Creating Maps for Your Stories: Why You Should Do It and Why It’s Not as Scary as You Think

February is Fantasy Month 2

Maps.

They are such a nice addition to a fantasy book. Especially if the realm is large or completely fabricated from the author’s head.

But do you need a map?

Well… yes.

Hold on, before you start shouting at me that you’re not a cartographer or even an artist… let me explain. No, you do not need to include a professional-looking map in the published final version of your book. Maps are a nice-to-have thing that some readers love, but aren’t absolutely necessary. (I like maps in books, but… confession time… I almost never look at them while I’m reading a book… and rarely look at them when I’m done. It’s usually a thing I notice when I open the book, stare at for a moment, and then move past).

But I’m not talking about that map. That’s something you can figure out when you get closer to your publication date. I’m talking about a map just for you. Something to help you as you write your story so that you can keep directions consistent and know where things are and roughly how far apart they are as you write. This will help you out a lot when you get to the editing phase of your book, because you won’t have accidentally made some landmark 200 miles away and then managed to get your on-foot hero to that landmark in a day or two. You don’t need to be an artist, and you don’t need any fancy computer program. A piece of paper and a pen will be fine (that’s how most of my maps start out).

When I started writing King’s Warrior, I had a very basic map that I drew up with a pen. A friend took that map and made a larger version for me with color and some terrain, and eventually my husband turned it into the map inside the book today.

Aom-igh map Final.

But that is not how it started! Now that I’m working on Turrim Archive, I currently have a very basic map, that we will eventually turn into something beautiful. Turrim Archive is a medium sized world, taking place on a single small continent and none of the rest of the world is necessary for the story. The people on this continent have no knowledge of any other land-masses or people groups on their world.

IMG_9564 2

As you can… not see very well because of the whole picture-of-a-picture thing… what I have here is a basic shape of the continent, with rather a lot of things drawn all over it in various colors so that I can keep things straight. I added a scale to it so that I knew what distance existed between points. Now, this map has come together slowly over the course of five books. I did not have everything on here when I started. I knew the basic country borders, and a few towns and a landmark, but much of this map got filled in as I wrote and as the characters went on their adventures.

Even for a shorter story, I’ll pull out a piece of paper and jot down a quick map of where things are. For example, in my fae story that I recently sent out to beta readers, I drew this:

IMG_9565

Which should go to demonstrate that this whole map-making thing REALLY doesn’t require any skill or artistic talent. Or significant amounts of time. But I knew I wanted an island with a forest in the center (and I changed my mind after the first attempt and decided to make the forest bigger, hence the scribbly bits on the western side) with a stream running through it and down into the village. I wanted Echo’s house to be up on a the end of a peninsula and for the village to be down near the southern shore. So, in order to keep all the directions and distances straight in my head, I sketched out this truly horrible diagram that I would generally never show to anyone, but am making an exception here to prove a point and because I love you. *grin* The world of this story is small, but I still had to do a little world building.

So let’s take a closer look at the world I introduced you to yesterday, shall we? I have a few maps to show you a little bit more how a world can start out small and grow as you write the story.

Wolford Downs - Area

Here we have the tiny village of Wolford Downs. As you can see, there’s not a lot there, just a little village with roads/traffic coming in from the four cardinal points on the map, and they’re surrounded by forest. My husband created this map when he was running a D&D game for us and some friends. This provided the “home base” location for our adventures.

Town of Wolford Downs

Here we have the same town, Wolford Downs, but it has grown a bit. This was for a second game we played, that took place about 20-30 years after our first game. The town has grown a bit, the forest has been tamed, walls have been built, and this place is becoming more than a simple village. (You can even use maps to help you create a bit of history for your world, though you definitely don’t have to!)

Eldoran Commonwealth Map

Now we zoom out quite a ways and we see the continent on which Wolford Downs is located. (For context, it is about a 2-days’ walk west of the dot called “Eldoran” on the eastern shore).

As you can see, this map is not completely fleshed out, but there are some regions/cities named, a few places where terrain has been set, and plenty of space to take your characters on adventures. You can also see by the scale that this is not a tiny little continent.

