I am answering random questions today about world building, over on Reddit and decided to take my answers from there and expand upon them even further over here. So that's what this page is. Me rambling on about various aspects of world building techniques I use when writing the Quaraun series. The questions I am answering are embedded here. Clicking the link in the embedded question will take you to the original Reddit page where you can see the original answer along with other people's answers. If you wish to comment, you can do so on the Reddit page where a place to do so is provided.
The cities are almost never given names. The main character, Quaraun, (a rather absent minded wizard) has little interest in keeping track of such things are the reader sees the world through his perspective. Thus you end up with him simply saying things like "The Moon Elf Village" or "The Swamp of Death" or "The City of Slushies". None of which being the actual name of the city in question and the reader never learns what the real name is.
That said, the world itself is more or less an alternate version of Earth, with more or less the same countries, cities, etc. So you have things like the Roman Empire and Bethlehem and Mecca and Paris and London and Quebec and any other real life big city, more or less identical to the real world. The series is set in the 1400s, but contains time travel and so it's 2 wizards from the 1400s and one Dungeon Master inadvertently turned wizard from the 1970s/1980s who opens a real portal from our real non-magical world and gets stuck in the 1400s in an alternate D&D style magical version of our world. In his going back and forth between the two, he ends up taking lots of modern things to the past.
So you have Elf wizard characters from a fantasy 1400s before things like Boston exist, ending up knowing about things like real Boston, via the DM from the future whose stuck in the past with them.... if that makes sense. The past Elf wizards end up in our future Elf-less cities.
However, while these places may be mentioned in passing, such as when characters are reading a map and point out something like "we have to head towards Boston, but take a turn here 2 miles before we get there" the big cities themselves are rarely ever visited by the character (as he is on the run and trying to avoid places where his face is likely posted on wanted posters)
I think the biggest city you actually seeing them go to in one of the stories is Quebec, which thanks to the 3 bumbling wizards (2 who's magic doesn't work well in our future time [Quaraun and Unicorn]; and 1 who is a DM casting fictional spells out of a Dungeons and Dragons spell book [GhoulSpawn]) now has a flock of pink feathered zombie turkeys terrorizing it. Except for the rampant flock of brain gobbling turkeys, Quebec is pretty much identical to real life Quebec.
Boston is probably the second largest city they actually visit in one of the novels, but it wasn't present day Boston they arrived at, rather they arrived in the middle of the Boston Tea Party.
The largest purely fiction city, which reoccurs in many novels of the series, is probably "The Desert of the DiJinn", which is in medieval Persia and is exactly what the name says it is... a "lost" city in the middle of the desert, inhabited entirely by Di'Jinn. It's basically your standard medieval Persia, but inhabited by Di'Jinn instead of Humans. They are basically a "secret society" (think "The Illuminati") who are controlling the world through psychic powers and mind control, but no one knows it and no one sees them. They are a hive-mind race controlled by an "elder brain" (think Illithid/Mind Flayers). They pretty much do nothing all day but sit around in their temple playing mind games on Humans all over the planet. It's a hot, sandy, desert wasteland.
The Di'Jinn temple being situated in a little estuary oasis along the detla of a very "Nile-like" river. The only other life in the desert besides the Di'Jinn is a herd of little black Shetland ponies, that are really evil shape-shifting trickster Faeries (Phookas) who are trying to find a way into the Di'Jinn temple and steal the Elder Brain (which is in fact a tiny pink jelly fish, only a few inches across, known as "The Sacred Pink JellyFish").
The city itself is not very big and is surrounded by a perpetual sand storm so no one can find it. But while it is itself "isolated" and cut off from civilization, the entire area around the desert, is a vast "Arabian Nights" x "Ancient Egypt" style human metropolis, with huge pyramids and mosques, a palace, lots of adobe style huts kind of built on top of each other, travelling caravans scared about, a huge Gypsy (not Romani, who are different from Gypsies) camp with thousands of people spread across multiple clans, a port on the ocean, rich merchants, pirates, shady market places, etc, etc. The majority of the Human population is the Gypsy caravan, who pretty much run the area, while the actual monarchy doesn't really do anything. The area is super peaceful, no wars or anything; kind of a "Utopia" within what is a mostly war-torn hostile quasi-medieval world setting.
The Desert of the Di'Jinn is actually the place where the main character grew up and he lived with the Di'Jinn thus how he became a wizard, so this region gets mentioned frequently in almost every novel.
