Tuesday, March 8, 2011

World Building

One of the ways in which my second series will differ from the first is in the world the characters inhabit.
At first glance this might not seem to be so, for they are actually in the same world ... the same rules of magic apply, the same theology and the same lack of woodland pixies and other ``magical'' folk.
But where my desire in the first series was to throw readers into the story and the characters' problems, in this series there was more of a need to develop the world.
This was for two reasons: the culture and development of each country becomes a vital plot point as the series moves on and, secondly, part of the story is about an "elf'' banished into the human world, so the contrast between what he knows and how the other humans live is a vital part.
In The Dragon Sword Histories, most countries had a similar level of technology and I concentrated more on the differences in attitude among the people. Thus the Norstalines took some inspiration from America between the two world wars; insular, arrogant and certain that they were the only place of importance. The Berellians took some inspiration from Nazi Germany and the indeed other totalitarian regimes. The Tenochs were a rough mix of Aztec and Mayan.
But in the new series, I needed a different approach.
Each country has its own culture - but a culture muddied and often forgotten thanks to what the "elves" (really Elfarans - humans who think they are the elves of legend) did to them centuries ago.
So what they have is a ghost of a culture, memories or fragments really, which are not important to them but become so as the series moves on.
The Velsh, from The Vales, are - perhaps obviously - based loosely on the Welsh.
Part of my fascination with this comes from the battle of Pilleth, one of the major inspirations for The Dragon Sword Histories. Popular culture has made much of the Scottish struggle for independence - there have been many books and movies, most famously Braveheart.
But the Welsh are the Britons, driven west by the Saxon invasions, and their story has not had the same prominence. Yet it is the story of Arthur, the - supposed - historical British warleader who stopped the Saxons.
I also found it fascinating for they lived among the faded glories left them by the retreating Romans. The idea of seeing technology far beyond your own, buildings you could never hope to make and the effect that would have on a people really resonated with me and, by substituting my "elves" for Romans, adapted this.
Research into my Velsh meant going into Celtic history and daily life. Obviously the Internet makes this much easier but books such as Horrible Histories also throw up some fascinating, quirky insights into life then.
Huw, the bard, is Velsh and his journey unlocks the hidden secrets of the Velsh/Welsh culture.
Next come the Forlish, loosely based on the Saxons. Their leader wants to return Men to the glory he sees around him every day in the "elven" ruins - by uniting every country under the one flag and pooling their knowledge. He just chooses to do this by the sword.
Rhiannon, the dancer, is Forlish and her journey includes discovering that humans can do magic, not just elves, a discovery that will change everyone's future and fate.
And the elves. Theirs is a bastard culture, partly the Elfaran culture we met back in the Dragon Sword Histories, which was loosely based on the Roman culture, and partly the culture their forebears adopted when they left the dragons' service and found themselves wives, and families among a people called the Nippon (loosely based on the Japanese).
Sendatsu, the "elf" has been banished for not having magic and he is the key to unlocking these mysteries, as he knows some of the secrets of the elves, as well as the story of the humans.
So we have a series of cultures, all bastardised by the "elves" at first wanting to help the humans and then in fact stealing their culture, their magic and religion, leaving them nothing more than hollow memories.
The search for the truth behind these memories is a vital part of the story.
Obviously there is much more to it - the journeys of my three main characters, as well as the underlying heart of the books - but in this series, far more than my first, world building plays an important part.
Even the placenames, based on real names, tell a story.
All through the first book, particularly, are little clues and fragments that hint towards future revelations and, while they may not seem like much at first, will prove to be vital.
I look forward to sharing it with you!

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