And if you want to go to the global scale…

Revelod Map

You can!

One of the goals with Revelod has been to create a “world sized” realm, with large continents full of history and plenty of space to write stories in. As you can see, this map still needs a lot of things filled in. But that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be super detailed in order to get started on writing. The details can come later.

So much of your map is going to depend on the story you want to tell. What size world do you want for your story? How are people getting around? Clearly, people in Revelod can’t just hop in a canoe if they want to get from the Eldoran Commonwealth over to Seyberron or the Tundaran Empire. So what kind of technology is available? What is the main method of transportation? Are there continents/countries/regions in your world that do not come into your story? Do you have an idea of why they don’t or what keeps them from being important in your story?

You’re also going to want to think about where on the planet your countries are with regards to the poles and the hemisphere so that you know how the seasons work and what the weather will be like throughout your story.

Mountain Segue

Do you enjoy maps in books? As a reader, do you study maps when you find them in books, referring to them as you read, or are you more like me, appreciating them but not using them as much? As an author, have you created maps for your stories? Why or why not? If you are a writer who has been hesitating on the whole map-drawing thing, I hope that this post has helped make it seem far less daunting!

Make sure to come back tomorrow, because we will be talking about naming things in our worlds and what we should consider when we start thinking about what to call all the things in our fantasy realm.

~ jenelle

Identifying the Scope and Size of Your Fantasy Realm

February is Fantasy Month 2

Middle Earth, Narnia, the Wizarding World, Oz, Wonderland, the Final Empire, a galaxy far, far away…. these names and fantastical places transport us instantly out of our own world to somewhere entirely other. They inspire our imaginations, and send us knocking on paneled walls and opening doors, looking for another world, a more magical world, a place that will test our courage, our faith, our very mettle, and teach us to rise above our limitations and our circumstances to finish the quest, rescue someone dear to us, stand up for something we believe in, or have a chance to make some sort of difference.

That is what fantasy does. It teaches us what we wish we could be. It encourages us to strive to be better. And it teaches us that there is more than what we can see.

Lewis Quote

And this is what you want to do with your own fantasy world. But how to begin?

First, you must decide the scope of your world.

There are three basic sizes you might begin by considering as you build your fantasy realm: local, national, and global.

Many fantasy worlds are kept quite small. Several examples of this include Batman (where we stay mainly in Gotham City), or Cinderella (a single house and castle and a little bit of the surrounding area/village if we’re lucky). Quite a few fairy tales focus on a very small location, only giving us a general idea that a world might be larger.

Other worlds are absolutely massive. Star Wars (yes, I consider it to be more fantasy than sci-fi) is huge… covering an entire galaxy of planets. The Wheel of Time is another enormous world with various nations and cultures. Lord of the Rings is a bit smaller in size, but its history more than qualifies it as one of the worlds in the “large scope” category.

When deciding on a size for your world, consider your story. The length of your story, the number of characters, and the scope of your story will all play into how big you want your world to be. If you are writing a piece of flash fiction, for example, you will want to keep your world and character count incredibly focused in order to fit your story into the tiny word count. If you are writing a multi-book series, however, you may want to expand your world to give your story more depth as your characters go on their various adventures. There are exceptions, of course, but this is a good place to start.

Local

Lets talk local for a minute:

To be honest, it is probably best to start small and familiar. Why? Because while it is interesting to craft a big, grandiose-sized world, it also makes for a lot of work that in the long-term may not matter. Remember our lesson from Brandon Sanderson: focus your attentions on the pieces of world building that will further your story and characterization. Unless you are writing a massive series that is going to be thousands of pages long and take the characters to an insane number of locations, your readers are not going to experience the entirety of your world. Even in real life, most people don’t travel more than a hundred miles from home in their lives. So ask yourself: “How much world do I really need for this story?”