Other then that, though, most of the places actually seen in the novels as actual settings the stories take place in are pretty small. Usually coastal Maine or Nova Scotia fishing villages, with fewer then 500 residents each. In most novels, the entire story takes place inside a single building, often a bar/pub/tavern/inn/bed&breakfast, without the characters ever going outside to "experience" the town they are in.
Overall, the series doesn't have a lot of scene descriptions and you don't see too many cities actually described in detail, because the series is character driven rather then plot driven.
So that above, was the original question, I answered and my original answer as it appeared on Reddit... but, after I left Reddit, had myself a bite to eat, and then came back to my computer to write, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that very few novels in the Quaraun series ever go into any depth of detail into the world he lives in.
That is perhaps one of the things which makes the series rathe uniquie in some ways, because it is largly dialogue based, character drive, written in a very much stage play formate of almost straight up none-stop conversations, with very little narative or descriptions at all.
When there are descriptions, they tend to be in the space of 2 or 3 paragraphs right at the beginning of a new location, to set the scene of where they are, and then jump right into the dialogue and never again do you see a block of narrative text for the next 100 or so pages, with each novel being around 300 pages long.
Now, no reader has ever complained about this.
Readers have certainly complained about other parts of the series, that's for sure. The Quaraun series is by far my most hated, most bitched at, most criticized, most complained about, and certainly my most banned series ever, and even ranks as the first book in American history to be banned by the American government via a First Amendment violating court order issued by the town hall of Old Orchard Beach, a branch of the USA government, who have declared the Quaraun series "too gay for the family friendly town of Old Orchard Beach". So, yeah, there are certainly no lacked of complaints about the series. But this way I go about writing only a few hundred words of narrative for every 20,000 or so words of dialogue, is something not one reader has ever brought up in a negative light.
Quite the contrary, I've had several readers say they liked the fast flow of dialogue and the fact that the story stays with the characters beginning to end, never taking a break from hem to look around.
In any case, I am left to wonder... would readers complain if I started including more narrative scenes and more description of the world Quaraun lives in, or would readers rather I left to writing it as I do now, and allowing their imaginations to fill up Quaraun world as their own brains see fit?
Sounds like Maine and Quebec. :P Most of what I write is set in Maine and/or Quebec because that's where I grew up.
A reader asked me once:
"Why is he (main character, Quaraun) always sick?"
I wrote back and answered:
"Because he lives in Maine. He's trudging through 3 feet of snow, 8 months of the year. You'd be sick all the time with cold wet feet too!"
Another reader asked me once:
"Why is there so much snow in all your stories?"
"*Reads question. Looks out window. Can't see outside as the snow is too deep and goes over the roof of my house. Tries to think of answer for reader. Writes back -'I write what I know.'*"
Above, was the original comment, I answered and my original answer as it appeared on Reddit... now for further comments added here after the fact.
It occurs to me, that while in my previous answer to the question above, which detailed a vast hot desert metropolis, that you actually very rarely see hot or even remotely warm, weather in the Quaraun series.
I especially noticed this fact when CosPlaying secondary character BoomFuzzy the Unicorn, at PortCon Maine this summer.
Because of the extreme cold of the primary setting of the series (Inuvjak, Quebec) Unicorn is usually seen in a cloak made of black fur, covered with a hooded cloak made of dozens of various animal pelts.
I have and wear both of the fur coats described in the novels. And in the winter, I really do wear them and it's a nice 80F inside that fur coat, even when it's -40F degrees (as it often is here). But try wearing that thing on a 90F heatwave (which rarely happens but did this year) in June!
I did just that.
I tossed the 200 year old fur pelt patch hooded cloak (which you often see me wearing in my YouTube vlogs) back in the closet and went with just the black fur cape, seen below.
By the 2nd day of the convention I was without the cape.
And by the 3rd day of the convention I was without the wig as well.
In the winter I can and do, wear this outfit every day, and thus I know how to describe moving, walking, and doing every day things while wearing this outfit. With the winters we get, you WANT and NEED an outfit like this if you are going to be moving around outside. But wear it in the summer? Nope. Not gonna work.
