Writerly Notions: Worldbuilding & Copying

I’ve realized why my writing often lacks a “spark”. Most of the writing sources I follow or consume (and how my mind interprets them) indicate that fantasy — culture, customs, history — are just copies of this world. And copies are just reflections. More to the point, it’s hard to believe a copy-world is real on its own terms. Which makes it hard, I’d wager, for others to believe in fantasy world that doesn’t feel real, that is only a copy.

On one hand, I want to create real imagined fantasy, advice and convention tell me I have to copy. But if that’s all I have to do, why would I write at all? (If I wanted to do historical fantasy, that would be great, but I think I lean more toward imaginary fantasy. That is, fantasy that isn’t heavily historical.)

Once I started trying to “get serious” about writing a lot of the spontaneous imagination dropped out. While research is necessity for good writing, if the initial groundwork is just trying to copy the exact replica that is (or might be) the inspiration for a fantasy culture, will that seem real?

For me, a lot of rooted worldbuilding comes from percolating off nature and creating myth (the moon is a dragon’s eye, four bats created the world). Or if not nature, than fairy tales. And if not fairy tales, than just…ideas? (flurma birds that roost on the tips of crystal trees where fluff grows, whose plumage turns blue before they migrate)

The trouble is figuring out  what this-world culture I’m inspired by and taking conscientious actions. Often with humans, I do know, but that’s in a copy-&-paste way, rather than deep roots. (Other than one or two fantasy human cultures.)

Writerly Notions: Experts and Imagination

So I was re-reading Histoire d’Aladdin ou la Lampe merveilleuse (as one does), and I was forcibly reminded that writers need to know what they’re writing about. If say, I write about a character baking a cake, I have to know what kind of cake they’re baking and, more importantly, I need to know how that cake would be baked. And that’s where experts and connections and all that is important. Knowing who to ask and getting input from people who know what they’re talking about. Experts.

But what I think is interesting is that I couldn’t write:

She baked a werthor from a bowl of leftover isluuma blossoms, dried up after last winter’s molt and stored by her grandmother. After all adding a dollop of yurna berry juice, with just the right thickness to keep the center stiff, she popped the feathery dough into the fire-orb, watching as it expanded into a firm round werthor.

Because it’s not based on an actually recipe or method of baking.

Worldbuilding

Day 18: Feb 18

History unfurls in knots of speciation and categorization, inspired by the myths of those who speak of each knot. It is their history, their ontology, their way of knowing and living in the world. But to one who lives outside the knots, how does one know what is the literal division of life, of species, of creatures? Or is the mysterious nexus, the uncertainty, where it is strongest in a story?

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I have renewed these in lieu of the Refugee Ban in the USA. Inspired by the-cassandra-project and their Every Day Challenge, I am writing every day to raise money for the Urban Justice Center. You can donate here or please spread the word. Thank you.

Ocean Ancestors

Day 13: Feb 13

Tales of the past — sometimes the recent past, if she’s honest — curl across the floor, dainty, almost fanciful words, so wondrous and unbelievable that they seem capable of cracking under the slightest inspection. But they are true; she knows so. She has lived part of this recent, unbelievable story herself. Though it is the older stories, the ones interwoven like flashes of silver on the sea among the recent one, that keeps her attentive: astounding voyagers across the vast ocean, colony and kingdom founders, dropping words and letters on their journey. They were the first to understand the sea and what lay beneath. A tiny silver glimmer flashes inside her; she is glad they play a part, however miniscule, in her story, too.

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I have renewed these in lieu of the Refugee Ban in the USA. Inspired by the-cassandra-project and their Every Day Challenge, I am writing every day to raise money for the Urban Justice Center. You can donate here or please spread the word. Thank you.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

“‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you ca’n’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here'” (74).

This was a very odd book. But that might be expected. Although what stood out to me the most was its mix of absurdity and order. Or to be more precise, how distinct (and tyrannical) Wonderland politics were.

For one, the cards are designated by role:

“First came soldiers carrying clubs…next the ten courtiers: these were ornamented all over with diamonds… After these came the royal children: there were ten of them, and the little dears came jumping merrily along, hand in hand, in couples: they were ornamented with hearts” (92).

The impression I get from this is that there’s a hierarchy in the card suits: spades are gardens (if the picture is anything to go on), clubs are warriors and soldiers, diamonds are courtiers or nobility, and hearts are royalty. That indicates that there is actual structure to Wonderland. Even if its laws, justice, and punishment are illogical.

I think that’s what makes it so interesting from a worldbuilding point of view (which may not have been an aspect that was on Carroll’s mind when he wrote it.)

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The Horse and His Boy | Customs

from The Chronicles of Narnia

by C. S. Lewis

“‘When this news was brought to me the sun appeared dark in my eyes, and I laid on my bed and wept for a day. But on the second day I rose up and washed my face and caused my mare Hwin to be saddled'” (Lewis, 36).

I happened to find this on my bookshelf while organizing my piles of writing into binders and read it over the weekend. Of the seven books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia, this has always been my favorite. Which is probably why it’s the only one I have with full color illustrations (and which was the specific edition that I read).

The story takes place during “the Golden Age when Peter was High King in Narnia and his brother and two sisters were King and Queens under him” (3). How this happened and who they are is explained in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and their reign (the Golden Age) mentioned.

My main question while reading it was: why did I like it so much, or what made it likable to me? What, if anything, made it stand out against the other Narnian books?

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Knowledge is Key: Questions to ask yourself as a creator

I’ve been thinking… When you (as a creator, especially white ones) decide to add diversity to your cast…

First, gold star.

Second, here’s some question that may help make sure you don’t make as much a mess of it as you might. (I can’t gaurentee these are fool proof; they’re just a logical procedure I think makes sense and I hope will be helpful. Additionally, it’s what I try to do in my writing, though this isn’t limited to writing.)

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