Some of you know that Batman is my favorite super hero. And super heroes totally fall into the classification of “fantasy” so let’s run with it. In the Batman franchise, we’ve had some 80-odd years of story-telling, and most of those stories have stayed solidly within the single city of Gotham. Or look at Harry Potter. While a wider world does eventually get alluded to and explored a bit… most of this epic, 7-book story takes place on the school grounds of Hogwarts. Yes, there are a few other locations we get to visit, but for the most part, we travel from Harry’s home to an outdoor mall to Hogwarts, and that’s it. So keeping your story world small and local definitely doesn’t preclude a longer story with lots of characters and plenty of interest.

Dresden Files is another fabulous example of a massive story with a more local world-scope. Most of this story takes place in Chicago and the surrounding area. And yet, there is plenty to explore around the city and within the magical hierarchy within the city limits.

Starting small, with a local setting may allow you to write a fantastic story that keeps the character count small, the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) influenced by a detailed world that they experience in their daily routines. Geopolitics may never arise in your story, but personal history, daily strife, and everyday heroics can be laser-focused within these smaller settings. (And the fate of the world can definitely still hang in the balance).

The  minute detail is much easier to enjoy if you don’t have to explain the grand context. You probably aren’t going to write a story where the “fate of the world” hangs in the balance, but there are plenty of other conflicts you can choose from.

National

So what if I want to go a bit bigger?  Well, that’s easily done… let’s move on to the “national” scale.

Of course, nations can vary in size. In our own world, the United States is 3,000 miles across, while Scotland is roughly the size of Ohio. France is only 600 miles across from north to south, but a ton of things can happen in countries of any size. If you want all the fun of playing with stories that affect a national scale, you can easily fill up dozens of books without having to look beyond the geographic borders of a single country. You can show the interactions between two or three nations/kingdoms in this scale, but you’re still not going to be able to write a compelling “global castastrophe” type story, though you are certainly welcome to try! The main story arc in this size world may not be a “take over the world” or “destroy the world” sort of story, but you could definitely be looking at a villain causing massive problems for multitudes of people at this scale.

My own story, “Stone Curse” operates at this scale. I wrote about two nations that border each other and the story proceeds to follow characters through one of the nations and presents a lot of the region in a fairly efficient narrative. For such a short story (roughly 25,000 words) the scope of the setting is actually pretty large, but it proves that you can show compelling characters with interesting dilemmas and obstacles to overcome and even elements of a quest to go on don’t have to operate at a global scale. It also shows that your word-count doesn’t have to be strictly defined by the scope of your world.

Global

And then there’s the Grand Poobah of scale.

If you’re looking for a global scale world, one of the first things I try to consider is “how do people get around?”  If people are traveling by horse they may only cover 20-60 or so miles a day. If someone is traveling across a continent (1000 – 2000 miles) that is going to take a long time. Is your story going to support all that travel time (20 – 40 days)? And what happens if they have to walk?

In fantasy, you can allow for magical transportation. In my own Minstrel’s Song series, I included dragons and dragon riders to allow for swift transportation across the ocean from one island kingdom to another in the archipelago that make up the main countries that come into play throughout the story. But in the fourth book, when the characters embark on a much longer trip to unknown southern regions of the world, it did not become possible for them to fly that far via dragonback, and so I had to let them take a ship for their quest.

You’re also going to have to consider a variety of different cultures, and possibly different cultures within each country, not every country is a single culture in our own world, after all. And you will want to make sure to have plenty of history for this world that the characters can reference to give it a feel of realism.

Now, as we continue on for the next couple of weeks, I’d like to introduce you to a world my husband and I have been building together (though, I’ll be honest and admit that he has done most of the work… I’ve been more of a consultant on this one as originally this was a world he was creating in order to play D&D in). However, as the world has grown and our time for playing D&D has decreased, we’ve played with the idea of me writing a series of stories within this world, since it’s just sitting there… ready for adventures.

While I will also be referencing some of my other stories: The Minstrel’s Song and the up-coming Turrim Archive, I thought that you might enjoy getting to peek behind the curtain… get a “back-page pass” as it were… into the creation of a fantasy realm and some of the things Derek and I do, and some of the things we think about when we build a world for me to write stories in.

