A friend asked me recently “If you could be in any fantasy universe, which one would it be?”
I find this question particularly puzzling because there are so many factors to consider with in each universe. These factors play a major role in lifestyle, culture, and whether or not you die (I am looking at you Game of Thrones universe). So, I decided to dig in to some of how I choose to develop setting, regions, and culture in my book that I am writing. However, every game, story, or narrative develops their universe differently.
Here we go:
- Landscape: I know this might not be much of a first thought, but knowing the terrain and the plants helps a lot. Looking at fantasy films or stories (Lord of the Rings or Avatar [the one with the Blue people]) the interaction they have with the environment and landscape changes how they act. For example, Frodo in the bog/swamp on the way to Mordor. Most places like that are in forested areas, but this shows the effect of evils on land. This challenges their survival across in terms of food and water (I wouldn’t want to go through that bog/swamp, I avoid putting those in my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns). However, landscapes are not limited to what we know in the world of science; there is no limit on creativity,either. Knowing the landscape and your creativity, you can then create the cultures or races (or both) because then we know what kinds of skills these people/ beings would need to survive.
- Culture or Race: Every setting either is mono-racial or poly-racial. When I started by novel I decided that there would be a main race, but there would be “lesser” races (as seen by the main race. So, for examples there are the dwarves, elves, and humans. Humans treat elves and dwarves kindly. However, the dwarves and elves are usually a source of tension in party traveling groups or war. So, keep these racial tensions in mind when writing. However, in stories (or TV shows) like Game of Thrones there are regional beings: The North, The South, and The East. This is then further broken down by Houses or Families. This kind of break down is connected to culture. Culture is not limited to what they eat, dress, religion, and weapons. Yes, weapons I think go under culture due to specific parts of history such as the Japanese Samurai, whose katanas defined who they were in terms of class, which was defined by Japanese culture. However, writing advice for a starting point here is to pick one or the other to start with either before or after you choose the type of story or character you want to write about.
- Religion: This changes from place to place and person to person. Each author may choose to create symbols for religions in their narrative. However, it isn’t required, even though it might help you develop different cultural interactions between different levels of society.
- Weapons: What is common and uncommon? What metals are rare, common, and exotic? Which weapons are unique to each region, race, culture? Which are for formal use and for used for battle? Are there specific fighting styles for those weapons or races? These are some of the many questions you need to ask when creating a world or universe.
These are just starting points for how to develop the setting and characters for your short story, novel, or who knows what else! I hope these help you get some ideas brewing for your next piece!