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Building a Fantasy World - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Building a Fantasy World
zeemverse and I have been discussing fantasy worldbuilding.  Both of us tend to "build" worlds by discovery, writing about them as a means of exploration.  However, I also happen to enjoy worldbuilding for the sheer fun of designing a foreign place.  When I'm doing that kind of worldbuilding, it goes something like this...

1) Think of something(s) cool.  Your fantasy world needs distinctive features that tell the readers what world they are in, and give you something unique and interesting to write about.  Otherwise you'll just wind up with McFantasyLand.  By putting this FIRST, you increase the chance of creating a truly memorable world and make it possible to weave its uniquities throughout instead of grafting them on as afterthoughts.  (You can also build from the very basics up, but then you have to work harder to extrapolate interesting details out of the terrain and lifeforms: easier in science fiction.)
... * Then ask: "Why is this cool thing here in this fantasy setting?  How did it develop?  Why is it like this instead of some other way?"  That's your foundation.  If it's not solid, it will rock underfoot and your readers will leap off.
... * Also ask: "What is this for?  What does it do in a fantasy world?"  This is the functional purpose that moves your cool thing in a plotward direction.  You can take all kinds of mundane stuff in our world and imagine a way to give it mystical properties through its inherent nature.  That should give you a good idea what it will do and why and how.

If you want a purple rhinoceros, you can have one: but it needs a reason for being  purple, and it needs to matter  once it exists.  Maybe your dragons can only see wavelengths from red through green, and the a lot of the megafauna is now blue or purple.  But then a mutation occurs...

2) Think of some ground rules, your world's version of natural laws.  They don't have to be the same as our world's laws, but they should be internally consistent.  Fantasy isn't a "get out of sense free" card.
... * Ask yourself: "Why is this law like this?"  Frex, it might have been established by a deity as an experiment, a bet, or a piece of art.  It might have evolved naturally and still be evolving.
... * Ask yourself: "What effects will this law have?"  A world's parameters shape its geology, its flora and fauna, and its sentient culture(s) if any.  These are pretty good ways to make your world not only unique and interesting, but full of inspiring problems that are fun to watch from a safe distance.

Suppose magic makes everything buoyant.  Gravity becomes optional; all magical creatures such as dragons, unicorns, etc. can fly whether or not they are aerodynamic.  But you decide that evolution also applies, so over time creatures are getting more magical and more buoyant ... and maybe after a while they have a hard time staying on the ground even if they want to.  That might be a problem.  Particularly if your purple rhinoceri have magic.

3) Flesh out the general features of the world, or at least the part(s) you plan to use.  Fill in details like continents, mountains, oceans, trees, animals, major crops, civilizations, towns, religions, etc.
... * Ask yourself: "How did these things come about?  Did they develop naturally or were they planned?  Who controls them?"
... * Ask yourself: "How does this setting influence the characters who live here?  What are their lives like?"

If the purple rhinoceri migrate seasonally, spring and autumn fashions may include large bell-shaped umbrellas.  Since these make it harder to identify people carrying them, the crime rate spikes, and you don't really want to lift your umbrella to see the perpetrator because there might be a rhinoceros overhead.

4) Throw in some complications.  Every world and culture have parts that suck.  These will give you more plot ideas.  To keep yourself interested, it's okay to feature some social, moral, or other issues that you care about.  Just remember to plant them under the story, not on top of it, to keep your readers interested.
... * Ask yourself: "Who is hated?  Who is mocked?  Who is ignored?  Who got wiped out?  Who has wealth/power and who doesn't?"
... * Ask yourself: "How does that affect people's lives?  Are they mostly content with the status quo?  Are they considering a riot?  Is the society just one staggering riot after another?"

Meanwhile, some people have decided to make a living by hunting the flying purple rhinoceri for their meat, colorful armored hide, and magically powerful toenails.  The dragon herders, however, are having a hard time keeping the population of dragons stable, which means the supply of gold from dragon eggshells is getting erratic, which is a threat to the economy.  And those two groups of people hate each other, so when the mutant purple-viewing dragon stoops on the rhinoceros herd and the rhinoceros hunters start shooting at it, much cultural mayhem will ensue.

Here are some good resources for fantasy worldbuilding, especially the fleshing out part:
"Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions"
"Fantasy Worldbuilding"
"World Design"
"Worldbuilding Resources"

If you're not sure where to get ideas for cool stuff, I recommend mythology, history, the news, and interpersonal drama.  Pick an idea and transpose it into a fantasy context, then develop its magical aspects.  Frex, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon took the idea of "boyfriend turns into a jerk after having sex" and gave us a scene where the vampire boyfriend loses his soul and actually turns demonic and evil.  Here are some resources:
Best of History Websites
Bizarre News
Encyclopedia Mythica
Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts
Popular Interpersonal Drama Books
Psychological Problems and Disorders
Science News
Top 10 Lists
Weird History

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21 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
reileen From: reileen Date: July 9th, 2010 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, thanks for this! I have an origverse science fantasy world that I've been having problems figuring out. I'm pretty good when it comes to helping other people on their writing, but apparently hopeless when it comes to my own!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 9th, 2010 06:37 am (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

I'm glad it helped.

