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Seed Questions, or, Finding a Middle Ground

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Drakevarg, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. Russ

    Russ Istar

    Well if you think Moorcock of Meville are too obscure, than perhaps Martin is a BNA:

    And Moorcock is just so obscure:

    Who are these Gaiman and Williams people anyways?
  2. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    It means they have their own opinions, too. Just like everyone else.

    Note that I'm in no way suggesting "shrug it off as irrelevant". Their path is not mine, and their methods may not be relevant to me. That doesn't mean what they have to say is absolutely worthless.
  3. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    Well, you're welcome to your own opinion, then.

    If anyone's opinion is well thought out, then it is of use. Including yours. Theirs is qualitatively no better than yours, and mine is no worse.

    Viva la difference!

    Story telling most certainly is communication! Maybe our difference here is in regards "publication"?

    What do you mean by "publish" here? Do you mean "make a story public for profit" (i.e., to get a book published by some publishing house or sell a story to a magazine or what have you). That I'm not interested in. Or do you mean "make a story public without concern for profit" (i.e., post stories to web sites or forums or, at most, self-publish).

    Exactly. I write for the simple joy of it, and I "publish" it with the simple hope that someone else may enjoy what I've written or stories I've told. I don't write in order to entertain others or with the expectation of remuneration. For those folks, I say more power to them! I only know very little about the world of trying to get a book published, from a cousin who has been through all that.

    Well, this isn't true, either! Those of us who write for the joy of writing may not need advice on matters of publishers and so forth; but advice on story telling and critique of works wouldn't be unwelcome! As with any kind of advice, we take what's deemed best and leave the rest.

    Well, to be sure some of the blame at least falls to those of us who respond to discussions of this sort. When I saw your response, I didn't (and don't) know who you are, what you write, if you're a professional writer (or even a BNA!!) I think at least for my part, you know a little more where I'm coming from. And I know a little more about where you're coming from. That's where understanding and wisdom is gained!

    The idea of using avatars to note artistic goals and perhaps cv is I think a brilliant idea!
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2017
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I agree that all well thought out opinions are of use. But to suggest that all opinions are qualitatively the same despite differences in experience, knowledge, etc is either hubris or intellectual nihilism. It is like me having an opinion on how to solve a problem with my car's engine and claiming that opinion is qualitatively the same as an opinion from a 30 year Audi Master Mechanic.

    I had hoped I had anticipated this question by putting "share" after publish to remove the profit motive. When I talk about making money at fiction I try to insert the term commercial fiction to make the distinction.

    If you only write to please yourself how can someone advise you on how better to please yourself than you? In any event writing simply to please yourself is a completely different endeavour than caring about your audience's reactions to your work. If the writer is the measuring stick, how can anyone else help value? What is the value of someone else's critique if all that matters is pleasing yourself?
  5. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    Problem is, five different Audi mechanics can still give you seven different opinions! Sames goes for doctors, lawyers and anyone else who is an expert in their field. ;)

    Also, a car, being a thing of machinery and (since we're talking Audi here, a high quality machine at that) story telling being a more personal art, opinions in this domain mean much less than they do for a machine. At least the mechanic can plug your car into his computer and the car can dump its diagnostic data. One, two, three --- you get your answer. If the transfloxerator is busted, well, it needs fixing. How much worldbuilding to do? Quite a different matter that!

    Art is much different. What works for Moorcock or that other guy or even you may not work for me. So, yeah, their opinions and yours and anyone else's I solicit are basically the same.

    Unless we're getting down to nitty-gritty specifics (like, "what's your opinion on how to market this particular kind of story to ABC publishing house"), all opinions, whether mine or a BNA, are just that: opinions. Take em all with the same grain of salt. If you see that as hubris (it's not), that's fine; or intellectual nihilism (it's also not), that's fine too!

    Basically, what I'm getting at here is Moorcock's way works for Moorcock. The other guy's works for him. I ain't either one of them, so why should I slavishly do what they do? And if their opinions are to be held on a pedestal and worshipped, why are they different?

    Fair enough!

    I think we're pretty much off track here, and certainly talking past one another. You're making assumptions beyond the scope of what I said, so I'll just this aspect of the convo.
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

    While that is a cliche, that really isn't at all the case. In law about 96% of civil cases settle without a trial. In criminal north of 85% of cases (at least where I practise) resolve by way of plea bargain. That means that the vast majority of both the lawyers and their clients agree on the outcome on many levels when all things are considered. Same with doctors, if you give some doctors a list of seven symptoms, the vast majority of the time they will agree on the differential diagnosis and treatment. Disagreements among honest experts are actually quite rare.