Welcome to Revelod

In terms of scope, Revelod falls into the “global” definition, as Derek wanted this to be a world that actually encompassed something the size of an actual planet. It is by far the biggest world I’ve ever had to write in, and that can be a little daunting… but it also means that there is the potential for a TON of different types and sizes of stories to be told here.

Suspended within Veritoth amongst the stars is a bright blue ball of life circling its yellow sun and decorated by its twin moons. Upon the face of this planet resides the races and realms of Orimar’s greatest achievement, and his greatest sorrow. But that is a story yet to be told, or shall I say, yet to be completed.  

Revelod is the home to many peoples as well as great and ancient cultures.  There have been epochs of power and majesty only to be torn apart by conflicts of the mighty. Wars have ravaged this world, and great ages of power and might have shaped it, molded it, and broken it. Entire realms have been destroyed and drowned beneath the sea. Others have barely escaped destruction and banded together to defend against the next calamity, while some have been less fortunate and fallen to the evil left behind by the mighty. Throughout Revelod there is hope for some and despair for others. Some wield power with justice in their hands while others use it as a hammer to oppress the weak. But, there is always Orimar watching, guiding and serving his ultimate purpose to redeem and reclaim what is his.

Mountain Segue

Readers, what size fantasy worlds do you like best? Authors, what size fantasy world do you most enjoy writing in?

Make sure to come back tomorrow, as we will be talking about maps! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway  or join the link-up if you are a blogger! (see the pinned post)

And please consider subscribing to my blog so that you don’t miss any of the #FantasyMonth fun.

If you’re enjoying these posts, would you consider sharing them with your friends? Thank you!

~ jenelle

Discovering Arameth: What I Learned from Building My First Fantasy World – Guest Post Crystal Crawford

Discovering Arameth:

What I Learned from Building My First Fantasy World

by

Crystal Crawford

Flourish Blog Post

“I think fantasy is best described as a kind of fiction that evokes wonder, mystery or magic, a sense of possibility beyond the ordinary world in which we live, and yet which reflects and comments upon that known world.” —Kate Forsyth

Flourish Blog Post

One of the best things about writing fantasy is the freedom to immerse my readers — and myself — in a different reality.  It’s an amazing privilege to transport another person into a world which began in my mind. But it also means that the quality of my worldbuilding can make or break the reader experience.

Deep fantasy worldbuilding can be fun, satisfying, and even cathartic, but also overwhelming…  especially when it takes over a decade. Though I didn’t worldbuild and plan continually the entire time, my first fantasy world of Arameth began for me in 2005, but I didn’t manage to complete (and indie-publish) the first book from that world until 2018.

I’d like to share with you some pieces of my world… and some hard-won epiphanies about worldbuilding and my writing process (and myself) I uncovered while building it.

I am not claiming to be a worldbuilding expert, by any means.  But I have done it, extensively with the Arameth project and on a smaller scale with other stories since then.  Your mileage may vary—every writer is different and you may have a very different process from me, a different writing style, or different goals.  But I hope that by reading about my worldbuilding journey, you might get some ideas for where to start your own, if you’re struggling, or find a few tips to make it easier.

Flourish Blog Post

Worldbuilding Gone Wrong… Or Maybe Right?  (i.e., Things I Learned)

Worldbuilding—For Them, But First For Me

Much of the worldbuilding I do for a story will never be seen by the reader; I know that.  My first drafts are full of info-dumps I cut in editing, as I decipher how much info is too much to put on the page.  During this process, I inevitably wonder whether my world is unique enough, interesting enough, fleshed-out enough, and a dozen more “enough” evaluations.  If I let it, these worries and second-guesses could drive me mad… or at least drive me straight away from my computer and on to less stressful things, like professional napping.  At some point during the drafting process, I have to find the confidence to embrace the world I’ve built because it’s mine, because it means something to me.

My goal is always to share my world with readers—eventually—but in the early stages, it is mine to do with as I am led, which can be both comforting and terrifying, at least for an anxious, over-thinking writer like myself.

