World Building – The first question

The website looks like its coming together.  I have most of the pages in place for the initial framework.  Now I just have to get my content in there.  I’ve already put some background content up so if you haven’t read any of it, please do and let me know what you think.

Building this world over the last few years has really been eye-opening and challenging in a way that’s different than my normal writing.  Which is something I’m sure anyone who has done extensive world building will agree with me.  Through it all I’ve learned so much more about my world through my world building, things I never thought of before but which now allows me to make a bit more sense about things I’ve created.  These things will impact my rough draft quite a bit, but I think it will also help make things click together better.

The other big advantage of in-depth world building that I see is greater consistency.  Putting down and putting thought into how things work, how organizations function, and how the different types of magic differ from each other helps me maintain that through my writing.  No more pausing to think how something might look and work while I’m in the middle of writing a scene.

Do I think world building is needed for every story?  No.  But I think that if you are working on an epic of some kind then you will reach a point where you will need to do some world building.  Especially if you are trying to create something unique or different enough from the norm.

For example the magic in World’s Reflection is similar enough in appearance that I probably don’t need go into what it looks like for my world building, but I wanted the use of magic to have a price.  I needed to define what that price was and how it was paid which I did as part of my world building.  Magic uses life.  That’s the cost.  The life paid to cast magic can be part of the caster or taken from other sources.  I thought that explained the whole reason for ritual sacrifices throughout history.  But that thought raised another question.  How does that work then?  Why is it that in the past there are more reference to ‘magic’ than in the present?

I found my answer while I was doing some research on religion and religious beliefs.  I stumbled across a site that talked about a cosmic symbology.  It was years ago and I regret not remembering the site itself, but it talked about life in the universe being created from a single ‘pool’ of energy.  That one thing from the site stuck with me.  That’s when I began to think, what if magic was based on a single pool of energy?  As intriguing as that was it didn’t explain why there was less magic now then in the past.  So while that explanation didn’t work, I still liked the idea.  Well, a few months later I had something of an epiphany.  I think I was watching an old fantasy movie where a wizard with really bad special effects creates a living animal out of the air.  That plus having watched the original Star Wars trilogy, I struck on the idea that maybe magic uses the same energy that life does.  Sort of an essence that created the world.  If that was the case that could explain why magic was rarer in modern times than in medieval times.  The population of the world has expanded so much that there is simply not as much free energy for use in magic.

Then what happens when a mage needs more life energy?  The answer to that question was simple.  He had to take it from something or someone else.  Now suddenly mages in modern times were a real danger.  One uncontrolled mage casting magic could easily kill dozens of people around him.  I liked that idea, but felt I needed more to it.  That sparked a question then about good mages and evil mages.  In theory there would be very few good mages because the very act of casting magic would be seen as evil.  How would good mages exist?  Suppose then that this life essence could be stored for future use?  That it could be harvested a little at a time or excess could be absorbed somehow.  How would a mage store it?  At this point I had already fleshed out the beginnings of the Reflection, a mirror reality where most of my supernatural creatures would exist.  In many pictures of mages and wizards most of them are always wearing amulets and rings so I decided that the reason they did was because they stored essence in them.  The more reflective the jewelry the more it can hold.  So I now had a method and a reason why good mages could exist.  They could harvest free essence, or perhaps take it from plants and animals and store it for use later.  I also decided that this process of harvesting and storing would be a ritual that was more efficient then simply pulling the essence directly from someone and using it.  That way even evil mages had a reason for doing it.

So my magic system was coming together nicely.  Things I was deciding on was helping me flesh out the next component by presenting other/new questions.  The idea that casting magic was addictive come a bit later after deciding that there wasn’t enough of a price.  It helped me restrict the number of powerful mages I had in my world.  Weaker willed mages would burn themselves out eventually, or be killed for drawing too much attention to themselves.

The question about the different types of magic I would have happened while I was fleshing out my Vampires.  I wanted them to be able to use the blood that they drink to improve themselves for short periods.  Making themselves stronger, faster, or feeding other spells.  But I didn’t want it to be similar to the magic that living humans used.  So I called it Blood magic which actually burns the blood they consume.  The older the Vampire the more efficiently they use it making them more powerful.    As for the other types I wanted an alternative to Soul magic.  One that was perhaps safer but more limited.  Elemental magic was my alternative and something drain from the Avatar: the Last Airbender animated series.  It was an idea that was raw and simple.  Mages use a little bit of essence to summon and bind elemental spirits and then use the power of those spirits.  Honestly that was all I needed to decide on for elemental magic.  The rest I decided I could invent as I wrote about it.

Well that’s enough for my first World Building post.  I hope that other aspiring writer will find my series on World building helpful.  Please leave a comment and tell me your thoughts.