    The doctor analogy is a good one. By your standard the opinion of the second year resident is just as valid as the specialist who has been practising for decades. Can't buy that.

    Since you say everyone's opinion is qualitatively equal I am surprised to see you use the term expert at all.

    But art really isn't all that different on the process side. Sure you can't argue with whether or not your prefer Klimpt or Bateman, but that is an aesthetic judgement of the final product. But that is not the process. There is a way to produce a note from an instrument or to create an impression with a brush stroke. They can be mastered and understood, and very often agreed upon.

    I used to work with a couple of world class musicians and they both used to say that you can't be creative until you have the mastery of the basics. The thing many great thoughtful artists say is that you have to understand the rules to know when the right time to break them is.

    Nobody suggested you should do anything slavishly.

    I don't know, a long track record of success, great respect amongst their peers, well demonstrated intellectual capacity, and demonstrated mastery of technique. Or we could just call them experts I guess.
  7. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

    Success isn't a metric of quality. Morons can luck their way into millions despite being complete hacks. Stephanie Meyer for example. Not saying the writers you're listing are, but it's a poor metric to go by.

    Beyond that, could you please move this discussion elsewhere? It's not what I asked about and is burying what I did under your debate. Only reason I haven't acted under the only truly actionable response I've gotten so far (the request for a basic overview of my world), is because I came down with a bug and I've been focused on bedrest.
  8. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Hello and greetings to all of those involved in this thread.

    The Moderators Team wants to remind everyone that we have rules against Argumentative and Hostile behavior. This rule in particular is going to be enforced more strictly than before. Please visit our Guidelines page and read them carefully, because they are important and you can find them right here.

    Russ has received a three-day Infraction because it was agreed between three Mods that it was necessary.

    Elemtilas: You are a new member here in Mythic Scribes, so I decided to spare you from the Infraction. Please read the Guidelines, and keep them in mind. We give friendly warnings first, and Infractions later.

    Please keep this thread On Topic.
  9. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Yes. But again, please make contributions that are on topic.
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  11. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

    I'm not certain how much help this will be, since your writing process is nearly alien to me, but here are some world-building questions I've found useful:

    What mythologies and religions exist? Are any of them based in reality? Are any of them completely true? How do the adherents worship? Do any of them grant supernatural powers and abilities? If only some do, why would anyone follow the other religions/mythologies?
    What kind of commerce is done? Is there a currency? Is it barter? What goods have the most value? What gems/precious stones exist?
    What are the staple crops? (This dictates the society in a large way, as it decides if people can live in cities or if it is more spread out.)
    What are the morals of the societies in question?
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I've looked at the OP again. Maybe Drakevarg is searching for middle-ground questions rather than foundational ones. C?hristopher Michael makes some good suggestions. Let me see if I can toss a few pebbles in the pond.

    My world has elves. Fine. There's a big statement. Elves. What are they like? Well, right off, I know I don't want them like humans or dwarves, though they can share characteristics with other fae folk (sprites, pixies, etc.). At this level, I know I need to address politics, society, culture, religion, and economics. I also need to figure out where in my world they live--do they intermingle with other folk or live separately?

    I already have some historical background, so fundamentally elves live separate from humans and dwarves. Do they have cities? Are they 80% farmers, like humans? Deciding how they live helped me decide where they live.

    Fairly quickly, I decided that the elves had a diaspora--they can be found all across Europa. So, not one big kingdom or anything like that. Smaller communities. From there, it was easy decide on Fisher Elves. Fishing villages tended to be self-contained if not completely isolated. This in turn helped me place them in certain specific areas.

    I went through a similar process for social structure, religion, and so on, but at some point I began thinking about what sort of stories I might write that would illustrate aspects of elves that I found intriguing. For example, in another story I made casual reference to an elf chevalier, but I didn't have my elves fleshed out enough to do much with it. Now, though, I'm very much interested in having a character like that in a story. Why would it be just one? Do they travel alone like Sir Pelinor after the Questing Beast? That turns out to fit nicely with another notion I had that elves sometimes go on dream quests or walkabouts. That's an interesting notion in itself, but what social role would this tradition play? And how would it intersect with human and dwarf society?

