We’ve seen it plenty of times, Middle Earth, The Realm, Narnia. Worlds that have never existed in this lifetime coming to life in our rooms. Many of us sit there in our room wondering how they could come up with a world like this, well I am here to tell you that you do not need to be a cartographer or go to any special school to learn to design an entire civilization. Of course, I will be focusing on the idea of a fantasy based realm but it can be transcribed for a more scifi realm as well.
So what will I be going over?
Well most people would think “Let’s build the map!” But, I say we need to go deeper(Mind out of the gutter guys!), we need to explore the history of the entire realm we are creating here. But how much should we know of our realm’s history? Should we have an entire timeline of all the leaders, wars and creation or should we just focus on things we believe our characters will interact with? I believe it should be a happy medium.
So the question is now how do we figure out the history of the realm? For me I start with the creation, was it created by a god, the big bang, or was it founded by a nomadic species of whatever? Then I write down little tibits of things such as their adaption from when the races were early people to how they are in the current time I write it in. Why is this important? Its what forms the culture of the people! Of course we will get to culture another time. This is still all about the history.
Now that we see where the people are from let’s say our characters need to see the king, well obviousy we never know if there will be huge introductions or if we will walk past paintings of his ancestors or even if we will see another branch family trying to claim the throne! Without history of kings Song of Ice and Fire would never have any storyline of the Targaryens and lacking that extra umph that we so craved during each page.
How do we write out a lineage then? Do we draw an entire family tree or just write a list? Personally, I’ve found a program called PAF that helps you create a genealogy for any fictional family you’d like on your computer.
So now we have how your realm was created, how it became populated and even the lineage of rulers to help create some plot twists later on. So what else do you need then? Let’s go with wars then. After all, people being dethroned or even why your antagonists is the way they are could be the reason they are the way they are.
A war doesn’t just designate how one person would be but also how the world reacts to others. A small town could be against the capital because they were forced to lose most of their money from higher taxes from the war and even losing most of their men and making it a primarily female oriented town because they all had to leave for battle. See now how it affects the people as well? So should you write an entire history text book on the matter? I say no, you just need a list on who was involved, who fought against who, was there any change in allegiance and the percentage of deaths per town. Finally I would also suggest labeling each major battle within the war that could have potentially forged new alliances later on or changed an entire race’s way of life.
So now that we have our history all done and over with, stay tuned for our next lesson, the pantheons.