Science fantasy has its own special challenges, because you have to balance two things that don't necessarily get along well. Or you have to bang them together and hope the sparks fly in the direction you wanted ... instead of setting your shirt on fire. You need to keep one eye on the technology and one on the mysticality, which might be in the same place or not. You need to make sure the flora and fauna aren't all one style or the other. Science fantasy critters are likely to be more flexible than hard science ones, but more realistic than fantasy ones. But there's a certain flavor of gee-whiz that just doesn't come anywhere else, like a starship that doesn't have an engine because it's pulled by dragons swimming through the layers of space.

Science fiction is like working with an erector set. Fantasy is like sculpting clay. Science fantasy is using the erector set to build armature, the clay to sculpt something awesome on top ... and then glazing and firing it.

Anyhow, feel free to bounce ideas around here if you think it might help you shake things loose. Sometimes it really is easier to fix other people's writing than your own.
reileen From: reileen Date: July 9th, 2010 11:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: You're welcome!

Well, the reason I refer to Seera Kai (the aforementioned origverse) as "science fantasy" is mainly because there's a strong mystical element to it, but I'm tired of the medieval-like settings of most traditional fantasies, and I also don't feel like setting it in our modern world. Hence, the most advanced parts of Seera Kai are pretty futuristic/sci-fi-ish. It's a world where there's magic, and where there's tech that's advanced enough that I can handwave it like magic.

The mystical element comes in because there are different races of daemons (not set on this as a term; I'm using it because the origverse was initially and marginally a fanonverse for something else) that exist in Seera Kai. As a result of a backstory that's a bit convoluted and also not completely untangled at the moment, while there's a sizable amount of people around Seera Kai who have daemonic heritage, the powers that come with it are so diluted that most can't make use of those powers, so they're pretty much functionally "normal humans."

The two protagonists of my main story set in this world are exceptions to this rule. Kira's a "hybrid", which means that she's got enough daemonic blood that she can actually shapeshift into the form of her daemonic ancestors (in her case, a sphinx), in addition to being able to utilize certain other powers (enhanced strength and speed, and maybe others) while in her human form. Luke doesn't possess anywhere near as much daemon blood to be able to shapeshift into the true form of his incubic ancestors, but he can utilize a muted form of their power of persuasion, which is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin. With some magickal and techy help, he can actually kill a person by entering their dreams and draining their life force viz dreamsexx0rz. Not that he likes doing it, but his overbearing and ambitious father put him up for the task for a number of years prior to the start of story time.

I have a number of problems with the world of Seera Kai as-is, but my main ones are:

1) how many different races of daemons there are
2) where they settled on Seera Kai and why
3) what happened to the original daemons
4) ???
5) profit?

I guess I could handwave some of the history as people still not being able to separate out facts from fiction, but it'd be nice if I-as-the-author knew, y'know?

I'll leave the comment here for now since I don't want to overly spam the comment space here unless you're interested.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: You're welcome!

>>Well, the reason I refer to Seera Kai (the aforementioned origverse) as "science fantasy" is mainly because there's a strong mystical element to it, but I'm tired of the medieval-like settings of most traditional fantasies, and I also don't feel like setting it in our modern world.<<

Okay, cool. One thing you can do to determine the structure, then, is look at the "Do Not Want" and ask: What specifically are you tired of in medievalesque fantasy and our modern world? What would be different from that? Frex, the vast majority of fantasies have feudal governments. Step outside that and you're immediately in less-traveled fantasy terrain. Pick one or some:
http://phrontistery.info/govern.html
Modern society is individualistic; you might throw in a culture with a strong family or other group connection.

>>Hence, the most advanced parts of Seera Kai are pretty futuristic/sci-fi-ish. It's a world where there's magic, and where there's tech that's advanced enough that I can handwave it like magic.<<

Ideally, balance the small and large scale sense-of-wonder presentations. Some of those should affect the plot, so that both super-science and magic are Important. But you should also have, oh, bonsai dryads and dancing robotic jewelry -- something unique, frivolous, and charming to amuse your readers and make them envious of your characters for getting to live in such a neato place.

>>The mystical element comes in because there are different races of daemons (not set on this as a term; I'm using it because the origverse was initially and marginally a fanonverse for something else) that exist in Seera Kai.<<

That sounds fun. Synonyms for daemon: eidolon (spirit of an ideal), manes (deified dead souls), numen (a creative spirit), phantasma (an apparition). You could tweak the spelling, which is daffy if you don't know what you're doing but awesome if you like to fool with etymology. Frex, you could say "diamon" and secretly connection every such character with a "twin" (di- meaning 2).

