Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Step One: World Building; a Fantasy Realm with Accompanying Commentary

My Code Chronicles was originally just backstory to explain how my Fantasy World Pangaia was created. I decided to write the story when I remembered that as a little girl I always tisked at the books that began with a meaty prologue of exposition explaining how the world had come to be. Just write it, I always thought. Write that story! So I had to take my own advice.

But in the meantime, while my Code Chronicles sit in a drawer awaiting some heavy editing, I am going to keep working at this hobby/obsession of mine known as writing; keep building my muscle memory. I've decided to hone in on the whole entire process, from World Building to story, one step at a time. And with an accompanying commentary by me explaining the thought processes behind the scenes, so to speak.

So without any further delay, here is 
Step One in my  Creative Process: World Building


(Disclaimer: I have made this blog post to share my World Building process. Anyone who reads this post and is inspired to create characters in my world is welcome, but the world is still mine. It is a Realm in my Fantasy World Pangaia, and will likely take on many roles throughout the series I will create within that world. If you do choose to write using my ideas, please be respectful of my creative property. Fanfiction is welcome; please share a link, as I would love to get lost in my own world with someone else's character. It sounds like an entertaining way to pass the day!)

The Sylva: The Forest/Plant Realm, Home of the Sylvan People

The Forest Realm Sylva is located directly below the Nebula (in what was once known as Africa). The realm appears to be founded atop a mountain, but upon closer inspection, one would notice that the mountain is in fact a gigantic tree upon which other plants also grow. The forest is thick and plentiful, with all manners of beasts with which the Sylvan shape their own physical features. Over time, this innate magic has caused certain Clans to naturally resemble their Clans Animals, giving each Clan a distinct physical feature even in children without any magic.

