There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Building the Magic November 27, 2013

It’s time for the final chapter of the Encyclobibliogrimoire series, and we’re finally going to talk about magic. The very first question is the most important one of all:

Does your story even have magic?

When people think of fantasy, they often think the answer to this question would be an obvious “Yes” but I’m sure we can all agree that it isn’t that cut and dry. If you are writing urban fantasy with werewolves and vampires, it can be a matter of genetics instead of some mystical element passed around like a magical contagion. Magic might not even feature very heavily in your story if it is there. From what I remember of Lord of the Rings, aside from some awesome moves from Gandalf and his staff and the omnipresent magic that is Middle Earth, magic wasn’t heavily present in the character’s journeys. The ring was magic, but Frodo didn’t use magic to get to Mordor. He used the power of his friendship with Sam to get to where he needed to go. And well, Gandalf used it to make sure others didn’t get to where they wanted to go.

Wait..wrong fandom…

The point is, you can have a story where magic is there but not necessarily explained in detail, like LotR, or a story where it is taught at great lengths to the characters, like Harry Potter, or one where the supernatural element is explained with loose science, like Twilight.

No matter what your chosen path of magic, one thing is very important. You need to understand it. Whether you explain it or not, you need to understand the ins and outs of your magical system. You need to know what tools need to be used, what the limitations of the magic itself is, and what effects it has on the wielder. For example, the magic of Harry Potter had its limitations in that it couldn’t bring someone back from the dead and you had to use a wand to wield it. It was a skill that the wizards are born with and honed through school. In Sword of Truth, Additive and Subtractive magic was used. Additive magic changes things by adding to the existing world or multiplying something already there, whereas subtractive would take it away and send it to the Underworld. In The Vampire Diaries, magic can only be wielded by witches born with the power, and often there are complex spells or strings of words in another language that have to be used.

The great thing about magic is that the possibilities are endless, but the hard part of being the writer is nailing down the magic that exists in your world. Here are some important questions to ask yourself about how your magic works:

  • Are there verbal spells involved? If so, what language is used?
  • Is the power passed down from generation to generation, or can anyone wield it?
  • Does everyone have the same amount of magical power? What distinguishes how powerful a character might be?
  • What types of magic are used? Potions? Spells? Wands?
  • What tools does the wielder have to utilize in order to use their magic? Wands or staffs, or simply pointing their hand at the target?
  • What does the magic do to the wielder? Example, if it is an extension of the wielder, it might expend their energy in some way (think Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how her nose would bleed after a tough spell)
  • Is it ritualistic, or a matter of shooting fire from your finger tips?
  • Are there any Pagan influences, or influences from other cultures that have magic in their lore?
  • How does the wielder learn how to use it?
  • Are there deities involved, or is it elemental? Or simply a power that exists?

Don’t forget that even if you don’t have magic, you have some important questions to ask yourself about how the supernatural element of your story comes into play. If it is genetics, make sure you fully understand that, how each trait is passed down, what happens if a supernatural being has a child with a non-supernatural being, and what happens if other supernatural races mix. Pick your system apart, because the last thing you want is to discover four books in that you have continuity errors and contradictions in the world you’ve built.

That wraps up our Encyclobibliogrimoire series! What else would you add to your Fantasy Bible? Anything I missed? Sound off in the comments! Or if you just want to tell me about your magic and what questions you ask yourself when building your world. I love hearing from you guys!


Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Characters October 26, 2013

I’m not entirely sure why I thought I would be wrapping up the Encyclobibliogrimoire series today with Magic, but we’re gonna hold off on that seeing as how I only glossed over a major, MAJOR component of every story:


This image compilation brought to you by:
The reason I pay a cover artist.

I’m sure you guys wouldn’t have forgotten this component of your Encyclobibliogrimoire, but we’ll go over it anyway. The first suggestion I would have, that is not all biased, would be to go back over some of the character building posts we’ve made here at TADA over the past year. There’s some good stuff in there. And to be a pal, I’m even going to compile a list for you:

Oh, and don’t forget to take your character’s race into account (See: Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Races) So how do all of these posts help us with our Encyclobibliogrimoire? Easy. They help us to create well-rounded and unique characters. Don’t lean on stereotypes, and never treat any character like a throwaway character in your books. If a character appears on your pages, they should have a place in your story bible. World-building isn’t always just about the world itself. A lot of draw in fantasy novels is how real your characters are and how well your audience can connect to them.

First, start with the basics. I already listed those before, but lets go over them again. Depending on how minor the characters are, not all of these will apply. But you should at least try to fill out as many as possible. It will do wonders for helping you get a good grip on that character.