>>there's a sizable amount of people around Seera Kai who have daemonic heritage, the powers that come with it are so diluted that most can't make use of those powers, so they're pretty much functionally "normal humans."<<

I highly recommend that you take a tour of genetics. Horse genetics and cat genetics both have some fascinating stunts and are often written in articles that make sense to a reasonably well-read person. You can have all kinds of fun complicating your characters' lives with sequential recessives and such.

>>Kira's a "hybrid", which means that she's got enough daemonic blood that she can actually shapeshift into the form of her daemonic ancestors (in her case, a sphinx), <<

I'm loving the sphinx. You might consider mining non-European mythology for additional forms; or look into Dante and some other classic renditions of Hell's denizens, which get pretty freakish.

>>Luke doesn't possess anywhere near as much daemon blood to be able to shapeshift into the true form of his incubic ancestors, but he can utilize a muted form of their power of persuasion, which is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin. With some magickal and techy help, he can actually kill a person by entering their dreams and draining their life force viz dreamsexx0rz.<<

That's an interesting place to start. I'd look for a twist, since incubi are among the more popular demons to write. Maybe he enjoys feeding by surfing cyberspace for pr0n, where he can scoop energy without risking more than the occasional crash; or maybe he can turn off desire as well as rousing it.

Also, once you dump a lot of miscellaneous genes into the pool and stir generously for a couple generations, you'll get a great many combinations that aren't pure throwbacks but rather combinations. So, incubus/forest guardian or sphinx/civic demon are possibilities. Then there's good old hybrid virility: most of the time you'll get dilutions, but some fraction of a percent will be stronger than the original. You might save that for a truly terrifying villain.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: You're welcome!

>> I have a number of problems with the world of Seera Kai as-is, but my main ones are:<<

Okay, your best bet here is probably to derive from what you know. That is, you already have some awesome stuff going on, so figure out what will "serve the setting" as defined in those particulars.

>> 1) how many different races of daemons there are <<

Do you want to tell a story about chaos or order, diversity or unity? The more types of daemons there are, the more flexibility you have, the more diverse your setting will be ... wilder, weirder, more alien. But it will be harder to keep a handle on and hold your focus. The fewer there are, the more cohesion; but they'll be more predictable, more inclined to form a hierarchy, and more familiar to readers. If you want a compromise, pick a small handful of famous common daemon types and a larger scattering of obscure ones.

>> 2) where they settled on Seera Kai and why <<

What is your core theme here? What kind of story are you telling, issues are you exploring, messages sending to readers? Is this world about love, honor, chaos and order, salvation and destruction, freedom ...? Pick your most important theme and make that part of the reason where and why the daemons came to Seera Kai.

>> 3) what happened to the original daemons <<

See above re: themes. Pick a different core theme, preferably one that is in conflict with what you used for the settlement issue, and use that to bump off most or all of the originals. Is this world about absolutes? Kill or banish them all and don't let them come back. Is it about gray areas? Kill or banish most, which come back. Is it about mystery? They're all off the board, for now, but theories conflict and people are uneasily suspecting they might come back. Truth behind that is, multiple causes removed them, so some may return while others could not. You get the idea. Use your setting's background to leverage its message. Think of this as stringing a compound bow: kind of a pain to rig up, but once that's done it takes up a lot of the weight for you.

>> I guess I could handwave some of the history as people still not being able to separate out facts from fiction, but it'd be nice if I-as-the-author knew, y'know? <<

Yes. The more you know, the more you can use in the stories. If you're fumbling around blind, the readers will sense that and be unsatisfied. Clarify what you can from where you are, then circle out from there. It often helps to write a few short pieces -- once you're writing, details often refine themselves. Sometimes characters won't tell you stuff until you ask, or ask the right way.

>> I'll leave the comment here for now since I don't want to overly spam the comment space here unless you're interested. <<

I'm rather fascinated, actually. Feel free to continue, and I'll keep up if I can.
reileen From: reileen Date: July 10th, 2010 05:14 am (UTC) (Link)

two-part comment 'cause it's getting hella long

One thing you can do to determine the structure, then, is look at the "Do Not Want" and ask: What specifically are you tired of in medievalesque fantasy and our modern world? What would be different from that?

That's a good question. I've been thinking of sitting down and writing/typing out things that I personally like reading in stories, so that I can try to incorporate them more consciously into my writing (or, conversely, challenge myself with something I usually don't like and try to make it so that I would read it).

