the pinned post and check out some of the other awesome bloggers who have joined the link-up! There are some truly awesome, thought-provoking, entertaining, and informative posts that have been written and I don’t want you to miss any of them!

~ jenelle