Thoughts on World-Building and my Writing Process

World-Building is quickly becoming my favorite aspect of creating High Fantasy writing. But, as this is my first time writing a novel, I’ve been winging it. There is hardly any method to my madness here.

When I began my story, I had a character and a basic plot. I started to create a world around it. As the world grew, the plot shifted and changed and grew. The character changed some and was filled out more. I added characters. I did more world-building. Things continued to change. Characters disappeared, others grew bigger. I started working on adding a magic system, and the plot just kinda went up in smoke as a result. So I decided I’d turn things around. I began focusing on the world-building first, plot second. I’ve had far more success this way.

At this point, in my mind, it makes more sense to build a world before building a plot. I want the world to make sense and I want the plot to fit the world. Achieving both goals, I expect, will aid in reader immersion. In an effort to achieve both simultaneously, I discarded all previous plot ideas, even putting aside all the characters I’ve created already. I effectively began anew.


 

To begin my world-building, I decided a few things. I wanted Humans for sure. I wanted other races too, but I didn’t know what other races to have. So I went to Pinterest.

Writing Tip: Let me tell you, Pinterest is a crazy useful tool as a writer. I began with searching for fantasy characters. I found some orcs. I began looking at orcs. I knew I wanted orcs in my novel and I had a brilliant idea for an orc culture based off of a few of the orc characters I found.

Okay. So I had Humans and Orcs. I began creating an Orc culture that was not the usual. I thought to myself: I see male orcs all the time. I don’t see female orcs often. So, I created a sect of orcs entirely comprised of Orc Warrior Women. They gave themselves a name (that will not yet be disclosed).

I also created an Orc chieftain who ruled over the majority of the Orcs (the warrior women live apart from the rest). I had a King. I took an old character, changed him a bit, and made him King over a human nation. I had two kings. I grabbed an old idea for a necrophage hivemind. They started threatening all the nearby kingdoms.

Suddenly I had a world event. I envisioned a council of kings coming together to take on the necrophage hivemind. Whether or not this would be part of the plot, I didn’t know.

At this point, because I’m crazy and have no clue what I’m doing, I went searching for cover art inspiration. I found some. The old work in progress name The Blood of Monsters changed to something new (that will also not yet be disclosed).

As a result of this cover art, I knew this council of kings would have five kings. I knew then that Elves were going to be a thing. Back to Pinterest. I created another King and a Prince. I had three kings. (where I am at, I still have three kings. I don’t know who the other two are yet)

Okay. I had a question. Why was this necrophage hivemind just now becoming a threat to the region? I found an answer. I created a lesser deity. I gave him a name. He needed a motive. So I made a greater deity.

I discovered a new question. If deities exist, what about magic? I decided yes, magic is real. So I pulled in a mysterious order of mages that I had created previously. They were mysterious once more. (I still need to finish the magic system)

I considered the lesser deity. I decided his motive would have further reaching consequences than the necrophage hivemind. So I created monsters. More monsters. I started building some world lore. Religion began to take shape. I then remembered I still had no plot, not even a main character. I despaired.

I dug through my old plot ideas. Picked up a few pieces. Banged off the broken bits. Glued a few good parts together. Inserted my old MC. I had successfully birthed a plot baby. I planted it in my world. It fit perfectly. It needs to grow now.

Now, I have a baby world and a baby plot. They fit together though. Mission accomplished. On to phase two. I need to water them. They will hopefully grow together in the ideal symbiotic relationship.


 

So…back to thoughts on world-building. I believe quality world-building is important. I think it is crucial, even, to a well-crafted story. When I read a book, I expect to be dragged into full immersion. If I don’t find a book an immersive experience, I generally don’t want to continue reading. So, if pairing world-building and plot together into a seamless entity is part of a strong immersive environment, what else can be done?

After reading the introduction to Jesper Schmidt‘s Fantasy Map Making (I’ll be writing a review of this book soon), I agreed with him that creating a map for your story is an excellent tool to achieve greater levels of immersion. Many people are visual learners. A visual map can help a reader avoid confusion by remembering which country borders which or what direction the ocean is in from a specific city because they saw a map. I know when I see a map in a book, the author is typically more invested in making certain I am immersed. I am more likely to read a fantasy or sci-fi book with a map than without a map. (read his book for more discussion maps and map making for your world)

I will say one more thing about maps though. One of Schmidt’s points is that a map can be useful for the writer too. It can help you keep things straight as you write. So, with this in mind, one of my next steps is going to be creating a map of my world. I am pretty excited about it.

Until next time.

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A (not actually) random poem I wrote.