Also, I checked out that link you sent me, and I am snerking at the idea of a strumpetocracy, and also kind of going "hmm" at it, because it might actually fit pretty well with Seera Kai. It would be entirely plausible that, early on for the incubic/succubic (I need a better all-inclusive term for these folk) race's time in Seera Kai, they established at least one state that could more or less be described as a "strumpetocracy".

Ideally, balance the small and large scale sense-of-wonder presentations. Some of those should affect the plot, so that both super-science and magic are Important. But you should also have, oh, bonsai dryads and dancing robotic jewelry -- something unique, frivolous, and charming to amuse your readers and make them envious of your characters for getting to live in such a neato place.

Ooh, another good thing to think about. That would tie into me making a list of things that I personally like seeing in stories. (Although I have to admit I'd kind of feel sorry for bonsai dryads!)

Synonyms for daemon: eidolon (spirit of an ideal), manes (deified dead souls), numen (a creative spirit), phantasma (an apparition). You could tweak the spelling, which is daffy if you don't know what you're doing but awesome if you like to fool with etymology. Frex, you could say "diamon" and secretly connection every such character with a "twin" (di- meaning 2).

Hah, the "diamon" thing makes me think of the modded Norse mythology in the animanga series Oh My Goddess - part of the reason that there's not an outright war between Heaven and Hell is because, at a young age, goddesses and demons are bonded together as a "doublet" so that if one of them dies, they both die. After the binding is performed, the memories of those involved are wiped so that they have no idea who it is they're bonded with. Thus, you have to be careful not to kill the goddess/demon you're fighting with, because she (the mythological powerhouses in this series are overwhelmingly female) might be the other half of your doublet bond. But I digress.

Originally I went with "daemon" because it seemed like a ttly kewl mispelling of "demon", but then I found out that it could refer to either good spirits or bad spirits, and I liked that ambiguity. It'd be interesting if it weren't clear whether the daemons of Seera Kai were inherently benevolent or malevolent.

I highly recommend that you take a tour of genetics. Horse genetics and cat genetics both have some fascinating stunts and are often written in articles that make sense to a reasonably well-read person. You can have all kinds of fun complicating your characters' lives with sequential recessives and such.

Oh, thank you so much for this heads up! I knew I'd have to do research into genetics but I wasn't sure where to start with it.

I'm loving the sphinx. You might consider mining non-European mythology for additional forms

Yep; I've already compiled a list off Wikipedia of various mythological creatures and beings that don't normally show up in fiction. This goes back to my initial question of "which races should show up and why?" I'd definitely like for most of my daemonic races to be creatures that people don't usually write about, but I'd like to have some measure of logic for it, even if my characters can't agree on what that logic is.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 06:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: two-part comment 'cause it's getting hella long

>> I've been thinking of sitting down and writing/typing out things that I personally like reading in stories, so that I can try to incorporate them more consciously into my writing (or, conversely, challenge myself with something I usually don't like and try to make it so that I would read it).<<

Both of those are good ideas. One thing I enjoy doing is paired stories that point in opposite directions, to discourage readers from thinking that everything I write is necessarily a reflection of my own worldview. So for instance, I have a pair of unplanned-pregnancy stories, although only the pro-life one has been published thus far.

>>Also, I checked out that link you sent me, and I am snerking at the idea of a strumpetocracy, and also kind of going "hmm" at it, because it might actually fit pretty well with Seera Kai. It would be entirely plausible that, early on for the incubic/succubic (I need a better all-inclusive term for these folk) race's time in Seera Kai, they established at least one state that could more or less be described as a "strumpetocracy".<<

Bear in mind that modern America really looks down on sex, while using it to sell everything. Not all cultures are so messed up. Think of Japanese geishas, Greek hetaerae, or the Registered Companions in Firefly -- all highly respected and sophisticated. All of those had excellent political awareness. There is a tendency to oversimplify the leccubi (that is, sex daemons of all varieties) into lust alone. But they're really about all types of passion and desire; in some cultures, there are things like the leannan sidhe that combine aspects of muse, succubus, and vampire. Think outside the ... box.

>>(Although I have to admit I'd kind of feel sorry for bonsai dryads!)<<

They make more sense from a Shinto perspective.

>>Originally I went with "daemon" because it seemed like a ttly kewl mispelling of "demon", but then I found out that it could refer to either good spirits or bad spirits, and I liked that ambiguity. It'd be interesting if it weren't clear whether the daemons of Seera Kai were inherently benevolent or malevolent.<<

That's an excellent idea. Purity of any kind is extremely rare. Most traits have a spectrum where the sane range is in the middle. Being a skinflink or a spendthrift is not so good; a moderate relationship to money is healthier than either extreme. Then there are traits where the asset and the liability are part of the exact same thing: if you have very sensitive hearing, you'll know when you've left the computer on because you can hear it across the house, but an ambulance siren will give you a headache.

