Sunday, August 14, 2011

Project Report 2 Water/Stone/Light: The shape of their world

A talented writer with a gift for world building...
C J Cherryh

When she wrote that blurb for one of my short publications from Yard Dog Press (no longer in print, though the blurb also appears on Farstep Station), I felt both overjoyed and worried. I had been an ardent fan of Cherryh's work for decades. The mere thought that she would write the blurb had me dancing around the house for days. (Much to the consternation of the cats.) I still get that surge of joy when I read it.

However, with a line like that came the knowledge I could never again 'wing it' on the longer works. I'd always done some world building, but now I became even more interested in creating the worlds. And I found that I love it even more.

Characters are what draw me to a story. My first vision of a story is almost always a character in trouble. I then unravel the who and why, and along the way I start building the where.

In the case of Water/Stone/Light the characters came in a sort of odd way, but there they were, a group facing an as yet undefined problem. I'm starting to see the trouble more clearly. The truth is that while I am writing these out as separate things for the posts (characters, world building, plot), they all tend to happen at the same time, with a touch of this here and a little of that there. I always make certain I have paper to do notes.

I have barely started the world building part. My current reading material, Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 1 Part 2, influenced a great deal of my basic considerations. This volume covers a great deal of early middle-eastern history, and has a huge section on Egyptian history.

I do not intend for this to be Egypt, but there are some basics I can borrow from that land (and from nearly any other river-based civilization of ancient times). The first thing is that I want Tygen to be secluded but not cut off entirely (note some Egyptian letters in the name-- easy for me to remember the basics, though I may later change the name later).

Everything I create at this point is subject to change. Once I get farther into both world building and plotting, I may find that some aspects of my world need to change to better work in the story I want to tell. This is not a real world. I control it.

A very high mountain range lies to the north. There was a pass through it, but a thousand years ago, mages and gods pulled the mountains down to save Tygen from something dangerous on the other side. This also destroyed the source of a second river in Tygen and left a considerable part of the eastern lands in desert. (And this means there are cities buried beneath the sands with treasures -- some of them dangerous. Think about those mages and the mountains.)

The western lands are akin to the Badlands of South Dakota. Once ocean it is now areas of carved sandstone in a maze where a person can easily get lost . Lots of places to hide things there. If you can get through, you will find youself at a narrow, inland sea and straight into the ocean with more desert across the shore. Not a lot of reason to go there.

The south border is the sea proper, with scrublands and marginal areas for herds to the east near the shores (but given to violent weather). The river ends in a delta and marsh, which stretches for miles and hides the entrance to the river. This has purposely been kept wild, both for the abundant waterfowl and other creatures, but also to keep the aggressive islanders not far from the coast from invading.

The shoreline is dangerous. The destruction of the pass had repercussions all along the area, with parts of the land dropping into the sea leaving dangerous rocks and currents and no good harbors at all.

The ships of this time are not very sturdy and anyone who does sea voyages hugs the coast -- and avoids the marsh heading into Tygen where they can get mired and lost. The people of Tygen patrol the marsh and there are very few craft they let through to the river entrance, which is also guarded by magic. There is a rumor of a sea monster at their call living in the delta. The people of Tygen do not take to the sea, but they do import a few luxuries. Foreign trade is the prerogative of the royalty.

The river craft are either made of reeds (in the lowlands) or wood (the northern highlands).

The river itself is called Life. A newborn child, no matter what the gender or station, is cleaned in the river of Life. When you die, you go to the desert and death. (Being Exiled to the desert is a death sentence with only a slim chance of survival, though there are a few nomadic tribes, mostly along the edges of the scrublands and the coast.

The few people who leave Tygen always take a sealed and blessed vial of water with them.

And that's it for today. I have some things worked up on the basics of the pantheon and just a whisper of work on the magic systems.

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