So...when I saw a class for magical world building held by my professional organization, Writers' League of Texas, and taught by Katherine Catmull, I jumped on it. Frugal as I am, I found this class important enough to pay the couple bucks for late registration.
Here are the 5 best tips I learned about creating a magical world:
1. Know your genre. Are you writing fantasy or sci-fi? These can be broken into categories.
- Hard sci-fi, think Star Trek (based on the science)
- Soft sci-fi, think Back to the Future (based on the characters, but uses science) more
- High fantasy, think Lord of the Rings (totally new world)
- Low fantasy, think Harry Potter (set in our recognizable world with paranormal elements)
2. Grow your setting. In order to create my setting, which I would categorize as low fantasy, I needed to learn more about the mythology I wanted to use and the real places I wanted my characters to visit. I needed seeds. Once I learned more about what I was working with, I was able to let my ideas grow from the seeds-this way my mythology was correct and I could change it in believable ways. My realistic settings also ring true to readers thus increasing their engagement in the story.
3. Avoid cliches and do not become a Mary Sue. We know werewolves and vampires, witches and dragons, and a whole host of other creatures. When creating your characters give them a life and a wit of their own. Make your readers say, "That is the nicest Harpy!" It will keep them interested in the story because you are not giving them more of the same old same old.
I had never heard of a Mary Sue before the class. Basically, Mary Sues are the fantasy version of you as a character, a way for you to be present on the page and vanquishing your own enemies disguised as demons. Mary Sues can become rigid and flat characters because they are stuck in our own heads and we have trouble letting them grow.
4. Everybody needs rules. As the author, you are in charge. Whatever rules you set up for your characters and setting, be sure to follow through on them. Be consistent.
- The sun never sets. Do not let one of your characters enjoy a sunrise.
- There is not enough water-sensory details should reflect this. A fine dust tickled his nose...
- The Big Bad Guy needs to eat jalapenos every three days to fuel his badassery. Keep him well stocked in peppers.
- Good Girl's left leg was crippled in at accident at the age of 13-any flashbacks better hold true to this age.
5. World view is point of view. In my notes from class I wrote, "world view is what you know, story view is what the characters know, the reader falls in-between." As you craft your world, think about how much you want the characters and the reader to know. Is your character a 'native' who knows all the rules and therefore nothing seems strange or out of place to them, or is your character a 'tourist' who learns the rules as he goes?