Daemons are often manifestations of archetypes, themes, ideals, etc. So it's natural that they would have both the positive and negative aspects of their force. A solar daemon would be warm and cheerful when happy, but fierce when angry.

>>Oh, thank you so much for this heads up! I knew I'd have to do research into genetics but I wasn't sure where to start with it.<<

No problem, I've been exploring this stuff since I was little. Here are some good online resources:
http://www.horsecolor.com/
http://www.ultimatehorsesite.com/colors/index.html
http://www.theequinest.com/colors/
http://ib.berkeley.edu/courses/ib162/Week3a.htm
http://www.hdw-inc.com/genetics.htm
http://www.tenset.co.uk/catgen/indexus.html
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: two-part comment 'cause it's getting hella long


In your setting, you could take an "easy" way out and secretly map the daemon types and/or traits to either a horse or a cat set of genetics. That is, jot down something like "archdevil = black", "leccubus = chestnut", etc. Then you can just run the projections and translate them. (This would also assist you in determining a number of the daemon types.) Add "human" as your choice of dominant or recessive.

A more challenging and realistic approach would be to use the above resources merely as inspiration on how complex genetics can interact. Bear in mind that nobody, not even breeders, knows ALL the quirks of genetics. Consider the mysterious appaloosa patterns:
http://www.mustangs4us.com/Horse%20Colors/appaloosa.htm
With this approach, you'd take your base list of daemon types and jot down which ones are dominant/recessive and what the modifiers are. Then throw in something that is just not fully understood, to give yourself some wiggle room and allow for the vagaries of fate. But if you base the core genetics on something real, it will show through.

>>Yep; I've already compiled a list off Wikipedia of various mythological creatures and beings that don't normally show up in fiction. This goes back to my initial question of "which races should show up and why?"<<

Good plan.

>> I'd definitely like for most of my daemonic races to be creatures that people don't usually write about, but I'd like to have some measure of logic for it, even if my characters can't agree on what that logic is.<<

Look for a unifying base set, then. Frex, it might be that they're "obscure" types because they were driven out or chose to leave the vicinity of Earth. Or you could pick odd creatures you like, and derive their daemonic traits from traditional associations -- sphinxes are thought to be mysterious, so might have powers relating to truth/falsehood, illusion, akashic knowledge, etc. in addition to broad powers like speed/strength that most daemons would have. Another option would be to pick a set of concepts -- like the 7 Deadly Sins or the Eightfold Path, or even one each of positive and negative -- and create a daemon for each of the points.

That reminds me, there are two ways a gene can express: On/Off or More/Less. On/Off genes don't stack. They are either present or absent; some are absolutes that can't even be modified by anything else because they're hyperdominant (i.e. some versions of black or white coat color). More/Less genes interact with other genes a lot more. Size is usually in this category; breed a large and a small critter together, and the offspring are likely to be medium. With daemon powers, the core abilities (like shapeshifting) are likely to be On/Off while the widespread ones like supernatural strength are likely to be More/Less. But within each type, there will be a handful of powers that are characteristic of that daemon's sphere of influence; some of those will probably be More/Less (and thus fairly well known, especially in weak versions) while others will be On/Off (and thus rare, but when they do appear they'll be at full strength).
reileen From: reileen Date: July 10th, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: two-part comment 'cause it's getting hella long

Another option would be to pick a set of concepts -- like the 7 Deadly Sins or the Eightfold Path, or even one each of positive and negative -- and create a daemon for each of the points.

I was initially trying to map the daemonic races to the 7 Deadly Sins, but didn't get much farther than lust = leccubi and pride = sphinxes. It would be interesting to use a non-Western concept like the Eightfold Path or something, though.

Thanks again for the extra pointers on what to do about the genetics. It still seems very daunting to tackle it, but I definitely want to try to make this work.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: two-part comment 'cause it's getting hella long

>>I was initially trying to map the daemonic races to the 7 Deadly Sins, but didn't get much farther than lust = leccubi and pride = sphinxes. <<

You might try looking over descriptions of demons and their correspondences. Unfortunately the tightest are one-to-one, like patron saints more than classes. But there are some classes. Shedu are storm-demons. Djinni are fire. Se'irim are animalistic. Mazikin are violent. Nephilim are hybrids between demons and humans. And so forth.
http://www.djmcadam.com/demons.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon

>>It would be interesting to use a non-Western concept like the Eightfold Path or something, though.<<

That would certainly give the setting a different flavor.
reileen From: reileen Date: July 10th, 2010 05:14 am (UTC) (Link)

second part

I'd look for a twist, since incubi are among the more popular demons to write. Maybe he enjoys feeding by surfing cyberspace for pr0n, where he can scoop energy without risking more than the occasional crash; or maybe he can turn off desire as well as rousing it.

