Monday, March 20, 2017

Building Fantasy Worlds

Image by Surreal Artist Jacek Yerka
Hi Everyone,

I chatted with the Sup authors last week about how they created their worlds. So revealing! Here's what they had to say:

"The idea of a dark or twilit world was inspired initially by the swift nightfalls of Singapore, when I lived there as a child." Helen Lowe

"I always try to weave as much fact into my fiction as I can ..." Rachel A. Marks

"I didn't have to build from scratch, just point out what was different about Para-Dallas." - Amanda Arista

"I like to explore how environment shapes my characters, politics, beliefs, and then I let my imagination go wild." Kim Falconer

And then, there's George R. R. Martin -  [who] "... enjoys being surprised by his own work. He thinks of himself as a “gardener”—he has a rough idea of where he’s going but improvises along the way. He sometimes fleshes out only as much of his imaginary world as he needs to make a workable setting for the story.

Tolkien was what Martin calls an “architect.” Tolkien created entire languages, mythologies, and histories for Middle-earth long before he wrote the novels set there. Martin told me that many of his fans assume that he is as meticulous a world-builder as Tolkien was.

They write to say, ‘I’m fascinated by the languages. I would like to do a study of High Valyrian'—an ancient tongue. ‘Could you send me a glossary and a dictionary and the syntax?’

I have to write back and say, ‘I’ve invented seven words of High Valyrian.''” —Laura Miller, in The New Yorker

Why is world-building so important? 

The environment our heroes and villains live in is a major character of every book. It may be silent, behinds the scenes, shaping outcomes without the reader noticing, but it must exist or there's nowhere to for the story to unfold. And it must become real.

Some authors say that readers will believe in anything as long as it’s plausible, but I think Orson Welles proved that wrong when he read The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, over the radio, causing mass panic. No, Martians weren't landing.

Fantasy readers don’t expect a world to adhere to Natural Law, but they do want it to adhere to its own laws. Ursula Le Guin reinforces this saying inner coherence, not plausibility, holds the reader enthralled

So let's look at how some of the Sup authors build worlds, and make them plausible, to us.

The Dark Cycle Series

Rachel A. Marks - The Dark Cycle Series

"When thinking about how to begin building my story world, I always try to weave as much fact into my fiction as I can. In my mind, this creates a more vivid reality for my characters to populate. The best part of imagining Aidan's world when writing DARKNESS BRUTAL was being able to take the gritty reality of LA where I've grown up, play it up by overlaying urban legends I've been hearing since I was a kid, and then enrich the rules with supernatural mythos. And then make sure that the only one who can see this invisible world of demons, angels, and ghosts, is the main character, Aidan. So, part of the conflict the main character has in his journey is also a conflict in the world itself. 

"Seventeen-year-old Aidan can see demons, smell emotions, and feel the past in his skin, but will it be enough to save his little sister from the deal his mom made with a powerful demon all those years ago? "
The Wall of Night Series

Helen Lowe - The Wall of Night Series

"The Wall of Night world was with me for many years and the idea of a dark or twilit world was inspired initially by the swift nightfalls of Singapore, when I lived there as a child, then developed further when I spent a winter in Sweden with its "endless nights". 

The Norse myths with the "twilight of the gods" was also a considerable influence on the development of the world. As the story and the world expanded away from the Wall of Night to the Southern Realms of Haarth, influences from other landscapes played their part, from the khlongs of Bangkok influencing the River City of Ij, to the Nelson region of New Zealand shaping the physical character of the Duchy of Emer."

"The Wall of Night: fortresses of shadow and decay and an ancient war reigniting in a world where everyone could be an enemy and no-one is what they seem. Lost powers, undiscovered secrets, and a society divided by prejudice, suspicion, and fear -- and Malian, heir to the warrior House of Night and a promise that has endured down centuries: that she will not stand alone." - Good Reads: Daughter of Blood

Diaries of an Urban Panther

Amanda Arista - Urban Panther Series

"I live in Dallas and not too many books I had read captured the true urbanite quality of the city. It’s got everything that NY and Vegas with more cars and less smog. Drive 10 minutes and be in a vibrant down town or drive 30 minutes and be out in open land with cows. So I started there with my world-building, and just smoothed a layer of paranormal over the top of that. 

I was looking at the normal weird stuff and explaining it with paranormal things, like graffiti is actually protection spells and sounds in a dark alley that are actually were-creatures. I didn't have to build from scratch, just point out what was different about Para-Dallas. So my main character Violet could ease into the magical along with the reader. She still got her coffee, I still got to write about magic and things that blow up."

When Violet Jordan becomes a midnight snack for a werepanther, his infectious bite invokes the first element of her destiny to become the leader of the Dallas Wanderers. But if push comes to claws, can Violet make a fatal strike against the men threatening her new family, her new home and her first boyfriend in ages?

The Ava Sykes Novel Series

Kim Falconer - The Ava Sykes Novel Series

"The Aftermath. What a mess. The initial repair efforts deserved a medal. Having relief funding in the trillions helped. Who couldn’t make things as good as new, with that kind of backing? But fifteen years later and the funding isn’t so generous. It dried up completely in Anaheim, for example. There’s nothing there anymore but capped fracking wells and an abandoned amusement park. Kinda sad. I’d heard Disney Land was amazing, back in the day. Earthquakes will do that to a place, if earthquake it really was. There were all kinds of conspiracy theories, and then, there's the sea . . ."

"Undergraduate by day, bouncer by night, Ava Sykes works hard to build her life in New LA, a city experiencing the Aftermath of a seismic disaster. Her prospects improve until she stumbles upon an evil no sane person would want to confront. Suddenly, her life, her city and everyone she cares about is in danger. Pushed to the edge, Ava taps a power she never knew she had . . . and uses it."

What are some of your favorite worlds in books, or films? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.

You can also learn more about Kim at, the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.  Or on

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook. Check out her daily Astro-LOA Flash horoscopes on Facebook

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