Being a Fashion History/Dressmaking & Design Major, one of the things that pisses me off about various fantasy novels, movies, and especially video games is the levels inaccuracy in the fashions of the world. By this I mean, women prancing around in metal bikinis in a sub-zero arctic region, just to show off her cleavage. Okay, if shes on a beach or in a jungle, the bikini matches the weather, but, when it's below zero with howling winds, knee deep in snow, and the men are huddled up freezing their asses off wrapped up in furs, why the heck is the woman prancing around half naked, freezing her tits off and acting like she is immune to the cold?
Now if you've read the Quaraun series you know Quaraun wears extremely impractical, often super slutty cloths, which rarely are appropriate for the weather he's in. However, you also see him suffering the consequences of this vanity, by having sniffles, shivering, complaining he's cold then refusing to put a coat on, wearing high heels in a blizzard then getting sick from cold wet feet the next day. Yes, he's running around like a scantily dressed, half naked slutty whore of a prostitute in the dead of winter, but he's not doing so without suffering the heath consequences that go with such foolishness.
Unicorn on the other hand is wrapped up in furs on top of furs and warm as a clam on a hot summer day. He's also laughing at Quaraun and picking on Quaraun's hugely inappropriate fashion sense every step of the way, while also offering the poor half frozen Elf a for cloak to wear, which the vain, slutty Elf is refusing to take on account of it'll hide his figure and he's got one hell of a figure to show off.
This aspect of Quaraun's character, specifically makes fun of the bikini clad babes that you see fighting half naked, knee deep in snow, along side their fully fur wrapped male companions, which you see on almost every 4th ED Dungeons and Dragons book cover.
I think, when building your world, fashion should be a part of the world building process, at least to the extent that characters are dressed appropriately for the weather they are in, or are suffering the consequences of being inappropriately dressed.
And as with the cold weather being unfit for scantily clad bikini babes, so too is the desert. In fact, even more so. Have you ever noticed how desert cultures always wear very similar long flowing dress/robe/caftans - both the men and the women, along with wearing veils, again, both the men and the women doing so?
It is not by chance that every single desert culture across the planet does this. This type of fashion, protect them from sunburn, heat stroke, and the frigid cold at night once the sun sets. You never see exposed skin or skin tight clothing, and you never see pants. The loose cloth acts as an air conditioner, holding cold air around your body. The more layers of robes you wear, the more layers of cool air get trapped in between each layer. In a desert, you are actually cooler if you wear 4 or 5 robes on top of each other, then if you wore just one.
As for pants, you won't walk long in a desert wearing pants before you realize sand gets into every nook and cranny, and especially likes to get stuck in the folds of skin where your legs meet your torso. Pants then hold that sand there at "the panty leg line" and after 20 minutes of walking in pants, you'll be sand papered red, blistered, and if you don't stop and pull those pants off fast, those blisters will start bleeding, and you'll be on your back for 2 or 3 weeks waiting for those burning welts to heal. (Remember - wounds heal VERY SLOWLY in a desert region as the heat slows your bodies ability to fight infection, making you heal slower and causing you to become infected.
How often do you see a novel describe "hot sweltering nights" in a desert region? You know that author never set foot in an ice cold desert at night. As hot as a desert is in the day, it's just as cold at night. Sand cools fast without the blazing hot sun keeping it heated.
And did you know, that the head wraps and veils are soaked in ice water before putting them on their heads? Then, as they cross the desert, they not only stop to drink from their water pouches but also pour the water over their heads to re-wet the veils?
Plus the veil is not just tossed over your head, but they've got a wadded up cloth, soaked in water, on top of their head, under the veil.
The same actually applies in super cold regions, where again, you often see lots of layers, loose fitting, and no pants. Scottish Highlands and Japan are two prime examples of this, where you see very cold weather and men who do not wear pants but in stead where a large blanket-like cloth, folded and belted to their waist.
In Scotland this is known as The Great Kilt (which s quite different from a kilt/skirt more commonly seen today), while in Japan it is known as the Hakama.
Did you read that side note?
I put it there for a reason.
That reason being that this page is intended to tell you very specifically, how it is I go about my world building for the Quaraun series which is set in the 1400s in Maine (which was called Quebec until 1881, Maine did not exist in the 1400s)
The main characters of the series are a pair of Gypsies:
Unicorn is only 5'1" tall, has a thick set stocky build
And yes, that does mean, those photos you just saw were of a "white" woman, CosPlaying a black man. In actuality I am not as "white" as people think I am, because I am my self in fact a Pictist-Persian Scottish Gypsy.
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