The Society Structure: Chakras, Work, and Jobs

With the first Chakra comes the ability to infuse elements. This foundational magic has led the Sylvan people to become magical warriors who will defend their homes fiercely. Sylvan start at an early age learning how to fight with hand-to-hand weapons infused with various elements. Most weapons are made of wood and fashioned by a Cultivator who uses Plant magic to manipulate growing trees to naturally form the correct shape of each individual weapon. The Sylvan earn the right to infuse their weapon with an element and join the ranks of Duellator upon completion of their training. Before that, they are called Agmen and though they have the lowest rank, while they are still young they are treated well, for any Agmen could grow up to become a powerful Sylvan in the ranks of Defenders.
The second Chakra brings extraction and separation magic. Splitters are formidable fighters against anything technology based, because they can simply extract the metal from a contraption, leaving behind a pile of rubble. Splitters are usually sent south toward the Impyre Fire Realm to join the Defenders who protect the border. Splitters can be young children with advanced magic potential, and they often end up missing their extended family unit (Clan) and wishing they could go home.
The third Chakra unlocks animal manipulation magic. Called Whisperers, those with animal magic can recruit beasts to fight alongside them, similar to a hunter with a pet. But do not mistake a Whisperer’s Companion for a mere pet. Companions are often feral (wild) animals that have had their minds taken over by the Whisperer. If set loose, they will show no loyalties to anyone, even their own Whisperer, until they are brought back under control through the manipulation magic. These beasts do not have true loyalties to their masters, but often seem to be loyal on the surface. Whisperers will often remain on the southern border, as their new Companions make fighting the Impyre easier.
Upon unlocking the fourth Chakra, the Sylvan become Changers who can manipulate their appearances to become like the beast they fight alongside. With only a few stray hairs, a fang, or a claw, a Changer can take on the characteristics of any beast (this is not to be confused with the Shapeshifters of the Rootless Beast Realm, in which the Rootless actually shift into the full form of a beast). Oftentimes, the Sylvan will remain loyal to their Stems and Change into the same beast as the other members of their extended family. Clans are known by their distinctive beasts, such as the Bear Clan or the Wolf Clan. Upon unlocking this Chakra, Changers are free to return home and carry on the business of populating the Realm by settling down with a mate, but some Changers choose to delay their journey home in favor of defending the Realm in their higher rank in the Defenders. A Defender Changer is called a Demutator.
The fifth Chakra is somewhat difficult to unlock, and those who manage are held to a high status within their Clans. Cultivators are responsible for creating all the weapons of the Realm, and they almost always live amongst their Clans where they not only create weapons for their Agmen to train with, but also defend their homes from the Dawn People who often come down from the Sky Realm. They are seen as wise leaders amongst their Clans and are not to be questioned or challenged by anyone of a lesser rank without severe punishment.
Any Sylvan who unlock the next Chakra are destined to become great. The sixth Chakra unlocks teleportation magic, which must be strictly regulated by the Sylvan Astrologers. Therefore, Porters (as they are called) must always live in the grand city of Sylvatas (the Forest Fortress) which is in the heart of Sylva. There are several ranks of Porters, as those who have only just unlocked this Chakra and arrived at the city will do the grunt work of Teleporting Sylvan around the Realm. (These are called Trans Porters.) But those who have gained favor among the Astrologers will sometimes be chosen as a Portégé and mentored by an Astrologer. Because there are not many Astrologers, there are not many Portégé. Porters are also summoned to aid in quick defense around the Realm when the need arises. These Porters are called Tutella Porters. Often, large clans will have a Porter assigned to them to relay messages back to Sylvatas. These Porters are held at an even higher esteem than the Cultivators, and their title is High Porter.
The last rank and Chakra of the Sylvan people is the Astrologers of the seventh Chakra. Upon unlocking this Chakra, Astrologers enter into a form of leadership that is unparalleled within the Realm. The Astrologers are all members of the Astrologer’s Guild and even the lowest ranked (newest Astrologers) hold power over the course of actions taken by the Guild. It is of the utmost honor for a Clan to have an Astrologer in Sylvatas. The Guild can be small or large, depending on the number of Astrologers. There is, however, always just one High Astrologer with a small Council of Advisors that is larger or smaller depending on the total number of Astrologers. The Advisors are nominated by the Clans based on their own numbers of Porters and Astrologers, and so there may be more than one Advisor for any Clan, depending on their numbers. Therefore, being a highly populated Clan not only brings the Clan power, but also honor and more responsibility. The high Astrologer is the Astrologer of the Clan with the highest number. Oh, and of course, Astrologers possess the highest level of magic within the Sylvan race: that of Astral Magic.

Rules, Laws, and Punishments

Because of the immense powers of the Astrologers, the Sylvan people have created laws of regulation of Chakras. The purpose behind these laws is to prevent certain people of advancing too high in rank by unlocking their highest Chakras when they are not worthy of that power. Astrologers do possess, within their nearly limitless magical abilities, the power to close off another’s Chakras (this is called Astral Trapping) and cannot be undone by anyone other than the Original Trapper. Obviously, the Astrologers with this very important task are called Trappers, and there are only a few, because regulating this powerful magic is made easier by only teaching the power to a few.

Astrologers also have the ability to Astral Project, which gives them the power to see the future and predict who will use their powers for good or for evil. This makes it increasingly possible to regulate their powerful magic and allow only those with good intentions of ascending ranks, while Trapping those with the power and potential, but who lack the positive intentions to do good. This naturally, creates a dystopian-like society where the all-powerful rulers are assumed to be benevolent, and since they can see the future, they can prevent any terrible crimes from being committed beforehand.

If, somehow, a crime is committed without being foreseen and halted before it is too late, the Astrologers will punish the culprit by Trapping him at a certain Chakra level, depending on the severity of the crime. Once the crime is committed, it is almost entirely impossible to avoid apprehension and punishment, because the Astrologers can see the crime by looking into the past, and can follow the culprit through the Astral plane to their current location. Most Sylvan know this, and decide to refrain from committing even the simplest and most harmless of crimes. Most crimes are committed by Clans that have little power and are desperate to Untrap their people so as to gain power back.

