Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Opinion: Fantasy Novel Geography

This is purely an opinionated piece that I just felt I had to get out of my system.
Late last night I had this thought bubble while writing down the details of geography for the world in Brind Songs and trying to set up a wiki.

I've drawn maps of my "worlds" and looked at other maps. Middle Earth, wherever the funk Eragon took place, Narnia etc. And even lots of online fantasy that I've read...the world is always incomplete on the map. It's always just a coast like Europe. Just a jut of land or a coast line, that's all you get to see. I've been guilty of this myself when I finally mapped out Gauland for my MSK novel and a few RP maps.

It's not very annoying actually so much as it is a common trend I've noticed. Of course the map is only going to show what matters to the story. That's all you need really. The rest is no man's land and no one knows what happens out there. No one.
"What's over that nearly impassible mountain range?"
"More land probably. No one cares...not even the creator."

For my story I knew there would be no stretch of land that I at least didn't know something about. It may not pertain to the novels but that doesn't matter. I need to know the world better than my own backyard. So when you see a map, you see the whole world. There will be no stretch of land beyond the edges of the maps. I have 3 island continents and that's it. (I still have to place the polar ice caps, but all in good time.)

This is definitely the most detailed world I have ever spent time on. It's shaping up pretty nice too.

It's funny where I get my influences for this story. The word "brind" simply came from the word "hind" which is a deer. I don't exactly remember when I settled on the word itself, but there were always going to be types or breeds.
The first four were based completely off some random drawings I did of the creatures. Unicorn folk that I just thought looked pretty. White, Water, Fire and Iron were the first four and the only four for a long, long time. (Of course I just used the Latin terms for the word and stuck it onto the word brind to make the different breed names.)

Originally there were going to be four islands, one full of cat people because I was writing this with my sister and she was reading the "Warriors" series at the time.

The sheep people were also my sisters idea, instead of having traditional fauns. There was also going to be fox people and wolf people, but that got nixed.

Elves and Fae have always been a part of my stories somehow. I take a very strong Tolkien/every-generic-fantasy take to my elves and fae. I always have. I've read some traditional fairy stories and these are just more fun to write and draw.

The magic in the world is not very obvious and I always downplayed on magic in my stories. Generally, I find magic is used as a loophole for easy explanation. I tend to prefer fantasy novels without strong use of magic, because magic tends to be abused. There are no laws...except for that Mercedes Lackey/James Mallory series that I read. I liked that system...but it was still abused. Narnia, Tolkein, and so on have magic as an undertheme, it was always something supernatural that could only be performed by supernatural. It also made the magic seem more common place and not something special like in Harry Potter. Magic was special even though it was common place in the "wizard world".

In MSK the comic, magic was visually there because it made things pretty. That's the only reason that I really cared about magic for that comic. In the novel on the other hand, magic was explained to be a natural phenomenon in elves and their technology. And that is only because the elves were originally extraterrestrials. Yes...something I never explained in my novels but had in the back of my head. It's silly but I like my alien elves. Lucius is an alien. :D

Back on topic, my point is that magic feels like cheating. So for this I tried to keep the "magic" as believable as possible. The only stretch I made was with shape-shifting. There's just no way to trot around that and say it's NOT magic. (Unless you go with INSTA-EVOLUTION. Available at WalMary).
So I went with things that seemed "natural".
Miracles are natural...they are...okay so they're a bit supernatural but that felt more believable than magic. Why? Because they occur in the real world (whether you believe it or not). Blind can see, lame can walk and the raising of the dead. It happens.
Withstanding heat and so forth seem very natural things. Healing is a very natural process.
I've also limited it to one creature that can truly perform "magic".

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