Check out the new appearance, organization, and artwork for LitaBurke.com. The facelift features a cleaner look with easy links of the left side of the page. The blog posts now show tags and other info on a crisp white background to make them easier on the eyes.
The banner artwork has also changed to capture the spirit of Lita’s fantasy worlds. All you’ll need to travel to Sye is one of Lita’s books and the willingness to go on an adventure. You can find Lita most days at the Isor Enchanter School. If she’s not there, GrandMaster Sahn can cast a spell to find Lita if she’s out on an errand at the fish market with one of the School’s dragonettes, or searching for talkative ghosts in Isor’s Old Church Catacombs.
The Hobbit is a long-time favorite story from the master of the epic fantasy genre. Against all odds, a very small hobbit goes on a journey and along the way meets with trolls, a dragon, and other dangers.
This is the third of a 3-part blog post about building rich fantasy worlds to immerse your readers. In part 1 we looked at two “big picture” elements: maps and politics. Part 2 was a “medium” view about wimpy food and eavesdropping.
This time we’ll talk about a couple of “detail” topics: the decorative apostrophe, and why it’s no fun for wizards to just wave their wands and rule the world.
5. Pesky Punctuation
What is it with the apostrophe and names in F/SF worlds? Sometimes an otherwise fine story leaves me with a mental jaw-ache trying to sound out names like Kr’stben’lok’zmrz’lorr. What do the apostrophes mean? Do they represent guttural stops (like tongue clicks), pauses to breathe during long names, or are they decoration because F/SF names are exotic?
Maybe you’re using two English language rules for the apostrophe: possessive (usually with an s added), or contractions (deleting letters like in can’t). Good ‘ole Kr’stben’lok’zmrz’lorr doesn’t seem to use apostrophes for those reasons. Must be for decoration.
In the Sye world for Wrath and Tredan’s Bane, the apostrophe creates a contraction–it shows omitted letters or spaces. For example, the formal name of Lanith’s dragonette is Seri Drracon’el Arnl’jhott Vatter’sang. Literally translated, it means: Seri (Sir or Mister), Drracon (dragon), ‘el (shortened form of mel, meaning “diminutive” or more precisely, a dragonette or small dracon), Arnl (frightens), jhott (eagles), vatter (water), and sang (song). So in Sye’s vernacular, her dragonette’s full name is Water Song Who Frightens Eagles. The first time you meet him, use his formal name. After that, you can call him Arnl’jhott.
6. Length of the Wand
Wizards, magicians, and Sith Lords have an annoying stereotype. How realistic is it for them to wave their wands and have magic spout from their fingers like lightning? Really? If I could wave my wand and blast anything just by really wanting it, then there would be lots of burned-out cars littering my road to work (taking the One Ring to Mordor would be easier than my morning commute).
Where do these magic workers get the willpower? I can more readily believe in the Loch Ness Monster than I can a wizard who keeps his tempter and doesn’t create flash-fried steak from a stubborn apprentice.
Please, let’s make magic real. At least have it make sense and give the all-powerful magic workers some limitations. I’ve tried to do so in my own novels. In Sye, the Enchanters are the most powerful of magic workers because they create the magical essence that everyone else uses. As a new Enchanter’s ability to create essence increases, he/she also becomes less able to defend against magical attack.
Enchanters also have their delightful side. Just cuddle up get an essence kiss from one of them. Their magic tastes like chocolate-cinnamon-peppery spice (see part 2). Be sure to ask before you touch, otherwise you risk becoming flash-fried steak. A warning–you’ll be tempted, but don’t bite.
Who knows? They might think you can control yourself well enough to become an Enchanter’s Consent. Then you can get all the kisses and magical essence you want.
This is the second of a 3-part blog post about building rich fantasy worlds to immerse your readers. In part 1 we looked at two “big picture” elements in building a fantasy world: maps and politics.
Today we will take a “medium-sized” view and see why meat and grog are wimpy. We’ll also learn how to speak in tongues.
3. Proper Menus
We are what we eat. This is also true for your fantasy world people. Engage all of your reader’s senses in the story. Don’t limit yourself to feeding your people the typical fantasy grub of turkey legs and ale. Or roast beast and grog.