    The key through all of this is asking questions. What about X? What would that mean for Y? And so on. Keep asking questions and sketching answers until you get down to the level of story ideas. Then you can work your way, upward and outward, to fill in the spaces.
    Drakevarg likes this.
  13. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

    Gotta say, this weekend suuucked. Was down with an awful throat bug and probably consumed my weight in tea and medicine. Didn't do a thing in the meantime, didn't want to sit up long enough to process complex ideas. Finally got around to that setting overview though, so I'll show you what I've got. I'm sure I'm missing a lot of details between not being able to shut up my mental editor, not wanting to ramble on about ancillary nonsense, not wanting to "spoil" certain details, and simply forgetting what elements are pertinent or not.

    Anyway, here it goes:
    What is Legacy about?
    The fantasy setting Legacy is set on the world of Kardia. Other worlds exist beyond it, but it's the narrative focus. The setting is called Legacy because one of its primary themes is that everything builds on each other - the new world is built from the scars of the old. There is roughly 5,000 years of recorded history to work from at the setting's current "present day," which is in turn decended from untold eons of prehistory.

    Basic Timeline
    History is roughly divided into five eras: The Primordial, Antediluvian, and Mythic Eras of prehistory and the First and Second Eras of recorded history.

    - The Primordial Era begins with the inception of the universe (which may have no actual beginning making such a starting point an abstraction at best) and ends with the creation of worlds.
    - The Antediluvian Era begins with the first nondraconic lifeforms and ends with the extinction of the Titans.
    - The Mythic Era begins with the birth of the new races and ends with the fall of the Fterota Empire.

    The prehistoric eras are deliberately ambiguous, and while broad strokes might be developed, the specifics will never be outright defined. Even the actual spans of the eras could be anywhere between thousands and millions of years.

    - The First Era is recognized as beginning with the first True Eclipse, though written word did not develop until several centuries afterwards. Human civilization begins at that stage, though what exactly that means is a matter of debate. It continues for roughly the next 4,000 years before ending with the Dragonfall.
    - The Second Era begins in the wake of the Dragonfall and continues to the setting's present, 2E945.

    While different cultures have their own image of the cosmos, the one shared by dragonkind - the first non-abstract beings to exist - is generally considered among academics to be the closest to the truth. To that end:

    Legacy has a heliocentric universe. That is to say that the sun - called Einai in the dragon tongue - is the center and font of all existence. From Einai is birthed Dini, the untamed chaos from which all things are born. Its counterpart is Toichos, which rests paradoxically at the outer edge of the infinite universe and is the unchanging shell encompassing all of creation. Beyond Toichos is Den, where nothing exists.

    Between the extremes of Dini and Toichos is what mortals would consider the true universe, where life and matter can flourish between absolutes. Ola-Dasous stretches through this infinity, the flow of innumerable spirits. It is the light of Ola-Dasous that is seen as the night sky as the starscape.

    Kardia has its own celestial bodies in the form of two moons, one red and one gold. Their names and cosmological role vary from culture to culture, but their importance to the spiritual activity on Kardia is universally recognized. History is measured reative to the True Eclipses - a celestial event that occurs every 500 years in which the sun is eclipsed by both moons, giving the closest moon monumental dominion over the world. True Eclipses are invariably accompanied by some enormous historical event, if not several worldwide.

    Geography and Cultures
    There are three continents within the known world of Kardia - the tropical Chonan Tochi in the south, frigid Pohjois-Seina in the north, and Vythismena Nisia between them. The nations that make up the continents have changed many times over the centuries, but cultural identity has remained fairly consistent despite that, particularly amidst the archipelagic central continent. There are seven primary ethnic groups active during the Second Era, though there are of course dozens of subcultures amidst them:

    Kenjin - Easily the most widespread group, the Kenjin make up the vast majority of the southern continent, having chased off or assimilated most competition in the early First Era. They tend towards lithe builds, almond-shaped eyes, slightly pointed ears, dark eyes and straight hair. Being spread across an entire continent there are some obvious variations, with those found in the southeast of the continent usually sporting reddish skin and black hair while those in the mountains of the far west are practically albino, with pale skin and white hair.

    Steinfolk - Found in the southwestern parts of Pohjois-Seina and in the far north of Vythismena Nisia, Steinfolk are short, broad-shouldered folk of fair skin and brown or blond hair. Blue eyes are an uncommon but unique trait to the Steinfolk, considered to be a sign of their Frost Giant parentage.

    Detivoinov - Living east of the Steinfolk, Detivoinov are a tall, visually striking race with dark skin and red hair, frequently remarked somewhat derisively by outsides as being closer to their Giant heritage than other races. There is a long history of animosity between the Detivoinov and the Steinfolk, but the harsh environment of their territory creates such a high turnover rate for rising powers that the Detivoinov remain mostly isolationist, splintered into constantly-shifting national identities.