    • Name
    • Age
    • Birthday
    • Birth Place
    • Race
    • Physical description
    • Abilities
    • Family members
    • Best friend
    • Love interest

Next, get into their character traits and history. I put these two together because a lot of times they go hand in hand. My main character Zelene has an attitude and a chip on her shoulder, but she is also one of the most compassionate and passionate characters in the book. Why? Because she grew up in the ugly side of the foster-care system and was physically abused most of her life. This is the reason for her anger, and for her empathy when she sees other downtrodden people.

After you’ve nailed down their history, get into the plot points they have to deal with in your story. It seems silly to outline everything again from the fabulous storyboard I’m sure you’ve made, but it’s more important than you might think. This will help you to track your character’s progress throughout your story. As writers, we never want our characters to be stagnant. We write about the journeys they are on, and those journeys change them as they move forward. Track this, and make sure your character is developing the way you want them to.

Next, talk about relationships. You might have already covered this in the previous two points, but it’s a good idea to at least have a rough list of the relationships your character has and what kind. Do they have a good, strong relationship with their parents? Do they hate their brother? Idolize their best friend? All of these things effect how they react in certain situations.

Last, talk to your character. I recently did a blog tour for Heirs of War, and did several character interviews as tour stops. I was surprised by how refreshing it was to sit down and talk to my characters like they were real. You’re a writer–you come up with the conversation. It might feel silly at first. I know the first time I tried this years ago after reading that J.R. Ward did this, I felt like a complete idiot. My suggestion? Don’t use a questionnaire that is already filled out. Think about what you would want to say to your characters, or what they might want to say to you. I know Tate has some choice words for me…Anyway. You might be surprised and get to see a whole different side to your characters that you didn’t realize was there.

Whew. Now I feel better about the character portion of the Encycliobibliogrimoire. It was sorely lacking before. Next time we’ll talk about magic, but I want to hear your thoughts. Think I missed anything this go round with characters? Think we had enough covered before? See me in the comments!

  ~Mara Valderran

Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Races August 11, 2013

Not every fantasy novel has to have different races, but if you decide to go that route, you should most definitely include all the details of the races you create in your fantasy bible. Why? To save you headaches and prevent continuity errors.

You might think you know the ins and outs of your world like the back of your hand, but as your world continues to grow, it is going to be harder and harder to keep track of each detail. Going from personal experience, I would actually say detailing whatever races you create is probably of the most importance.

I know, I know. How can creating a race of people be more important than outlining the governmental system under which your world operates? Well, because your characters might not come across every part of that system. But racial traits influence who your characters might be, and help to emphasize plot points as well.

Take, for example, the hobbits of Lord of the Rings. They are kind, simple, and gentle folk. It is in their nature to be warm and happy, which proves to be a stark contrast to how dark and depressed Frodo becomes under the influence of the ring. If he was as sullen as Aragorn could be, the heavy influence the ring has over those who possess it might not be as clear.

Another example would be the house elves from Harry Potter. They have their own rules they live by, which causes them to essentially become slaves to wizards. They are owned, and to be freed is shameful. But they are also incredibly loyal, which drives Dobby to help Harry time and time again. This same trait led to Kreacher’s ill demeanor, and is the cause for the insanity plaguing his mind.

If all house elves were meant to be warm and fuzzy, we wouldn’t have Kreacher. If all hobbits weren’t kind-hearted and loyal, Sam might’ve ditched Frodo at the first mood swing. The characteristics of their races help to define them as characters, and help them to stand out as well. Hobbits aren’t naturally brave, but the four we journey with sure are. House elves aren’t meant to question their owners, but Dobby does, and even punishes himself in order to do so.

So what are some of the things you might want to include about the race you are creating? A lot of the same things you might include about a particular character. Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself as you create your race, or even as you play around with that race more:

  • What are some of the physical attributes the people of this race share? (Ex: Hair color, skin tone, height, build, etc)
  • What are some of the physical abilities the people of this race share? (Ex: Heightened sense of smell, speed, agility, etc)
  • What kind of religion or rituals do the people of this race follow? (Ex: Human sacrifice, multiple deities, coming of age rituals)
  • What sort of laws does the society of this race adhere to? (Ex: Mixing with other races, competing for a hand in marriage by a fight to the death, etc)
  • Where (geographically) do these people originate from? (Ex: Another world, a desert land, mountains, etc)
  • What are some common personality traits of this race? (Ex: Compassionate vs cold and logical, animalistic vs etiquette, naive vs skeptical, etc)

You’ll probably find that some of these questions go hand in hand together. The religion or rituals they follow probably influence their society on the whole. Also, their physical attributes might influence their overall characteristics as well. I’ve created three races so far in my series, two of which I will use as examples here. One, the Athucreans, are a warrior race. They are very closely tied to animals (no, not werewolves), so they tend to operate a lot like a pack, which means they don’t welcome outsiders. However, the Baiul are essentially psychic vampires, feeding off the emotions of humans around them. So they are very open to socializing.

