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Thursday, June 30, 2011

World Creation

Please welcome guest blogger Rebecca Ryals Russell

For fourteen years I was a Middle School teacher. My favorite subjects were English/Reading and Social Studies. Although it was not a topic covered in the Social Studies books, I always did a section of Geography.

So when I started thinking about a world that Myrna would spend several years on, my love of Geography came into play. For the physical aspect, I took a globe, flattened it and slid the continents together to form Pangaea, the original single continent on Earth. From there I put mountain ranges where they would have naturally formed—along coastlines or where continents would have collided while forming landmasses. Deserts went on the backside of the mountains because rainfall is less, being stopped by the mountains. I had a ball placing swamps, and river deltas; forests and barrens. While doing this, the world itself began to grow and become real. I knew what monsters lurked within each forest or habitat. The Majikals revealed their hiding places.

If you become confused in the natural element placement while designing your world, look at a map of the world and study the placement of various physical elements. While you may not want a duplicate Earth, use Earth’s natural features, and scientific facts to design your world.
  • Gravity or not? How does it differ from Earth’s – remember it is based on the size of the planet or moon or whatever.
  • Where are the forests and what types of vegetation grow there? What’s the difference between a forest and woods?
  • Where are your mountains? How tall? Gentle sloping ends or abrupt? Plateaus or not?
  • Plains? Savannahs? Rainforest? Deserts?
  • Where are the rivers and in which direction do they run. Where do they begin and end?
  • Where are the lakes, oceans, seas? What’s the difference between a sea and an ocean?
  • How is a bay, inlet, or gulf formed? Where would ships most likely come for delivering goods on your world?
  • How about air or space travel?
  • What types of movement occur across your world? What road, train, air, shipping systems are there?
  • What is the climate like in the various parts of your world? Study how the climate on Earth varies according to the physical make-up of the land. Does yours mimick that or is it the opposite?

The one most important rule you MUST follow is this: Be consistent and logical.

Back to Dracwald: Because the number seven is holy, there are seven Vigorios (teen demon-hunter-warriors) in my series, seven Provinces on Dracwald and seven Guardian Seraphym (one per Province). Each Province provides something useful or significant for the world or story. The most interesting Province to create was Impirius. This is where the dragons live. There is a tall ridge of mountains running down the back of Impirius, like the spine of a dragon. The Lucimons Range keeps Impirius separate from the rest of the world. The demons live in the northern portion of these mountains, called Dracolupo. This is where they have established dragon dens. The entire northern section of Impirius is toxic, due to leaching evil from the demons. Not only is it inhabited by monsters, but the land itself has evolved toxically.

Once the physical environment was complete with the following, I moved on to Culture.
  • mining resources allocated,
  • farming area designated,
  • industries types and location,
  • cities and villages locations and sizes,
  • railways and roads locations and use,


I was ready to start planning the culture of the population. To keep it simple, I decided on a limited number of cultures:
  • Dragon-demons,
  • Majikals (elves, fae, dwarves, etc),
  • Villagers/Rural,
  • City Dwellers.
They each received a culture, habitat, history, appearance, language, religion, etc. All of this information was tracked on spreadsheets which I then keep in a notebook and several files in the computer. Always keep backups of your information.

Clothing was a major consideration for me. I wanted to include Steampunk elements in the book, but my characters couldn’t tromp through woods in Victorian finery. So I had to provide a solution. What I decided was the style of dress for the population as a whole is Victorian. Men wear top hats or bowler hats with suits or tuxedoes and walking canes. Women dress in full-length dresses with petticoats, small hoop skirts, hats from very fancy to simple. Our heroes, the Vigorios, wear military knit clothing, tunics with drawstring pants and boots—things they pick up at Military used supply stores in the cities. Michael is able to cast a glamour over them, so they appear to look like everyone else. Villagers’ dress is more simple; homespun or at least homemade clothing, rough and serviceable.


Although the Majikals originally lived all over the world, when the dragon-demons arrived it caused the Great Shuddering and most of the Majikals fled to an island at the opposite end of the world from Auriger. This island is located in Utgard, a chain of islands surrounding and enclosing a special sea called the Bluquor Sea. This is where the Sea Queen and her court of Merpeople live. On the island, called Caldelub, the Majikals have spread out and formed new settlements. With their majik combined in one location, it created a barrier around the island, preventing evil from entering. There are a few pockets around the world where Majikals manage to live, barely, but they refuse to leave; doing what they can to protect the land from the spreading evil.

Every world has a history, no matter how long or short the civilization’s life. It’s important that you, the author, know the history of every culture on your planet. But you don’t have to include it all in the story. Just knowing it will help when you tell the story because you’ll drop hints like cookie crumbs throughout the book and make the tale seem more real. Remember to make your history jibe with the physicality of your world.