Hmm, I'd considered the possibility that incubi/succubi require lustful energy, but I hypothesized that Luke himself wouldn't require it because he doesn't have as much daemonic heritage as Kira does. I like the idea of him being able to turn desire off, though.

Then there's good old hybrid virility: most of the time you'll get dilutions, but some fraction of a percent will be stronger than the original. You might save that for a truly terrifying villain.

Another interesting possibility! The crux of this particular story that I'm talking about seems to be primarily character-based at the moment (in a nutshell: Kira and Luke are BFFs. Kira is looking for the person who killed her mother many years ago. Luke is that person. Neither of them know this at the start of the story.), but I've been wanting to incorporate some sort of external plot that would tie into the character-based storyline between Kira and Luke.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: second part

>> Hmm, I'd considered the possibility that incubi/succubi require lustful energy, but I hypothesized that Luke himself wouldn't require it because he doesn't have as much daemonic heritage as Kira does. I like the idea of him being able to turn desire off, though. <<

Yes, you need to consider how the daemons sustain themselves and their powers. Do they get all their energy from food? It'll run up their metabolism. Do they get it from the environment? They'll be at an advantage in compatible places and screwed in incompatible ones. Do they get it from humans? That can be fun, or fatal, depending on the amount. The more power a person has and can use, the higher the demand on their body system; that energy has to come from somewhere. TANSTAFL. But it does mean that people on the lower end of the power scale can get an edge for very little cost. Look at With a Single Spell or Another Fine Myth to see what a smart hero can do with a very minimal bit of magic.

>>The crux of this particular story that I'm talking about seems to be primarily character-based at the moment (in a nutshell: Kira and Luke are BFFs.<<

Okay, then the most important stuff to define in detail is what affects them personally, or other people who will interact with their storyline.

>>Kira is looking for the person who killed her mother many years ago. Luke is that person. Neither of them know this at the start of the story.),<<

0_o Yee, that's going to take some explaining, if Luke is to remain a sympathetic character.

>>but I've been wanting to incorporate some sort of external plot that would tie into the character-based storyline between Kira and Luke.<<

A good bet would be a sideswipe from a major external plotline involving the daemon races. With a primary relationship story, you don't want that big plot punching through the middle of it. But you can have somebody else's pursuit of that plotline brush uncomfortably alongside theirs, complicating their efforts to resolve their own problems by dragging in outside shit they do not want to have to deal with. This is particularly handy since one is a hybrid and the other not even that -- the people most concerned with this would be the purebred humans and those daemons with very strong powers.

So I'd say look back to the reason for the daemons being here, and what ever happened to the originals. If they were driven out, the drivers may be bothering them here (or people are just worried about that happening). If they left on their own, maybe a new wave has arrived. (You could seriously tackle the immigrant issue there: unwanted interlopers bedraggled from their own challenges, but with pure powers rarely seen here.) Some of the originals might not be permanently dead or lost, but could return. Any of that is beside the point for the protagonists, but the rumbles would shake up their lives as much as you wish.
reileen From: reileen Date: July 10th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: second part

Thank you very much for the genetics links in your other comment, as well as the term "leccubi". I'd never heard it before - where's it from?

A good bet would be a sideswipe from a major external plotline involving the daemon races. [ . . . ]

This is essentially what I have at the moment. The external plot comes heavily from Luke's side of the story, where he's running away from his overbearing, ambitious, overbearing father, who runs/owns a huge pharmaceutical company and is using the funds from it to finance his own projects involving trying to revive the dying daemonic powers of his leccubic line (a project disguised as having some sort of medical purpose). Remember I mentioned that Luke can kill using his powers, if he's got some magickal/techy help? Yeah, his dad forcibly drafted him for that, initially for reasons that didn't seem clear to me (why wouldn't his dad just do it himself?), but in talking about genetics, it seems possible that dear ol' dad might not be able to do what Luke can do, as a result of a fluke of genetics. (Which then brings up the question of why Luke would be told to kill Kira's mother, and how he wouldn't know that it was her mother when he meets Kira years later...)

So I'd say look back to the reason for the daemons being here, and what ever happened to the originals.

Current thinking is that practically all of the originals were either killed or sealed away back to a dimension known as jinxspace, thanks to the efforts of sorcerers who aren't themselves necessarily of daemonic heritage, but can control the miasma for spells of varying purposes. Their strength depends on a number of factors: their daemonic lineage (if they have any - though I think that at this point in Seeran history, practically everyone has some sort of daemonic heritage, though they might not know it, or it wouldn't mean much to them), their training, any help they might have, whether they're in a place that has a particularly high miasmic concentration. I'm not set on this scenario, however.