In my opinion, strong worldbuilding, like the elusive sense of voice in writing, is not as much about creating a world that’s totally unique as it is crafting a world that’s uniquely yours, revealed in a way only you could or would tell it.   A world where the author’s heart bleeds through between the edges of what’s shown on the page, infusing its very construct—that is a world that will feel alive, and rich, and real… and full of wonder.

Not every world I have built for my stories feels intensely personal or soul-baring.  But some do. Some even feel like the culmination of entire segments of my life, distilled and channeled into something new yet somehow familiar.  Arameth, for me, is one of those worlds—perhaps the world, the one which most deeply reveals bits of my heart and mind… the first fantasy world I ever created.

The full map of Arameth as revealed in book 3

The full map of Arameth as revealed in book 3

A Thing I Learned: 

I don’t need to create a world that’s better and more interesting and more unique than any other fictional world.  That’s an impossible task. But if I focus on letting me bleed through into my plans, onto the page, into my world… then even if no one else finds my world interesting, at least I do, right?   And usually that love for my world will translate onto the page, resulting in a world my readers can love, too.

Another Thing I Learned:

Trusted sounding-boards are extremely helpful to me while planning a story and its world—I utilize my husband and a few choice friends (who also happen to be in my Alpha reader group)—but not until I’ve already gotten a strong feel for the direction I’d like to take things, then use discussion to work through the sticky spots.  These discussions are a huge help in evaluating how my world might come across to readers, but I still go with my instincts to decide which suggestions, feedback, or new ideas to employ.

Some Worlds Can Be Built in a Day, but Others… 

Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?  Yet I have tossed together a fantasy world in a day or so, when on a time crunch for a short story or flash piece or just eager to get started on my next series.  It can be done, if the world isn’t particularly complex.

Arameth, on the other hand, was the kind of world that needed time to evolve.   It emerged slowly, at its own pace, in flashes of inspiration and bits and pieces of ideas, over a thirteen-year period.

Arameth and its characters began in 2005, and I wrote draft after failed draft of the story, only to set it aside in despair.  In 2017, I pulled out my Arameth files and repurposed pieces of the world and characters for a hastily planned NaNoWriMo attempt.  That attempt was a mess which left me even more confused. Eventually, I realized Arameth and its characters encompassed both my 2005 and 2017 iterations, and that Arameth was far more complex than I’d imagined.  Up to that point, it felt like Arameth kept trying to reveal its true self to me, and I was only seeing parts of it.  But when I painstakingly assembled all the random pieces from both stories into a somewhat coherent whole, it began to make sense.

A Thing I Learned:

For me, plotting and worldbuilding take time.  Not always decades (thank goodness!), but stories seem to come to me in layers.  I’ll think I have it all figured out, only to be hit with a revelation which changes everything yet somehow makes it truer to itself, as though a layer of fog has cleared from the story.  With shorter stories, sometimes there are only one or two layers of this fog, and the whole process is fairly quick. With Arameth, it was a thick wall of fog that cleared one paper-thin layer at a time.

The clarity of another layer of fog clearing almost always hits me suddenly and when I least expect it, triggered by some life event or conversation or piece of entertainment.  So I just keep pondering the story, working new versions and drafts, praying for clarity, and waiting for my aha moments. The waiting is frustrating!  But for me, it’s necessary—when I try to rush a story, it usually falls flat.

Building the World, or Discovering It?

Many things changed about Arameth in the years I spent working on it.  New characters emerged, some old characters were (*gasp*) deleted or assimilated, details got fleshed out, and things which hadn’t quite made sense before clicked together until finally, the “true” form of Arameth emerged, both in my mind and on the pages.

Some aspects of Arameth and of the Lex Chronicles storyline came to me with such sudden clarity that I almost wondered if Arameth and its characters existed somewhere and I was being sent glimpses of what they were up to, while other elements of the story nearly had me in a mental breakdown with dozens of outlines and drafts just trying to puzzle them out.  I didn’t think about it much at the time, but looking back at the series, I can see how bits of me emerged in its creation, and how it grew as I grew. I joked with my betas about how the craziest parts of the Arameth world are the weirdest parts of my brain put into story form, but there’s some truth to that.

