There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

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: Creature Feature Edition May 2, 2013

We are still on the journey to creating our encyclobibliogrimoires for our fantasy worlds, and today I thought we might mix two related topics: Creatures and Races.

First, let’s distinguish between the two. Obviously, Races need to be your more sentient beings whereas creatures would be the things that go bump in the night or swoop in from overhead. No, no swooping. As Alistair might say: Swooping…is…bad. For characters, anyway, but not for plot. Which is why you want to include them in your encylobibliogrimoire. If your characters have to fight magical creatures of some kind, you need to be able to keep them straight in your head and know at least as much about them as your characters will.

How you distinguish between the beasts and beings is, of course, at your discretion. But for organizational purposes I suggest doing it. For example, I would consider the House Elves from Harry Potter to be beings, not creatures, because they are intelligent and have their own cultures and traditions. But I would consider the giant spiders to be creatures because, well, they scare me.

Like I said, your discretion. Here’s an example from my bestiary for Heirs of War:

Black Dog by Micha F. Lindemans (Encyclopedia Mythica)

The black dogs are found all over the British Isles, especially on deserted roads. They are roughly the size of a calf and they move in utter silence, except for the clicking of their claws. The chill despondency and despair these dogs cause is the reason why there are no detailed descriptions of their appearance. While a companion is no guarantee for safety — for one might see the dog and the other might not — it offers a better protection than walking alone. It is said that the best companion is a descendant of Ean MacEndroe of Loch Ewe. He rescued a fairy once and in return he and his descendants were given perpetual immunity from the power of the black dogs. (See also Barghest).

Some creatures I have pictures of, others I don’t. Now, here’s an example of a description of one of my races:

Donnfaybrownies

Description:

  • “a pair of eyes so big they gave the impression that someone had screwed two light bulbs into a light brown furry face and painted large brown dots on them”
  • “humanoid creature with its gangly limbs. The creature was maybe two feet tall, coming to just above the girl’s knees. Two skinny hands were placed on its hips, the thin lips of the creature’s mouth pulled down as it frowned”

Origins:

Brownies are invisible brown elves or household goblins who live in farmhouses and other country buildings within Scotland. While the members of the household are asleep they go about doing labours for the house owners. Brownies are protective creatures and become attached to the families if the family move the Brownie will move with them. If a brownie is treated badly by the family or is offered payment the brownie vanishes without trace. Children because of their innocent nature can only see Brownies, though this does not prevent the brownies from helping adults

The donnfay aren’t one of my more prominent races, more just a nod to my love of Irish and Scottish folklore. Hence why there isn’t a lot of information on them. The more prominent a race features in your story, the more information you should have on them. You should include their origins (which part of your world or land), their traditions, their cultures, their physiology, any special powers or gifts they have, their weaknesses, their prejudices…the list can go on and on. Don’t panic if you can’t answer all of those criteria and don’t feel like you are overdoing it if you have more. Keep in mind that your encyclobibliogrimoire is there as an aid for you.

We’ll talk about geography next go round. For now, make sure you hit the comments to let us all know how your encyclobibliogrimoire is going!

Mara Valderran