As a teenage fantasy reader, I was quick to note and admire authors who put in a lot of effort to build out the world they were writing about. Especially the ones that didn’t tackle sharing the information with the reader via an information dump! I like discovering a world through the sights and sounds of a character, through their sifting of memories to connections, through the chance phrase that a savvy reader can pick up on. There is a certain feel to a story set in a world that has been well thought out, a sense of continued time and the linking of places. I quickly became addicted to a well crafted story. Some people are happy with a strong plot: I like to be transported.
So of course, when I started writing I paid a lot of attention to world building. When writing Born of Water, I drew maps to help me wrap my mind around the world and then I jumped in to describing a place. But descriptions are boring, even for writers! What I found the most interesting was to learn about the myths of the places and people. That is how I discovered this legend of the Ashanti:
“The greatest legend of the Ashanti is that they, the first children of Myrrah, once nearly had conquered the world. This was a time beyond memory or record, during the earliest days. To thwart their plans to rule as demigods, it took Mhyrah herself to stop them. She remade her first children along with their mounts: dragons of this early land. The recreated Ashanti were given short lives, so that they would not again raise an army for battles. Instead, they would be involved with struggles within their kind for power and the survival of their culture. The Earth Elemental, who wrote this tale, said the Ashanti who had related it to her was only twenty-two yet was old and infirm as a man of grandfatherly years.
During this war before all other battles, some of the Ashanti had stood against their brothers. These Myrrah gifted with the very abilities the Ashanti had sought. These few, who had fought the insanity of their brothers, were given eternal life and the same power over elements that Mhyrah had, but with once exception. She gave them supreme control over only one element, but not all, by making them spirit beings of that element. They became the fire sylphs, water nymphs, air spirits, and earth beings that the Elementals call upon today to do their bidding.”
I am also an ecologist by not only trade, but mindset as well. I love to see how interactions happen and the uniqueness that results from the combination of myriads of small details. It was easy for me to fall in love with the forest ecology of the Tiak:
“The headlands along the Fjords are often misty and subject to frequent, gentle rains. The Yisha trees, only found along this southern section of the Alin mountains, grow thick in these damp conditions. But, the pines need fire to regenerate. Only intense heat will crack the thick covering over the seeds.
There is a small click beetle that feasts on the wood of the Yisha tree. In the evening and during afternoon rains, the click of their wings can be heard throughout the forest. Over time as the click beetle infests sections of the forest, the trees begin to take up minerals through their roots: mica, iron, zinc, and calcium. The beetles eat this wood and ingest the minerals, forming harder and harder shells as they decimate the forest.
Every decade or so, dry winds sweep up from the Great Desert of Ak’Ashanti, which lies to the south. The winds cross the Bay of Tiak and push away the gentle rains. The land dries and withers. In the places plagued by beetles, the hardened shells take on a new purpose. When hard and dry enough, the beetles click and create a spark. The forest catches fire.
Smoke from the great fires rises on the hot winds, climbing high over the mountains. The ash mixes with the melting snow of the mountain glaciers, evaporating in the heat of fire and desert winds. Clouds form and the rains come again. The fires burn out the home of the beetles, reducing their population. And it allows the seeds opened from the heat to sprout, so that new trees will grow on the burnt slopes. The cycle begins again.”
In the end, I went further than my characters may travel in the novel. I learned – or created as you choose – so much about this world. I can hear, smell, see, taste, and feel it. I think it really does make the novel richer, to know so much about a world and its many different cultures. I ended up with pages of notes that never made it into the first novel. So what do you do with sheets of world building leftovers?
You can’t reheat them for dinner on Sunday night.
It was my husband who thought of the perfect suggestion: Why not take it all and put it into a novel companion? I might not be the only one who finds strange details fascinating or well end up enjoying Born of Water more by knowing extra bits. It took some time to compile and I added more extras as well, such as “Day Before” stories on each of the main characters. The most fun though, was deciding to write the Companion as a series of research papers from members of the Church of Four Orders. It allowed me to promote the view of the Church. This twist, focusing on one viewpoint, has become one of my most favorite aspects of being a writer: characters may believe something completely, but just remember you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Really, would you trust a stranger off the street completely?
The Born of Water Novel Companion is out now. It is even FREE at any of the links listed below. However, it’ll set you back 99 cents at Amazon. Of course, if you feel like telling Amazon that it is free elsewhere, maybe that will change!
Also available through ebook apps if the above doesn’t fit your reader. Search for Born of Water Novel Companion!