    Sim'ya - Descended from the Detivoinov, the Sim'ya are a diminutive group born from Detivoinov exiled for their physical frailty. Averaging at less than five feet in height, the white-haired and dark-skinned Sim'ya survive through close familial bonds and a deep distrust of outsiders. A completely nomadic culture, the Sim'ya are found all over Pohjois-Seina and northern Vythismena Nisia, seen by outsiders as barely-human pests.

    Ferropeli - The dark-skinned and wiry-haired people of Aquila Cresta, the Ferropeli have a more distinct national identity than most thanks to geographical isolation and a military culture spanning from the early First Era up to present day. They share a great deal of cultural identity with the Epeiste du Soliel of the south, thanks to centuries of warfare and periods of conquest in both directions.

    Epeiste du Soliel - Southern counterparts to the Ferropelli, the Epeiste du Soliel of Sud Griffe were originally from the northern regions of Chonan Tochi but were routed in the early First Era to their current homeland. Sporting pale skin, fair or earthen hair and distinctive yellow eyes, their stark physical contrast with their northern neighbors belies their close cultural bonds despite and because of centuries of mutual animosity.

    Drachesohne - Distant relatives of the Epeiste du Soliel, the Drachesohne were driven east rather than west off of Chonan Tochi and settled what is now known as Weitenfeld. Their appelation is actually adopted from what is now referred to as the Schwarz-Drachesohne, a culture they shared close bonds with but were wiped out by the Dragonfall which began in their homeland. The modern-day Drachesohne share many similarities with their distant cousins from the west, though their pigment is somewhat earthier, sporting brown or red hair and brown or occasionally green eyes.

    Outside of humanity, there are a small number of nonhuman sapients known to exist, including the Fterota, the Vathies, and until the Second Era, Giantkind.

    Fterota - A diminutive flightless avian race often described as resembling humanoid crows, the Fterota are a refugee species found scattered in small numbers throughout virtually every human nation. Often treated with benign neglect at best, Fterota tradition maintains that they once ruled a global empire of cities in the sky, which was laid to waste by some unknown cataclysm. It was only in the early years of the Second Era that archaeological evidence was first found to support this claim.

    Vathies - Living beneath the waves of the world's oceans are the Vathies, a sharklike race of completely aquatic people. Widely dismissed as tall tales by sailors, Vathies are almost never seen by surfacers except on the rare occasion that they take umbrage to ships traveling over their waters.

    Giants - Ancient progenitors of humanity, giants were a rarely-seen race of people found in the most remote regions of the world, before going utterly extinct in the aftermath of the Dragonfall. They had four distinct cultures - the South Giants of Chonan Tochi in their remote mountain bastion of Sinseonghan San, the Frost and Fire Giants of Pohjois-Seina in the inhospitable northern edge of the known world, and the Low Giants, majesty forgotten in the forsaken mountains of the wild. Giants varied in size, but averaged out at around nine feet in height and were often described as having alien, unnatural colorations to them, like stony grey skin or pale blue hair. With the exception of the generally barbaric Low Giants, the race was feared for their great intellect and odd magics, but were mostly given a wide berth, allowing them to largely fade into folklore.
  14. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

    Had to give this one its own section because I went over the character limit:

    Everything that is has a spirit. Spirits are living abstractions, proto-beings that exist in a dreamlike fugue state, building their identies around what is around them, representing everything from a candle's fire to the notion of language. Simultaneously formless and eternal, spirits grow through force of inertia, with passing ideas being forgotten and taking on new ideas while deeper, more concrete concepts may grow into gods.

    Spirits are both the dream and the dreamers of reality - every natural law is a memetic recurrance within the spirit world, a way of doing things that repeat again and again out of habit. In the uncommon happenstance that a spirit behaves in ways that are not consistent with what the layman observer might describe as outside the normal way of things, this what is identified as the supernatural.

    One of the few truly immutable natural laws, older than any spirit, is the permanence of the soul. A soul which exists cannot otherwise not exist. However, since spirits are by nature abstract, its commonplace for a group of spirits to, once gathered, lose the distinction between individuals and behave as a single entity in a manner vaguely analogous to a school of fish. These amalgam entities can be divided, and indeed do so relatively constantly, with individual souls incidentally falling away or melding with the central amalgam identity. However, as the amalgamation of souls coincides with an increasing clarity of concept, it's rare for seperate amalgam beings to merge unless the concepts they represent are already similar, as it remains easy for the bulk of the composite souls to differentiate their identity from the foreign concept in their midst.