(I know "miasma" technically refers to poisonous gases, but it's the term I came up with while I was working with this story for NaNoWriMo a few years ago, and I haven't come up with anything better. It refers to the ambient power that runs through Seera Kai. It can be harnessed either for magickal purpses, as just mentioned, or as a power source for technology.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: second part

>>Thank you very much for the genetics links in your other comment, as well as the term "leccubi". I'd never heard it before - where's it from?<<

The only hits I'm getting are from Holly Lisle's Sympathy for the Devil and some kind of game. I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere as well, though. Maybe check classical resources?

>>The external plot comes heavily from Luke's side of the story, where he's running away from his overbearing, ambitious, overbearing father, who runs/owns a huge pharmaceutical company and is using the funds from it to finance his own projects involving trying to revive the dying daemonic powers of his leccubic line (a project disguised as having some sort of medical purpose). <<

That makes sense.

>>but in talking about genetics, it seems possible that dear ol' dad might not be able to do what Luke can do, as a result of a fluke of genetics.<<

It's possible that he started out trying to do it himself, and discovered that he didn't have enough oomph, which would really piss him off.

How far back to Daddy Dearest's aspirations go? He could have chosen a mate based on the genetic probability of throwing a colt with the powers he wanted. And he wouldn't have cared if he had to try several times to get what he was after.

>>(Which then brings up the question of why Luke would be told to kill Kira's mother, and how he wouldn't know that it was her mother when he meets Kira years later...)<<

Why: 1) If targeted directly at Kira's mother, she would have to be an obstacle for Luke's father. She might have been an investigator bent on stopping him, or a competitor trying to beat him to the goal, etc. 2) If not targeted directly, then Kira's mother would be just one of many targets, some of whom probably lived and others not. First there's just the general concept of being able to do that, which is a rush for the power-mad like Luke's father. Second there's the power boost to be had from stealing energy from someone else: the more stolen, the bigger and longer the boost, hence one temptation to kill. Another is that, every so occasionally, if you drain someone to death then one of their powers might stick to you permanently or kick something of your own from latent to active. But there are also serious drawbacks, which is why most people don't do this -- things like absorbing part of their personality or their genetic weaknesses.

How: Drugged senseless and/or wrapped in layers of illusion would do the trick, and be contextually plausible.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: second part


>>Current thinking is that practically all of the originals were either killed or sealed away back to a dimension known as jinxspace, thanks to the efforts of sorcerers who aren't themselves necessarily of daemonic heritage, but can control the miasma for spells of varying purposes.<<

Okay, cool. Why? This is a significant issue, because the modern society seems not to make too big a deal out of the daemonic heritage since it's so widely spread. But if there was a major war or something, people would tend to hate daemonic traits, not accept and/or exploit them. Once again: what serves the story? What connects with the themes?

>>(if they have any - though I think that at this point in Seeran history, practically everyone has some sort of daemonic heritage, though they might not know it, or it wouldn't mean much to them),<<

You'll need to check the math on this, and it's not simple math. There's a point at which everyone living shares the same ancestry, and that can be figured out. First, consider that there are always some holdouts in a human population, no matter what the math says. The easiest way to reach the effect you're describing without starting an argument over the math is to figure the threshold of full dispersion (where everyone living would have some daemonic heritage) and then back up a handful of generations from there, giving you the desired level of "most." Anyhow, this would be a good discussion to have with a friend who is a mathematician; it'll give you a handle on how long the daemons have been in that world mixing with the humans.

>>(I know "miasma" technically refers to poisonous gases, but it's the term I came up with while I was working with this story for NaNoWriMo a few years ago, and I haven't come up with anything better. It refers to the ambient power that runs through Seera Kai. It can be harnessed either for magickal purpses, as just mentioned, or as a power source for technology.)<<

It's acceptable to set an exotic term for mystical energy; I happen to like that one. Crank back the etymology: it's originally from a term meaning "stain" or "pollution" and went through a phase meaning "swamp gas." So it might refer to an earlier time when people thought it was bad, a kind of contamination, before they understood its uses (which is true of oil, actually); pulling on the original "pollution" interpretation. Another possibility is that one very high ambient energy zone could be a marsh or swamp, which is a source of teeming life; pulling on the intermediate "swamp gas" interpretation.
reileen From: reileen Date: July 10th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: second part

Also, duuude, I totally forgot to tell you about the saeraphs! (It's been a while since I've actively worked with this world; I pulled out my current notes out of curiosity and discovered this random stuff I wrote down.)

The saeraphs are much less numerous than the daemonic races, and the saeraphs aren't really...a race, per se, although there are different types. I only have three at the moment: oracles can divulge secrets and divine the future, paladins heal sicknesses and wounds, and archives can remember everything. The catch is that saeraphs typically are heavily handicapped for everyday life, or their powers come at a heavy cost (frex, paladins can't heal without someone else getting sick or even dying; the oracle that Kira visits early on in the current draft of the story can't speak to her without the help of technology, and of course his oracles to her are couched heavily in obscure symbolism and metaphors that Kira doesn't know about). I'm a little leery on this, however, mainly because now I'm concerned about potential ableist implications in how this could be handled.