I wrote a poem. It was kind of a spur of the moment decision working off of five seconds of inspiration. Well, more like one word of inspiration. A word that doesn’t exist, but fits the emotion I’m feeling. You’ll see it in action momentarily. Most likely you don’t need an explanation, but for the poem’s impact (that I hope actually exists) I want to make sure it is understood. So let me explain it with a math problem.

Comfort + Confusion = Comfusion

aka…

tenor

Depression, But Weird.

The wait of loneliness

blankets me with the weight

of comfusion.

I pull it closer, ironically;

its warmth hiding me from the

aliens I call friends.

They call me out, but I refuse

to come

and confess: these lies I believe,

I hate…

…and love them

at the same time.

Why admit I’m wrong?

-JP Tomcik

 

Update: After thinking on this poem for a few days, I am considering getting rid of “comfusion” and changing it simply to “confusion”. I think it will serve the poem better. Thoughts?

Expanding My Platform

Greetings, my readers. Writing fiction is not my only pursuit of love. I also love theology and philosophy. I enjoy blogging and interacting with others over ideas. So, I have launched a second blog titled other side of the wardrobe (Narnia reference, woohoo!). This second blog will be focused on my thoughts and learnings in theology and philosophy. If you have any curiosity in those realms, or have questions or topics you’d like engaged, pop on over (link is up there ^^^) and leave a comment on my introductory post!

Book Review: The Blood Race (K.A. Emmons) [Spoiler-Free]

Kicking off a brand new category of posts for this blog is my review of The Blood Race by K.A. Emmons! Each post in this category will have a similarly formatted title. Let’s dig in, shall we?

I’ve never done an official review, to my knowledge, so I am most likely going to try out a couple different formats in my first few.

Once again, if you didn’t catch it, I will be avoiding spoilers.

Cons:

  • The name Ion. I like the name, I definitely do, but the whole book I was wondering if it was pronounced ee-in or eye-on.
  • Space between every paragraph. I am not sure if this was intended, or if this is currently a style, or an easy-to-read kind of format, but I can’t recall seeing it before.

Well, that was pretty nitpicky, but those did bug me a little.

Pros:

  • Rotating Third Person Limited Point of View. I really, really enjoy this point of view. A lot. Not only do I love it so much, but it really fits this story extremely well. Props, Emmons, props.
  • Good Pacing. Good pacing is important. Good pacing means that I was never tempted to skip ahead. If I skip ahead, the pacing needs work. I did not do so while reading this book.
  • Quality Character Growth. Every character in here had some development. The important characters especially grew and were exciting to follow. If you have read Emma by Jane Austen…this was infinitely greater. Emma kinda sucked, and mainly because the character growth was severely and fatally limited.
  • Relatability. It must be understood that when you are dealing with such things as powers, you lose some relatability. Tis the nature of the beast. We humans don’t have powers. But, I don’t count that against the story. In such context, the characters were pretty relatable in my opinion. Not everyone relates to characters in the same way, so some people will probably disagree, but I related plenty.
  • World-building. Far from overdone, far from underdone, Emmons strikes a solid balance in her world-building.
  • Conflict. The conflict maintains interest thoroughly, growing and changing and keeping things interesting the whole way through.

I could continue, but that should be sufficient.

Conclusion: The Blood Race is an excellent novel that I highly recommend! Please find a copy and give it a read! If you read my post How I Discriminate Between Books (aka: mental shelving strategies), it falls under the category of “Ok!” (stated in an impressed tone) with the possibility of making it into “Dang, son” someday. Being in the category of “Ok!” equates to a four, sometimes five stars. In this case, five.

Our Corner of the Twittersphere (an ADHD poem in honor of my (now 500+) Twitter followers–Thank you)

If you find us, we don’t bite…hard.

Unless you’re a cookie, then we might.

Sugar is a blessing in our line of work

Fuel for the flame of fickle inspiration

we wish we always had.

And coffee.

Coffee goes well with cookies. So join us!

Give us a follow, and ride the coaster

of emotion. but be prepared for sudden stops.

and starts.

And confusion–which will abound.

We love to play. with words especially!

We ask questions, you know? as writers.

Lost yet? yeah. me too.

Coffee. It helps with the confusion. Usually.

But when it doesn’t…that’s when you hide.

We have a dark side. Be warned.

No, we’re not psychos…yet. Nor killers. Well. not all of us.

But if you’re a friend, you won’t meet an untimely end.

Like this poem should.

We don’t bite. Unless you’re a cookie. Join us. We have cookies…

I’m hungry.

 

–JP Tomcik

How I Discriminate Between Books (aka: mental shelving strategies)

I have an extremely unofficial discrimination strategy for books involving shelf titles that are rather ambiguous as to what they exactly mean. I have never actually broken it down, so I decided it was high time I did. Even though this will most likely be useful mostly to myself, I figured I would share it here too.