Government and Who Holds Power

The High Astrologer and his/her Council shares their power as the presiding Government of Sylvan with the Saints. Over the years, the people of Sylva have learned that their immensely powerful Astrology powers must be highly regulated in order to protect the very fabric of their world. They have had many intelligent and benevolent Astrologers in their history, who are worshiped as Saints. Each Saint (more explanation below in the next section) has a High Porter and a slew of Cultivators who rule over certain Clans with benevolence and who in a way answer to the High Astrologer, who is not unlike a king. He is not necessarily elected (because it is based on population and ability) so much as appointed by the people in a sort of popular vote (if needed) and then approved by the Saints of each Clan. The High Astrologer’s and his/her Council’s job is mainly to uphold traditions within the religion of Sylva by communing with the Saints, as well as to regulate the powers of all Astrologers and Porters. If a particularly benevolent High Astrologer receives the praise of enough Saints, s/he too can become a Saint upon his death.


The only religion of Sylva is the Saints of Sylvan, who are the historical rulers of the Realm and are worshiped not unlike gods. The Saints of Sylvan are conducted by a living Astrologer who in a way, takes on the qualities of certain passed Astrologers through history, becoming a Living Saint. (This is further explained as a form of reincarnation in which the Spirit of the passed Saint is believed to return to earth upon the moment of death and live on in the body of another Sylvan.) Their duties to the Realm include traveling to visit the Clans and put on Theatrics (so to speak) for the people, allowing everyone to know the Saint on a certain level (which is a more personal level the higher the rank of each individual). The Living Saints (also called Envoys) embody the characteristics and choices of their individual Saint and can in a way be described as reliving that Saint’s life again in a new age. These very important Spiritual Leaders act as guides to the Astrologers and Porters of the Clans. Though they are believed to forfeit their own self in order to Embody the Saint, all Envoys do retain a sliver of themselves, mostly due to the fact that they are not randomly assigned a Saint, but rather, they are groomed to take on a certain Saint based on their own characteristics and which Saint they are believed to be reincarnated from. This is always a personal choice and is never forced upon any Sylvan Astrologer. There is always one High Envoy who takes on the personage of the first Saint, Saint Sylvana who was the first Astrologer of the Sylvan Race, and throughout the course of her life, she created the governmental system that the Sylvan employ. There have been a few Saints with somewhat devious or zealous intentions, but mostly, these Saints still upheld the intentions of their role in society and prevented the destruction of their world.

Magic and Technology

The Sylvan have a certain level of respect and curiosity for the technology of the Impyre. They respect the power of the Fire people to the south, for they alone possess mind control magic which could, in the wrong hands, result in the complete and utter destruction of their society. They also are wary of Fulgaria and their Soothsayers, who possess Chaos magic that could undo all their hard work to preserve and protect the Realms of the world. But the people of Sylva do not create or use their own technology. Every tool in the Realm is created by a Cultivator through natural processes. 


All Sylvan children attend school. As part of their schooling, they study as Agmen who focus at least half of their time on the devotion to martial arts and meditation. The other half of their schooling could be compared to a Christian Private School setting, where they learn about the lives of the Saints and also study diplomacy and war tactics. Sylvan students receive their training from their Clansmen Elders, who may be only Duellators, but because of their age and experience, they have earned a decent amount of respect among the Clan. In this case, meditation is considered a religious act of opening oneself up to the Saints and their amazing inspiration. So the schools in this Realm are also a place of duality much like the Realm's governmental society. Upon reaching the next level of Chakra Unlocking, a student will always be trained by a Guru one level higher.

Family Structure

Clans are the family structure of the Sylvan. This is composed of all members of a single family, including the extended families under a single ancestor (oftentimes with a corresponding Saint who originated from that clan). The Clan is a source of both pride and humility, for Sylvan children are taught at the youngest of age about both the roots of their ancestry and their legacies. Since each Clan is made up of a large extended family, which now consists of different family lineages, it is not only safe (from a breeding standpoint), but expected, for a Sylvan to marry within his own Clan. There are lesser Bears in the Bear Clan, for example, who are still Bears, but can trace their lineage back to a removed member of the Clan that helps to avoid inbreeding. It is not unheard of, but still strictly frowned upon, for a Sylvan to marry for love outside of their Clan.