These are definitely things you need to think of because they influence how your story unfolds and how your characters interact with one another. A Baiul and Athucrean would make for a great Romeo & Juliet-esque love story (kinda bummed I never thought of that before now), or a nice antagonistic set of advisers (again, should’ve thought of that). But they wouldn’t be likely to become best friends. Kinda like a dwarf and an elf finding an unlikely friendship on the road to Mordor.

Answering these questions and solving your own mysteries surrounding the races you create will only enrich your story and your characters that much further. So what are your answers? What are some of the races you’ve created for your fantasy (or sci-fi, since the same rules apply here) worlds? How do they relate to one another?


Creating Your Fantasy Bible: The Laws of Government and Society July 10, 2013

Rules are made to be broken.

This is a common saying, but it is also a more common tool in story telling than you might think. In fantasy, our characters might battle dragons, fight in wizard duels, or march towards blue-eyed beasts that plan to eat our children. But this isn’t all they go up against. A lot of times, our characters end up fighting against society itself.

In Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, Richard and Kahlan are out to stop the oppressive Darken Rahl from leading the world to ruin. But Kahlan finds herself going up against so much more. As a Confessor, she is taught never to love because her power will only leave her with heartbreak in the end, destroying the man that she loves. She has to fight against her own beliefs–beliefs that society has passed down generation after generation–to find the truth of her power.

Frodo was a simple hobbit living a simple life, not getting involved in the affairs of men and elves. That is the way of the hobbits. They are a peaceful folk. And yet he sets out on an adventure much like his uncle and ends up being the key to saving Middle Earth.

I could go on and on with examples. To get to the point: Fights against mythical creatures or epic magical battles are not all there is to a story. There are layers upon layers of challenges, trials, and strife our main characters must overcome. So it is important we know how the society of our world works and the government that keeps order.

How do we start? First, you need to figure out where the power is. Some might argue that in society today, power is in money. Those who don’t have it constantly strive to make ends meat in the hopes of one day making their lives better, while those who have it make the rules for the rest. So what is the key to power in your world? In Estridia (my world), it is magic. People are born with magic in varying degrees, and those who have the most rule over the worlds. Those who have none are shunned as the Tainted, treated as though there is something ghastly wrong with them.

Okay, so now we have the key to power and know who might have it. But what about the people under them? One person or group can’t rule over everything because they can’t be everywhere at once. There’s a certain amount of delegation in government, which means other people will have jobs as well that help to maintain order. Who would those people be? Relatives, like the Lannisters? Or people with the next tier of power? Perhaps just trusted friends and confidants of the leaders?

The answer to that question will also tell you a lot about the society. If power is merely passed down from generation to generation and dependent on a blood line, how fair and just do you think that world might be? They might get lucky and have a benevolent ruler from time to time, but a family that breeds power might also breed monsters (coughJoffreycough). A leader who counts on friends and confidants to help him/her rule might be more reasonable, or be surrounded by mewing idiots that tell him/her what they want to hear.

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Every society has an order of power that enforces the rules of that society. Marriage laws. Taxes. Armies. How heavy a hand the government rules with will determine a lot about the society. Do they determine who can and cannot marry? What professions the people are allowed to enter into? What sort of taxes are imposed? Is the lower class taken care of or downtrodden with despair? Are the races allowed to intermingle?

I’m sure you see my point. I could probably write a whole other post continuing on how to define the lines of social classes, but that might venture (even more) into rambling territory. For now, I will leave you to mull over the questions of society and government with this piece of advice: Study the different societies around you and the ones from history. Figure out the differences and how the political climates might have been for the people of that time or in that area now. You might find your answers a lot closer to home than you think.

Next time, we will talk about races, and then after that we will conclude this series with a big factor in a lot of fantasy series: Magic! Hit the comments to tell us about the society of your world!


Creating Your Fantasy Bible: A Lesson in Geography June 27, 2013

If you Google “Geography in Fantasy”, you will find all sorts of articles and blogs on the subject. Since we are delving into how to create your own fantasy bible, it only seems fitting we add another blog article to that list.

So why do we, as authors, need to create entire maps of the world we drop our characters into?


Fantasy World Map by Dan Meth

So your world can end up on here, of course!