Many smaller elements of Arameth—in fact, some of the pieces that became most popular with readers or most important to the story later on—popped up when I least expected them to.  And many elements that I wrote in on a whim, upon later reflection contained deeper truths or revelations that it seemed my world and characters were teaching me.

A Thing I Learned:

Trust the story.

I went through a phase with Arameth where something just still felt “off” about my planning.  I had no idea what, but I just had a gut feeling I was missing something or had taken part of my worldbuilding and plotting in the wrong direction.  I had outlines, detailed maps and backstories… but in the writing itself, new things emerged. I’m part Architect/Plotter and part Gardener/Pantser.  I do a lot of my discovery in my planning and plotting, but I’m often surprised by what the story itself reveals to me once I begin writing. Sometimes the world and characters seem to want to do or be something far different than I’d planned, and in those cases, I let the story lead.

A Driving Theme or Feeling

I’ve noticed that my various story worlds have certain commonalities.  Even though the worlds themselves are different, certain aspects of the feel—I suppose what you could call the nuances of my particular “brand,” things like mood and themes and subtleties of how I piece together my stories—seem fairly consistent.   But Arameth is perhaps the truest example of this, the world that contains the most of “me.”

Arameth’s world is not a utopia—it has darkness.  It has scary things. It contains danger and loss and struggle. But it also has heroes and fierce friendships, triumph and redemption, and settings, creatures, and characters which lit my imagination afire all those years ago.

A Thing I Learned:

I had to embrace my fictional signature, the way small pieces of me seep through into my stories.  In a sense, Arameth is me—a strange, fantastical expression of what I learned during that difficult decade which gestated Arameth, and the emergent truth of what my own Creator tore through those hard moments to show me. Every world I ever make seems to contain these two truths:  (1) that darkness exists in the world and sometimes life is hard, and (2) that there is always hope. Always, even when things seem darkest.

What Is This, Even?

Trilogy imageThe Lex Chronicles (including books The Edge of Nothing, The Path to Paradox, and The Ends of Exile) is the trilogy which introduces my world of Arameth to the world… and because of that, I fretted much over how to present these books and whether I was doing the world and story justice.  I’m happy with how they turned out, but sometimes I wonder if anyone will love them as I do.

What I first imagined as a typical epic fantasy world later threw things at me like myopic portals and who-invited-this-guy-he’s-so-strange charactersand what-in-the-world-is-this-thing creatures.  They are a bit quirky, these books, and though I think that’s their charm, it also means they don’t quite fit into a clear marketing mold.  I never set out to make my world or its story quirky. It just kind of… happened. I’m not sure there is a genre my books truly fit in, as they ended up sort of an epic-fantasy/portal-fantasy/soft-sci-fi mashup.

A Thing I Learned:

This is an aspect, perhaps, I would do differently if I were to start over… but I’m not sure Arameth would have allowed it; it may have asserted its quirky self as being just fine as it is, thank you very much — and I suppose I would have acquiesced, marketing complications notwithstanding.  But still, I guess this would be my advice-to-future-self… don’t squash your worldbuilding creativity with marketing concerns, but don’t, like, not ever think about marketing at all, either.

Which Came First, the Plot-Chicken or the World-Egg? 

Plus, Accidental Risks (Oops.)

The plot for the Legends of Arameth series evolved over time, too, growing and morphing alongside the world.  Once I learned more about story structure and leveled up some of my writing skills, I realized some aspects of my world just wouldn’t work, while others were solid.  I ended up changing both the larger explanation for Arameth and the plot for the series over a dozen times before everything clicked.  Through all that, however, my map and the basic magical races of Arameth never changed.  They have been my constants—well, they and a few specific characters—even as the story and world around them got torn down to the foundations and built back up from scratch.  I suppose they were the foundation — everything else was built upon the map, a brief history of three magical races, and two or three characters.