To put your reader in your fantasy world, tell them how the food smells and tastes. For example, describe the odors of a restaurant’s cooking food as your hero hurries by on his early morning appointment with the wizard’s school headmistress. Make him hungry so his mouth waters at the smell of coffee and griddle cakes. Or perhaps he’s queasy from last night’s hangover and the greasy-food odor nauseated him.
You can also evoke a mood by listing flavor combinations. In Tredan’s Bane, I wanted to let the reader know how magic tastes to Lanith. The Enchanter’s magical essence has the flavors of chocolate, cinnamon, and a hint of peppery spice. The Church magicians taste like mint, dark chocolate, and rich liquor. The flavor of Lanith’s essence kisses aren’t too bad, either. Or so the Maji’kers tell me.
What is a Maji’ker, you ask? Ah, let’s speak in tongues next.
4. Linguistics for Magicians
Your readers love to eavesdrop. Story dialogue is a treat you should give throughout your entire story. How your story people use vocabulary in their thoughts and speech will show whether they are well-spoken or a hack. Is your wizard precise or sloppy in his word choice? It can show your readers how good of a magic worker he really is.
In Wrath, it was necessary to show Tredan as a skilled magic worker who knew the proper names for magical implements and constructs. Magicians (vernacular is Maji’kers) store their magical power in an internal repository called an Essence Cache. Tredan was bewitched by an Enforcer’s Compulsion Charm (which is different from the gentler Glamour Charm). Note my use of caps to show proper nouns. In Tredan’s world of Sye, magicians refer to their magic craft with precise vocabulary. None of this imprecise “the place where Tredan stores his magical essence” blather. It’s his Essence Cache.
Next time, let’s talk about the decorative apostrophe, and why it’s no fun for wizards to just wave their wands and rule the world.
World-building techniques have always fascinated me. High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy books were my delight as a young reader. I poured over the maps on the book’s end papers, studied every entry in the glossary in the back, even marveled over the lengthy character name lists in the front.
When it comes to creating fantasy worlds for my own fiction, I’m a writer who knows the details of the characters’ environment. I must have their vitae close at hand so I know them well enough to write about their struggles. It also doesn’t hurt to speak their language and follow the latest fads for their clothing styles.
Today I’m sharing 2 of my 6 must-have elements for defining fantasy worlds. There’s no significance to the order I present them here, other than I’m starting with the largest elements and working down to the most detailed.
1. Geography and Cartography
I love maps. I can read a fantasy map and envision the journey on foot, horseback, or coach from one place to another. The names of cities, mountain ranges, and farming communities reveal details of the characters’ struggle to control their environment by naming the elements around them. Detailed maps of towns are rich with information on street names, how crowded the buildings are, and where to go for a bite to eat.
I make two maps as I create a fantasy world. One map shows the largest continent view of the world, the other is a detailed view of the town where the characters’ interact with each other.
This approach anchors the story in a “real” place. It also provides ready-made names of geographical features for the characters to use.
2. Political and Social Systems
The people and sentient creatures of a fantasy world interact with each other according to the history and current rules of their political and social systems. The political system can include: caste, monarchy versus commoners, clergy versus secular, or military versus civilian. Other political systems may include the world’s magic structure (more on this in a later post). In the Wrathand Tredan’s Banemagical world of Sye, the political struggle of the Enchanters versus the Church is the primary conflict.
Social systems include: men versus women, humans versus sentient creatures, magicians versus non-magic workers, conflict between guilds, rich versus poor, or single versus married persons. Notice I present the political and social systems as conflicts. The people in the fantasy world belong to a group, even if it’s the group of outcasts. There’s always someone else opposing your fantasy people–otherwise your chronicles of their activities is a bland non-story.
To define the political and social systems of my fantasy worlds, I write a few pages of narrative describing these systems, their history, and the conflicts within these systems playing major parts in the story. Very little of this narrative ever makes it into the novel directly (it would be a BORING information dump that’s a no-no for fantasy authors). I consider my ramblings about the political and social minutiae a reference paper, or perhaps a historian’s scribbled notes.
In my next post, I’ll explain why meat and grog are wimpy, and how to speak in tongues.
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