One can dream. But also, no. The more obvious answer to that question is so the characters (and you) know where they are going on their journeys. Some people think of Middle Earth as a character just as important as Frodo. Geography is a foe that Frodo and his group have to battle. Even Dorothy on her journey through Oz has to deal with the lay of the land on the way to Emerald City.

Geography plays a more important role than most people realize. Even if you don’t have your characters traveling across the lands on an epic journey with a rag-tag group of hobbits, dwarves, and elves, it is important that you know where your characters are coming from and who their allies might be. Let’s use the Fantasy World Map as an example. if you look at Fantasia, it is surrounded by mountains, which can serve as a natural defense border. The one weak point of attack might be the ocean, but they would be able to see the ships coming. However, if Fantasia’s closest ally is Avalon, this might serve as a problem. Look at the lengths soldiers from Avalon would have to travel in order to come to Fantasia’s aid.

Now let’s think about culture and how geography plays a part in that. Westeros is completely separated from the other lands. How closely linked do you think the cultures of the people of Westeros might be to that of the Dreamlands? Obviously, there is no direct influence since the people aren’t connected. But with Middle Earth, Narnia, and Oz, their cultures might be influenced by one another.

Trade is also heavily influenced by geography. In this way, the natural defense border of Fantasia might work against it, making it harder to trade with others. Fantasia isn’t an island like Westeros, but yet (depending on travel in your world), it might be just as isolated from the rest of the lands. Further, this isolation might make the people of these isolated regions harder. Survival might be more difficult in a land where trade is scarce and mountainous lands prevent much growing.

As you can see, geography is definitely something you want to take some time with. Start with the main land involved in your story, or where you characters’ journey starts. Then figure out who the allies of that land might be, and who their enemies are. You can probably already answer those questions, but the next step is figuring out where those allies or enemies are. Once you know that, begin mapping. For your thriving areas, make sure you keep in mind that the land has to be thriving as well. Lush forests, farmland, bodies of water…all these play important roles in the survival of a civilization in a geographic region. Do you have desolated, neglected regions? There needs to be a reason for their desolation, if it isn’t a man-made reason. This is where your geographic obstacles might come into play: Deserts, vast oceans, overgrown forests, dead land, mountains, etc. Now, start drawing! And don’t worry. You don’t have to be an impressive artist or cartographer (like Dan Meth up there with his Fantasy World Map) to make your own map. To make you feel better, I’m attaching the map of Estridia, from my fantasy MS Heirs of War, I (just) made (updated).

Next time, we’ll be talking about what to include concerning your governments and societal rules in your encyclobibliogrimoire. For now, hit the comments and tell us how your map is coming along, or sound off on what you can observe from my example with Estridia.

~Mara Valderran


Map of Estridia from the series Heirs of War by Mara Valderran


Creating Your Fantasy Bible April 13, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 4:54 pm
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Some people call it a Bible. Others call it their Grimoire. Some simply call it what it is: their personal encyclopedia. Whatever the case may be, the importance is still the same.

Now that you’ve created your world, you need to have a place to go back and reference it. This is so important for continuity in your world. How do I know that? Because I am still working on creating mine. What does that mean? That every time I need to mention where my warrior race or my healer race originates from, I end up scouring the 2 1/2 books I’ve written in the series to try to find it.

So in a sense, I am definitely the pot calling the kettle black here. But I am confident that with these helpful tips (that I fully intend on following one day), you won’t have the same problem I do of having to hunt through your words to try to find one small instance where you mentioned something about your world.

The first question to answer is: What should be included in my reference bible grimoire? The answer is simple: Everything. Characters, geography, races, creatures, magic, government, society…Indeed, everything you can think of. Everything you create in your magical world.

I know, that’s a bit overwhelming, so we’ll start small and work our way through the list. We’ll start with characters and what details should be included in there. I’ve already started on this part. You don’t need to include every word your characters say, but you do need essentially a mini-biography for them. Here’s a nice check list to use as you create sections for each character (major or minor):

  • Key descriptors of their physical appearances
  • Important aspects of their personality (extremely sarcastic? shy?)
  • Key points in their character development
  • Birthdays
  • Race
  • Family information
  • Love interests
  • Place of birth or being raised (or both)

As you can probably tell, your encyclobibliogrimoire needs to be pretty intensive. Of course, you can always go the light route but I prefer to be thorough so I don’t miss anything and have to hunt (again). You can go digital or hard copy, but if you go digital make sure you back it up. I prefer to use Scrivener for mine since the program offers a really neat way to organize everything. Next time we’ll talk about some of the other important things to include, but for now hit the comments and let me know how you’ve made your encyclobibliogrimoire!

~Mara Valderran