I will begin in the middle, work downward, then return to the middle and work upward (mainly because I have thought more about my more negative categories than positive and am buying time).

Negative Categories (going down):

1. “Meh”

Meh is, as an adjective, uninspiring or unexceptional. These would be books that I enjoyed the first read through, but would not go in for seconds. Notable residents: Harry Potter (series), Divergent (series), Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2)

2. “Ugh”

Ugh is, in my mind, indicative of minor disgust. Books in this category are those that I began reading, did not want to finish, but, because I had begun, decided I might as well finish. Notable residents: Hunger Games (series)

3. “Trash” (or “Rubbish” spoken in a contrived British accent)

Trash/Rubbish is probably self-explanatory, but it is viewed as a waste, as of little to no worth: Minor revulsion. These are the books that I began but could not finish due to their low quality. Notable residents: Throne of Glass (book)

4. Special Category: “Burn It”

Burn It is reserved for those books that I read in their entirety but ended up hating. As such, these generally are found in “Ugh” but are not all of those in “Ugh”. This category is also reserved only for individual books, not series. Also, please know that I in no way actually truly support the burning of books (unless necessary for survival in a situation where you need to make a fire and books are all you have), this category is merely indicative of the passion with which I regard its residents. Notable residents: Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3)

Positive Categories (going up):

4. “Hmm”

Hmm is, by itself, indicative of minor interest. Generally, in a conversation, it is indicative of thought. This category is for books that I read once, sometimes twice, that make me pause for a little thought. Notable residents: Divergent (series), Hunger Games (Hunger Games #1), Insurgent (Divergent #2)

3. “Ok” (stated in an impressed tone)

Ok, here, as an impressed statement, is basically equivalent to “I hear you”. It is an expression of catching the wavelength of the author, of feeling their vibe. These are the books that I definitely will read a second time. I rather enjoyed these. Notable residents: Divergent (Divergent #1)

2. “Dang, Son”

Dang, Son is an exclamation of being solidly impressed. These are the books I will read again every once in a while and will contribute to who I am. Usually, I read these every couple of years. Notable residents: Lord of the Rings (series), Fahrenheit 451

1. Special Category: “Mind-Blown”

Mind-Blown is reserved for those books that blow me away. These are books that I cannot stop thinking about, books that have changed who I am in a big way. These books I read quite often. These are books that I will probably read over 100 times in my life. Notable residents: Narnia (series), The Fellowship of the Ring (LotR #1), The Hobbit

 

Note: Where books get placed on these shelves is subject to change. No opinion I hold is set in stone.

 

Cheers to 400+ Twitter Followers!

I absolutely love the Twitter writing community. So many supportive fellow creatives make writing even more fun! To show my appreciation for all the love, I like sharing bits and pieces of my writings! So, for the 400 mark, please enjoy a scene from the current first chapter of my primary work in progress…

An excerpt from “The Blood of Monsters” chapter one: “I’m Gonna Need a Drink for This”…

“You with the City Guard?”

Rose Telfric swirled her drink lightly.

“I mean, I can see from your gear that you are; but, I’m wondering what an officer of the Guard is doing in a tavern in the middle of the day.”

Silence.

“Look, Sergeant. I don’t mean to be rude. I volunteered to go fight the ‘phages, and I’m just tryin’ to enjoy civilization a little before I’m sloggin’ my way through the Barrens.”

Rose heaved an exasperated sigh.

“It’s okay. I’ll be fighting the Necrophages along with you.”

The curly-haired stranger shifted so that he was facing her.

“So…you’re not exactly happy about that, I take it.”

“No. I’m not. On top of that, I will be the highest ranking officer of the detachment joining the cause. I have to pick out each of my men. I’ll practically be handing them a death sentence. None of these men have seen any sort of action other than breaking up bar fights at worst.”

The man was silent for a moment and turned back toward the bar. His voice was much more somber when he spoke again.

“My name is Ambrose, by the way. Ambrose Gadflin. I think I understand why you’re nursing a beer in a tavern rather than out on patrol.”

“Barkeep! Give me what she’s havin’!” he leaned over and said to her, “I’ll not let you drink alone with such a weight on your shoulders. What sort of gentleman would I be if I did?”

His gesture did not go unnoticed, and some of the tension faded from Rose’s shoulders. She was grateful for the company.

I’m excited about two things mentioned here. Ambrose Gadflin and Necrophages. Both are new to my work as of this week. I don’t know a whole ton about either, but ideas are flying and I can’t wait to see what comes from this. Rose’s story is gonna get a lot darker before things even have a chance to look up. Hopefully, for her sake, this Ambrose guy will be a good fellow to have by her side. But who knows? Staring death in the face can make many a man do things he never thought he would.

Stay tuned.