Today's blog comes to us via David Brown, the author of A World Apart and Fezariu's Epiphany. I begged him for a post on world building, and he really came through for me. Thanks so much, David, for being a fun person to know and for writing such a fantastic post.
Don’t be misled by that title. I’d like to think my creation of the world of Elenchera began as just a spontaneous thought and all fell into place easily from there but it sadly wasn’t the case. Where shall I begin?
I’d always been a fan of fantasy. In my childhood films such as Labyrinth and The Neverending Story were amongst my personal favourites. I always did okay when it came to creative writing and when I left secondary school my English teacher told me to stick with prose and poetry as he believed I had talent. That was 1998. In 1999 I created the world of Elenchera. I’m getting ahead of myself.
In late 1998 when I was studying at college I discovered the RPG series Final Fantasy on Playstation and in playing instalments VII and VIII I not only found inspiration but also was led to Norse mythology and the Icelandic Sagas. All of those influences morphed into an insistent catalyst and I suddenly grabbed a large sheet of paper and drew the world of Elenchera. This was a poor drawing in pencil, traced over in pen and then coloured in with crayons so very basic stuff.
Having a map already answered many questions for me about how the world history would develop. Settlements should be near a source of water for instance. If the land is mostly desert you’d want to live along the coast, right? The best advice I can think of with world building is to ask yourself as many questions as you can about every land, town, mountain range, ocean, river and forest etc. With a world map I could establish which lands would potentially trade with each other or even worse go to war in search of conquest and annexation. I know that might sound annoying but readers are not fools and will spot glaring errors.
From the world map I produced a map for each individual land and repeated this process for each age of history in Elenchera, known as Shards, of which there are twenty-five. At present I have 500+ maps which is a daunting figure but I’m sorry to say that is true. I once had a lot of time on my hands and the patience to go through all those maps which I’m not sure I could face doing now.
Drawing maps is one thing but building that history is quite another. I’ve always loved history and tended to get good grades at school and my passion for the subject remains undiminished. To build Elenchera I turned to Cassell’s World History which chronicles all the important events in our history from the earliest fossils to the 21st century. It proved to be an invaluable resource for me.
As I went through the book I jotted down all the events in history that interested me and adapted them into the Elencheran timelines. I began with Elenchera as a large landmass and in the First Shard devised a way for it to be broken up. From that devastation I decided if the oceans froze it would facilitate migrations throughout the world. Eventually the ice melts and with the rising water twenty-three lands are left which develop independently of one another.
Having built that platform I spent ten years effectively developing twenty-three stories as the separate lands are fully settled and grow from small communities into thriving societies. There is cross-referencing as the lands interact with each other and in the Twelfth Shard things become very epic when lands in East Elenchera discover those in the west, giving rise to an age of discovery, imperialism and colonisation. If that sounds like Columbus discovering America in 1492 then it’s no coincidence!
Keeping track of twenty-three lands and how they interact both internally and externally is far from straightforward. World building is hard work but the reason I spent more than ten years doing it is because I wanted a solid background for the Elencheran Chronicles novels. I did try writing novels in the early stages of the history but they didn’t have enough substance to give them any real credibility as fantasy novels in my opinion. With the history in place I can ask questions of lands and towns and have the answers at my disposal. It’s been a long journey getting there but having that resource to hand when writing now has made it all worth it.