Food and People’s Relationship to Animals and Plants

Sylvan are settlers and farmers/ranchers who live off the land in a very natural, yet still systematic, way. Cultivators not only produce weapons, but also recruit Tillers (Apprentice Cultivators) who tend to crops. Whisperers can retire from combat and return home to become Smallholders who raise livestock to sustain the Realm. Because of their Chakra levels, these people hold certain esteem within their Clans and though they may not be on the High Council of the Bear Clan (for example) the Council Members will listen to them to a certain extent, as if they were Lords.

What conflicts emerge in this realm?

An obvious conflict here presents itself in the act of balancing the government and religion of this Realm when they may appear two separate branches, but are so interwoven and connected.  Rebellion and civil war among Clans who have been Trapped are obvious paths. Outcast Clans could seek the aid of neighboring Realms.
Another possibility (on a smaller scale) is the glimpse into the life of one Sylvan who encounters an Impyrian Igniad, Fulgarian Thunder Maker, or Eran Flitter of the Dawn People, for example. Or the Sylvan who encounters a member of the Beast Tribes who are Rootless and live wherever they can. This could create a very fun micro-story where I could describe a Whisperer facing off against a Shifter, for example.
Short stories in this Realm have awesome potential, because even the lowest ranking people of this Realm have power and responsibility to their people. Plus, there is natural conflict with all the races that border this Realm.

Now for the Commentary:

First of all, I cannot take the credit for the amazing skeleton I have used to aid in my process of World Building. The inspiration for my skeleton frame comes from Kate Messner's amazing TedEd How to Build a Fictional World which you can find HERE
But my skeleton is tweaked to fit what I find to be a truly essential list of what makes a fantasy world live and breathe. I strongly suggest trying out a skeleton like mine if you plan to create your own fantasy realm or world. Don't skimp on the world. It will become the most engrossing character in your story, and it deserves just as much attention as the real characters you will put it that world. It will, after all, give birth to every character you create.
The Land: I start with this category first because once I know where the Realm falls in relation to others, I can start to really solidify the natural conflicts that could arise based solely on location. It is also good to know if your people will be living in a desert or a forest, a swamp or a mountainside. This will sway how the people make a living on the land and determine if they are innately nomadic or can settle down and farm or ranch the land in a more sophisticated way. In this case, I chose to make the Realm a large forest with plants growing on top of other plants, and at its heart: the World Tree. Because every fantasy world requires a World Tree, right? In my case, the Tree of the Forest Realm has sprung up from this very location because the land is teeming with the magical energy of the growing plant. Plant magic is one of my elements (in case you didn't know!) and thus, a Realm that is entirely plant-based.
After the land, I begin thinking about how the different societal structures of the people could form. In this case, I have interwoven the levels of magic with the society, because let's face it: in a world as openly magical as this one, the levels of magic and the regulation of magic would completely dictate the entire structure of the Realms within. It just makes sense for those with more magical power to hold more magic in that society, and for everyone to have a role to play regardless of how many Chakras they have unlocked. (Oh, my magic comes from the unlocking of the Seven Chakras, by the way! Each Chakra is associated with a different level of very distinctly different magic which comes with a title and a role within the society! Each Realm is like this, so the other Seven will have completely different magical powers, though I have noticed that some of them appear to overlap in interesting ways! This is the fifth world I created, so there is some mention of neighboring Realms. I apologize for not including details from the other Realms, but I must keep some of this fantastic process to myself, you know!)
No society would be complete without their own set of laws and punishments for breaking those laws. Societies are different, depending on what they value. In this case, the magic of the Forest People of Silva is very powerful. The only way that a society such as this could exist is if the most powerful people were benevolent and had a dual structure. I was very pleased with the duality of this system and especially excited to see what sorts of conflict could arise within a world of Living Saints.
Thus taking me to the next categories: Government and Religion. In this case, they became so closely entwined that I almost wanted to combine the two sections, but I resisted just so you could see how the two are usually created separately. Though I obviously strongly encourage you to combine them if it makes sense, such as in the case of the Sylvan Realm. As I already shared, I am very excited with the potential for conflict and rich stories that came about from the Living Saints. I am intrigued with their relationship to the High Astrologers. I can't help but smile when I think about the potential for the lore of this Realm, or the headaches I've no doubt given myself when I have to contemplate the history of this vastly historically rooted society.
I love the natural conflict that seems to arise from the next section: Magic and Technology. Because every society and Realm in my Fantasy World has magic, the unknown is always technology. As of this point, I only have two Realms that would naturally develop their own technology. One is mentioned here, and the other is not. It will be interesting to see how both might play out in the world, either as an ushering in of new and abandoning of the old ways of life, or possibly even as a corruption that spreads dissent among the people. Here's another conflict worth exploring: What happens when the young Splitter decides to use the Impyre's gun instead of unmake it?
Given that I am a teacher, I sometimes am disappointed in myself with how much I write in the School section of my different Realms. In this case, school doesn't sound like a fun place, but it is most likely what would happen in a place like this. It is a given, naturally, that all schools would devote time for quiet contemplation (meditation) in order to begin the process of unlocking Chakras. Each Realm might go about this process differently, so it is important to at least discuss it somewhere. Depending on the Realm, this key concept is covered in different sections of the skeleton, but I have put it here in this case, because in Sylvan it is a rather straightforward process.
I imagine right now that the Clans Structure is going to take many many hours of planning to completely finish. I have included only a brief explanation of this system. It's rather daunting to imagine all the origin stories of the different clans and their histories and associated Saints. I know I will need at least a rough idea of the major ones before I can start writing in this world, so that I don't write myself into a corner, but as of right now, this is an open playing field for me. It's incredibly exciting to know that even though I have created a very rigid society here, I have creative liberties with this very real aspect, which can organically lead to some marvelous world building in the future. My Pangaia timeline is winking at me, and I am doing my best to ignore it for now.
How does a society sustain itself? What is their relationship to the plants and animals they live among? This question is one that I find to be so important that I usually leave it to the very end to decide upon. In this case, it became obvious to me quite early on that the people of the forest would be expert farmers, because they could use their magic to make things grow. I hadn't, however, thought this through before creating the Cultivators. Since they have such an important job, I decided to create a new rank within for those who are apprenticing under the Cultivators. I was pleased with the resulting Tillers and Smallholders, who both are using their innate magical abilities to perform very important roles within this society. Whether the invention of some sort of technology could eventually make these people's jobs easier, or eliminate it altogether, is of course a consideration to be made. And if introducing technology could cause conflict within the society, all the better!
The last section in my process is usually beefier than what I have included here (sorry to say!) because the conflict is the birthplace of the characters who will populate my stories. I usually flow directly into character creation here, creating pages and pages of brainstormed ideas. I have skimped in this area for my Step One post because I want to keep my options open and allow my creativity to really take me places when I start the next step in my process: Character Creation! Just wait for my next post please!
On a side note: This whole process was completed in roughly a three hour time span in a single sitting, in which I basically brainstormed everything from scratch. I have, as stated earlier, a few other Realms already planned out, which made this one easier to create, because there were some other foundations already in place for the world. I may revise any of these skeletal sections (or at least add to a few of them!) as I begin the subsequent steps in my creative process. This is, then, a rough outline of my plan for one of my Seven Realms in a fantasy world that is still in the making. Revision is an important process in any writing, no matter which step you are on in the process. I look forward to taking this Realm to the next step after all of the Realms are fully realized, but that is another post entirely.

With helpful hopes to all the budding Fantasy Authors out there,
This is today's glimpse at A.C.'s Desk.

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