The Edge of Nothing opens like a typical epic fantasy, but as I mentioned above, the story itself is a portal fantasy/soft sci-fi/epic fantasy mashup.  I worried a LOT about whether some worldbuilding and plot elements of these books would fall flat or perhaps confuse readers. As Arameth grew more expansive in my mind and the story became more elaborate to support the weight of that complex world, it was a challenge to figure out how to present it well, as it deserved.   It worked, I think—reviews look good, with one person even commenting that I took some “risks” with my worldbuilding but managed to pull it off.

A Thing I Learned:

 I didn’t mean to take risks.  To be honest, the story kind of just flew off the rails and took on a life of its own.  But, hey, I’ll totally take that as a win! (And a reminder to trust the story.)

The Characters

The characters hold my strange world together and make it all work.  But the characters also impact worldbuilding elements, which in turn impact them as characters… I’m not sure it’s possible to fully separate the two.

I love the characters in this series fiercely, but the story doesn’t always go easy on them.

(Please direct any hatemail regarding characters’ fates should to the story itself, not to me; I’m innocent!)

A Thing I Learned from One of My Side Characters:

After a lot of stress and rewriting the story so many times from all different POVs and starting at all different places in the timeline as I figured it all out, I realized something—nothing is wasted.  Every scene I wrote in Jana’s POV made me understand her and the world I was writing a little more, and though nothing ended up being told in her POV in the book, those “deleted” scenes made the world and the story a lot richer… even though I initially felt like I had wasted time writing them.  In writing, nothing is ever truly wasted. If I don’t end up using something in the story at all, I still learn something by writing it. (Even if sometimes what I learn is “Well, that didn’t work how I imagined—time to rethink this!”)

A Long Gestation, then a Hurried Labor

The Lex Chronicles was both immensely rewarding and hugely stressful to write.   It is the first of what I hope will be several series set in the larger Legends of Arameth story universe. After spending so much time building the world of Arameth—and truly believing it held stories which needed to be told—fear often crept in as I wrote this first series, anxieties over whether I was presenting the world in the best way, or whether anyone would even want to read the thing.  In the end, though, I wrote it because I needed to write it, because it wouldn’t let go of me after all those years, and because—after much prayer—God continued to nudge me to finish it. And when I did finally hit a stride on it, all three books just sort of poured out of me over a matter of months.

I don’t know what may become of The Lex Chronicles in the future.  So far, the series has a small (but enthusiastic) audience, far smaller than I’d originally hoped.  But their response has been encouraging—some have even messaged me to tell me how much they loved the books or how parts of the story impacted them.  When I think back or read over parts of what I’ve written about Arameth, I find things I could have done better, of course! I’m always growing as an author.  But I also find a world and characters I’m in love with, and I know, had I not written them, they would still be shoving at the edges of my mind, begging for release.

A Thing I Learned:

Doubt is an inevitable companion on my journey to grow as an indie author, but with Arameth, I believe I at least got some things right.   Arameth deserved to exist—that much I know, and the characters of Arameth and The Lex Chronicles deserved to have their story told.  I hope I did that story justice.

The Impact of Making Arameth

Through creating and writing Arameth, I learned so much about myself as a writer, and about what works for me in the writing process.   My first-worldbuilding experience was challenging, and it took a long time… but The Lex Chronicles (and the larger Legends of Arameth series) also made me officially a “fantasy writer” and confirmed my love for writing the genre.   Although the series isn’t perfect, it’s a reflection of who I was at the time and where I was as a writer, and the first stepping-stone in what I hope will be a continued journey upward in honing my skills and craft.

I will always think of Arameth as my authorial home-world, even though I’ve already created a few others.   I have plans to write many more stories and series in the Arameth universe, and to continue to create new worlds beyond that… but Arameth is the core, the world which began it all.


About the Author:

Crystal Crawford is a homeschooling mom of four, part-time writing teacher and non-profit Director, author, former animal trainer, and full-time introvert. Her imagination is her happy place! (But a deserted beach is nice, too.) She writes fantasy and YA, with a smattering of other genres, and she believes in meticulous creativity — carefully crafted stories that impact and entertain readers. She strives to provide quality, clean fiction with strong values, and books that take readers on an exciting ride and deliver all the feels.