    This indistinction of individuality can manifest in spiritual interactions with living entities as well. Lycanthropy is the best-known example of this phenomena - an animal spirit's identity becoming entangled with that of a mortal and producing a hybrid identity with the properties of both. This can be traumatic for the mortal portion of the identity, as their perspective is fundamentally unlike the spirit's, and the attempt to reconcile the two often causes schizophrenia or, at best, disassociative personality disorders. The phenomena is found in baser animals as well, producing a being often called an "Elder Beast" due to the subject usually being the eldest or strongest representative of their species in the area and attracting spirits centered on such traits.

    The distinction between a living soul, a ghost, and a spirit are largely a matter of perspective, but are part of a natural cycle and have some measurable differences. A living soul, unlike a spirit, is bound to the material world and thus has a stable perspective from which to view the world. They can't alter reality through force of will as a spirit can, but without that stable perspective spirits would have no point of reference to build off of and reality would remain abstract. Dragons were the first non-abstract beings to exist, not quite living or spirit but observant of both, and from that perspective came the concept of meaning and by extention all other things.

    A ghost, on the other hand, has very little functional difference from a spirit and the distinction is mostly a matter of psychology. Ghosts retain their identity from life, and thus tunnelvisioned in their perspective, often becoming obsessive in the process, either focused on some 'unfinished business' or compulsively repeating the same routines over and over. Eventually all other details bleed away in the dreamlike reality of the spirit world and their sense of self falls away, becoming a spirit and perhaps one day reborn.

    Spirits range in size and power from practically inperceptable and fleeting to so cosmically influential that they can be described as laws of nature. In respects to Kardia, there are six entities whose influence is felt above all others: the two moons whose influence is constantly felt, and the four Dragon Gods.

    The Dragon Gods are the oldest entities to dwell on Kardia, mostly slumbering away since the earliest days of the Antediluvian Era. They are depicted, to some extent, in every mythology ever to develop on the planet, representing first and foremost the basic elements of land, sea, sky and life. The most well-documented appearance of one of the Dragon Gods was the cataclysmic event of Dragonfall, in which the Dragon of Earth, commonly called the Behemoth, brought about the collapse and near-extinction of human civilization and wiped out Giantkind in its entirety.

    Now, how much this will actually help the subject at hand in respects to helping come up with questions that need answering, I don't know. But after a long miserable weekend I was more focused on getting the thing done than remembering why it was going to help.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017
  15. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    Does your world have any holidays / holy days? If so, what's the basis for each? Who celebrates them and why? How do they celebrate them? Do any of these special days create conflict between two or more groups of people? Why? Do any of these days bring certain typically antagonistic groups of people together briefly? If so, how and why?

    What sorts of interactions (e.g., trade) are there between different groups of people? Do any groups of people hold other groups in reverence or contempt? Why? For races between which animosity exists, what is the foundation of the animosity, and why does it persist?

    Who are the archaeologists and historians of the world? How are archaeological finds preserved? How are historical records maintained? How is knowledge distributed throughout the world? Are some races ignorant of the world's true history? Do some races believe certain lies about the world's history? What are those lies?

    What are the seasons of the world like? How do the seasons impact the various groups of people? Is there anything about the seasons / weather that force some groups of people to interact with others? If so, what is the nature of that interaction?

    What other aspects of your world can force or obstruct interactions between different groups of people? How and why do these aspects of the world affect people the way they do?
  16. deathofmice

    deathofmice New Member

    How about an epistolary story written from the perspective of an ambassador of one race to the court of another? The ambassador will be trying to achieve the aims of their home country, while keeping an eye on the maneuvering of the other political actors at court (that gives you the macro level) but they will also need to maintain a network of contacts and have a good understanding of local personalities and goings on (that gives you the micro level). As well as official reports you could include letters to friends and family back home illustrating all the ways that the cultures are different.
  17. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

    Although I agree that excessive world building can be unproductive, I am happy to be a victim of world builder's disease! The thing I enjoy most about planning my novel is building my own world, and thinking about how everything interacts. Creating religion, culture, geography etc. and playing them against each other can be so much fun.

    I think if you enjoy the process, make the most of it. I know that most of the ideas I develop will not be necessary for my plot, but it gives me a deeper understanding of the world my characters will live in, and helps keep the ideas churning in my brain. The finer details help give the world depth and authenticity that will help suspend disbelief.

    IMO Brandon Sanderson is the master of world building. I keep turning pages not only for the plot and characters, but for the extensive world building too, which keeps me asking questions and searching for answers. In a highly developed fantasy world, the setting and history can be as much a story as the plot itself.
    Lisselle likes this.

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