Decide on what types of vehicles your world needs and provide travel routes for them. Be sure to keep your transportation consistent throughout the book.

I wanted the world to be primitive and dangerous. So, Narciss, the head demon, placed a limitation on movement by restricting development of roads, railroads, etc. All shipping by air freight, railroad or ships is done by demons. Humans cannot travel outside their Province. Within cities there are basic roads with Steampunked Hover Tricars for individuals and Skiibusses, huge egg-shaped, glass-enclosed mass transport that travels through the sky. But none of these leave the provinces. Otherwise, people ride bicycles, hover-scoots (scooter motorcycles without wheels), or walk.

Because the world is basically one giant landmass, shipping by sea is huge. There are several ports, but one major shipping port in Sinnuous with a rail system for spreading out the products to various cities. A lot of ocean means space for sea monsters, sea dragons. This provided a job for one of my characters. He is a Pistrologist; he studies the movement and habits of sea dragons for shipping companies.


The architecture varies by city. In Auriger, where the demons live and work, the city is sooty, dirty, run-down high-rises of apartment dwellings and offices. To go along with the Steampunk feel, lighting is provided by gaslight street lamps, and gas chandeliers or wall-mounted fixtures indoors. The further away from Auriger, the cities become more modern, clean, up-to-Earth standard, but still Steampunked. Self-sufficient villages, similar to Medieval times, are scattered everywhere.

There is a lot more I could share about Dracwald and its people, or you could read the book. If any of this intrigued you, then you won’t be disappointed. Odessa is the first of a five (maybe six) novel series called the Seraphym Wars. It is available as an eBook wherever eBooks are sold.

For more information about World Building, including spreadsheet examples and lists to help you remember what to include, visit my website at http://rryalsrussell.com.

Author of MG/YA Dark Fantasy among other things, Rebecca Ryals Russell has two series coming out: The Seraphym Wars Series for YA and Stardust Warriors for MG. She lives in a Victorian house on five acres in North Central Florida with her family. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log House on the property. It was in this cabin she wrote Odessa within 6 months, after thinking about it for 30 years, but never having the time to commit it to paper.

A fourth generation Floridian, she has lived all over the state except the Panhandle. The daughter of an Elementary school principal dad and school secretary mom, for fourteen years she taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. She had several students’ works published in anthologies as well as several of her own stories, poems and photographs.

Main interests include her four children, ages 22, 19, 16, 11 and Irish hubby of 35 years. She enjoys spending time writing, drawing, going to movies and reading. Her favorite pastimes are sitting on the wicker porch swing on a chilly Autumn evening with her husband and usually a kid or two, drinking a beer and eating mixed nuts while chatting about anything and everything, or discussing philosophy and religion with her 16-year-old son over pizza.


Myrna Ashlin Watts graduated from High School in Jacksonville, Fl just in time to find herself transported to a bizarre and primal planet corrupted by demon-dragons. And they want her DEAD. Her problem is she has been recruited to kill them, too.

18-year-old Myrna is drawn into the middle of an epic battle between Seraphym and Demons. An average High School student from Florida, struggling with inner demons resulting from a rape two years earlier, she wakes one morning on the Steampunk planet of Dracwald, home of the demon-dragons responsible for her brother’s recent murder as well as many other atrocities in the news. She meets Michael, who becomes her guide and explains that according to prophecy, Myrna must gather the remaining six Vigorios (teen warriors with special talents) then train with the Majikals on an enchanted island.

Reluctantly, and knowing it is her only way to get back home, she agrees to lead, battling dragons and monsters while crossing swamps and mountains, forests and seas. She wrangles with the old inner demons when three very different men join her quest—a seasoned demon/dragon-slayer who irritates but beguiles her, a tender and sweet mentor in whom she trusts completely and a roguishly handsome Scientist who sets her senses aflame. How is she expected to lead the others and keep everyone safe with so much inner turmoil?

Will love and lust, jealousy, greed, deceit and distrust break the delicate tie that binds these teen warriors called The Vigorios? Can a troupe of teens help the Seraphym finally defeat the massive empire of evil dominated for eons by the demon-dragons of Dracwald?


Margaret Fieland said...

Interesting post, and interesting that you started with geography, which is, I believe, a common place to start. However, I admit that I started with the culture and the relationships, ethics, literature, history, etc, all of which interest me far more than geography.

BarbaraB said...

I always feel as if I'm creating a world each time I write a story even though the world is not a faraway planet. Even so, it's important to keep in mind those things you are talking about. Thanks for the tips, R.

cleemckenzie said...

Wonderful ideas about world building. Glad you shared your love of geography also.