She also loves connecting with her readers! For more information, visit her WEBSITE or follow her on FACEBOOK or email her at ccrawford@ccrawfordwriting.com.

Other places you can find Crystal around the interwebs include:
Amazon Author Page
Instagram
Blog

And if you enjoyed this post on the world building of Arameth, check out the first book of the trilogy, available on AMAZON.

 

~ jenelle

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 “After all this time?”
“Always.”

Let’s face it, the main reason we love Harry Potter is the characters. There is a depth to them that tugs at our heartstrings and makes them come alive. The friendships that are formed invite us to come join the circle, and the magic and mystery transport us for a little while to a different world.

But the world also leaves an impact on you. How many of us read the books and wished with all our hearts that an owl would drop an acceptance letter on our doorstep? Why are we lining up to get into Universal Studios’ Hogwarts and Diagon Alley sections of the amusement parks?

Because it’s a gorgeous example of world building.

Harry Potter is a unique study in world building because it’s basically a “portal fantasy” inside our own world. Instead of a wardrobe that leads you to a different, parallel world, the wizarding world is hidden inside our own. Its denizens walk alongside us, hidden in plain sight, and yet quite beyond our reach without magic to let us inside.

So, Rowling sets the wizarding world within the framework of our own. And therein lies the brilliance of her world building. She doesn’t have to bother with geography or maps or languages or history (though there definitely is history in the form of backstories, of course, but I simply mean that she doesn’t have to create an entire world history, because our own already exists), and this allows her to focus in on the microcosm of the wizarding realm (specifically a single school, though the world expanded slowly throughout the series) while still allowing it to feel like it was set in a much larger world that is both familiar and realistic.

And it’s the details that make this story, because they allow us to become fully immersed in the world, to experience it along with Harry as he discovers a whole world sitting right next to him that he was never aware of, but is now invited into.

Some of these fabulous details include things like sports, food, and transportation. Chocolate frogs that hop away and you have to catch to eat them. Jellybeans that are literally EVERY flavor imaginable. Brooms, trains hidden behind magically-disguised brick walls, and flying creatures that are only visible to people who have seen death. The idea of a sport called Quidditch which you play while flying on a broomstick sounds like such fun that even people who don’t love sports wish it actually existed. Various people trying to score points while also smacking a heavy ball at their opponents’ heads in a fast-paced, high-soaring demonstration of acrobatics and a tiny golden ball that one teammate is tasked with finding while also attempting not to get knocked out of the sky and end up in the hospital? Sounds epic and thrilling, no?

The Hogwarts castle itself is another detail that is allowed to be deeply investigated, and with is moving staircases, ghosts, and moving portraits that help guard the castle/school grounds, a dining hall with candles floating about your heads or where it snows indoors at Christmas, and a secret room that provides for our most pressing needs, we find an ethereal, haunting beauty to this place that invites us to stay a while. Isn’t this every child’s dream place to explore?

 

But that’s not to say that the wizarding world is a mile wide and an inch deep! On the contrary, there is plenty of depth and intrigue when it comes to cultures, social classes, and politics here! Rowling spent plenty of time explaining how the various races interact as well as unfolding the social classes among the wizards, which added plenty of tension to the story and between various characters.

But one of the things I think Rowling did especially well when it comes to world building, was her invention and use of magical creatures. Of course, we have all the regular animals of our own world included in this world, but the sheer number of magical creatures included in this world is staggering. She didn’t even make these up herself. Most of the magical creatures in her world already existed in various mythologies, but the way she seamlessly wove creatures from different cultures’ mythologies together into the series and gave them page-time that furthered the plot and characterization (either through the Magical Creatures class, or encounters that Harry and co had with them) was impressive. She changed the mythology around for a lot of them, tweaking them to fit them into her world, making them recognizable and familiar while also making them wholly her own. When you are creating your own fantasy realm, you will have to consider what creatures to include (we will talk about this more later this month), and this is just one way to do it.

Mountain Segue

What are your thoughts, dear Reader? Which world building aspects of Harry Potter most made you wish you could visit the wizarding world? What are your favorite moments from the story?

~ jenelle