Initially I was thinking that the saeraphs were the result of divine meddling in Seera Kai, to counteract the daemonic races, but it backfired somehow and now all saeraphs are screwed over, thus producing a world where it's preferable to be daemonic than saeraphic. But returning to your ideas about genetics, it's also entirely probable that what people think are traits from a whole different race are, in fact, the recessive traits from certain daemonic lineages.

Semi-relatedly, I'd also decided on the term chimera (chimaera?) to describe people who possess multiple daemonic heritages, though it'd probably have different levels depending on which one would be more dominant and which powers (if any) can be used.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: second part

>>The saeraphs are much less numerous than the daemonic races, and the saeraphs aren't really...a race, per se, although there are different types.<<

Okay, this looks interesting. Saeraph works as an umbrella term on par with daemon.

>> I only have three at the moment: oracles can divulge secrets and divine the future, paladins heal sicknesses and wounds, and archives can remember everything. <<

Hrm. You might try hunting around for other terms there; those are more general than the daemonic names, and paladin is especially gaming-flavored. The concept functions are cool, though.

>> The catch is that saeraphs typically are heavily handicapped for everyday life, or their powers come at a heavy cost <<

That could be useful.

>>(frex, paladins can't heal without someone else getting sick or even dying; <<

Why? The most logical reason would be "equal and opposite reaction" -- that is, the paladin is pulling life energy from nearby people to fuel the healing. But that's not how divine magic actually works; you channel it from beyond. Now if the connection is bad -- say, divine energy is incompatible with the local ambient, coming from powerful beings of a different dimension -- then it can be hard to control and may damage the handler. The cost of healing is thus more likely to hit the paladin himself than random bystanders. Though I suppose if the divine energy were spilled it might do more harm than good, if you really want to hit the bystanders.

>>I'm a little leery on this, however, mainly because now I'm concerned about potential ableist implications in how this could be handled.<<

I think that depends on how you approach it. Is the society itself ableist, or does it make accommodations for people with different body needs? Even if the society is ableist, you can subtly show why that's stupid and have characters think about that conflict or go against it. You've got an opportunity here to show that power can have a really unpleasant cost, and that genetics is a cosmic crapshoot. Think carefully about what this could add to your story, or distract from it, before deciding how to play it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: second part


>>Initially I was thinking that the saeraphs were the result of divine meddling in Seera Kai, to counteract the daemonic races, but it backfired somehow and now all saeraphs are screwed over, thus producing a world where it's preferable to be daemonic than saeraphic.<<

I rather like this idea.

>>But returning to your ideas about genetics, it's also entirely probable that what people think are traits from a whole different race are, in fact, the recessive traits from certain daemonic lineages.<<

You could do this, but it would undercut the distinctiveness of the saeraphs.

Sidestep and combine the two: Saeraphs are descendents of a different branch of unrelated extradimensional beings. Neither the genetics nor the energy from that branch are as compatible with humans as the daemonic versions are, and forcing the meld is destructive. So the saeraphs can have very different powers, but the cost to them is much higher and they tend not to be very functional or healthy. Do they still feel driven to save the world? Or do they resent their ancestors for trapping them in such a miserable situation? Much tension! Much drama! Furthermore, consider that we were mulling over why the original daemons came here in the first place. If they were trying to get away from the original saeraphs, they might have gone looking for a dimension that felt homey to them ... and proved to be severely awkward for their opponents. Think of it as the daemons having the aetheric high ground: the saeraphs can still get on the field here, but they're always fighting uphill.

>>Semi-relatedly, I'd also decided on the term chimera (chimaera?) to describe people who possess multiple daemonic heritages, though it'd probably have different levels depending on which one would be more dominant and which powers (if any) can be used.<<

That works. I'd say go with "chimaera" to match "daemon" and "saeraph." That boosts the consistency.

A classic chimera combines various animals. In some sources, there are three equal heads all pointing forward: a hybrid whose heritage races manifest equally. In others, the lion head is on front, half a goat extends from the middle of the back, and the snake is the tail: a hybrid with one dominant heritage and two or more others with lesser and perhaps awkward effects.

reileen From: reileen Date: July 12th, 2010 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: second part

You've given me a lot to think about; I think this is definitely enough to go on for a while. Thanks so much for indulging me!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC) (Link)

*bow, flourish*

Happy to be of service! If you work through this stuff and move on with writing in this universe, I would like to hear how it plays out.
cortezopossum From: cortezopossum Date: July 9th, 2010 08:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks.. I'll have to bookmark this one -- lots of good references here.
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