I’m so pleased to welcome Scott Keen to my blog today, he has written a great post about how he has developed his worlds, including the maps (you know I love maps, right?). This is a really interesting post that anybody with an interest in fantasy should love. Rise of the Branded looks like a fascinating epic fantasy, and if like me you like to start at the beginning you can pick up book one, Scar of the Downers here.
If you want to follow the rest of the tour you can check out the stops over at Xpresso Book Tours.
Pursued into the wild by the soldiers of Ungstah, former slave Crik and the other freed Downers encounter the magical and terrifying nature of their world. They face spectral Shepherds, man-eating Rukmush, and the ancient giants of the earth. When two of their group are captured, Crik is distraught and powerless.
Meanwhile back in the city, Durgan, former Captain of the King’s Guard who allowed Crik and his friends to escape from Ungstah, is now a Downer, one of the Branded. Amid the murmurings of an uprising among the Branded, Durgan just wants to be left alone to search for his missing son. But in the process, he discovers how dark the powers of Sulfus the king truly are. Durgan must take a stand in the coming war between the Branded and the powerful armies of Sulfus.
To kill any hope of escape for the city’s Branded, the army comes after Crik and his friends to make an example of them. The answers for Durgan, Crik and freedom for all Downers lie hidden in the dark recesses of the Northern Reaches, in the treacherous places Crik and his companions are about to enter.
Over the years, I’ve written several blogs about the different steps I’ve gone through in building a fantasy world, specifically mine. Frankly, an entire a book could be dedicated to the subject of world-building. For sake of time and space, however, I’ll keep this relatively short.
I remember the day I finished reading The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was in graduate school studying Script & Screenwriting. I was already a fan of Tolkien’s works, but I had never really thought about creating my own fantasy world until I read that book. Here was the whole creation and history of an imagined world that could (and did) spawn countless beloved stories and characters. Magic was interwoven into these myths that had its own order and rules. It all fit! Taking The Silmarillion with the whole of Tolkien’s work, nothing appeared arbitrary. The stories and characters seemed to grow organically.
Now, when I had finished reading the book, I thought to myself, “I could do this. It doesn’t seem too difficult.” Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth. It wasn’t until I started writing fantasy did I discover just how difficult building a world would be.
Rise of the Branded is the second book in the Scar of the Downer Series (the first book being Scar of the Downers). When I began writing this series nearly ten years ago all I had was a character named Crik (though at the time, his name was Child.) The only thing I knew about him was that he was a slave, an untouchable, owned by a cruel master named Kilvar. But the question still begged to be answered: In what kind of world would he live?
Before I could answer that, I needed to figure out one other thing. What was Crik’s story? Once I discovered that, I would build my world around it. So, I asked myself, “What does Crik want?”
The obvious answer was freedom. He wanted to be free from Kilvar and Ungstah, the city in which he lived. But he needed to go somewhere, so I had to give him a place not only to run from, but to run to, and that is when I came up with my first map. I sketched one out in about five minutes. It was very rough indeed, but it was the beginning of something much larger. (The one below was drawn a year or two later.)
The foundation of a house is usually in the dirt. The same goes for world-building. I had to know where my characters were going. I had to build their homes and histories. So, as the story grew in scope, the world (and map) grew as well.
You can see the progression of the maps over the years.
When you look at the maps, the dots are obviously cities or villages. Many of them weren’t put there arbitrarily. As I added places on the map, I did so with an idea of what these places were and how they came about. It’s no different in our own world. Every place has a history, a story, and the same goes for the fantasy world.
Take Wester Village as an example. It is the dot in the middle of the map. In the first chapter of the book, Scar of the Downers, two men, Andevin and Fordon, visit it. I wrote a brief backstory about why this village constructed its wall in a much earlier draft of the book. It was edited out, but it still formed the world. Here is an excerpt:
People of the village began dying in the mountains as they searched for jewels. This led to stories of the mountain men and their dogs that smelled only blood. Fear spread, inducing the people of Wester Village to gather a small army to march north into the mountains. There, a battle took place known as the Battle for the Ice Jewel. The men who fought in it never returned, but stories told in whispers did.
Before long, the number of men who came in search of this treasure declined. The growth of the village stopped and its population waned. Mountain men, growing more confident, roamed the Eastern Foothills and the Koba Valley, slaughtering all they encountered. The village shrunk back in fear and constructed the wall that still stood to Andevin’s day. Two gates occupied opposite ends of the village; one faced west, the other east. However, the wall and gates may have kept out the dogs and the mountain men, but the fear those creatures infused still found a way to enter.
Knowing how your land and cities were born is paramount if you want to create a world. I believe it gives stories their depth and their authenticity, even if the reader never sees it.
About Scott Keen
Scott grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing – he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he home schools.
Book & Buy Links
Title: Rise of the Branded
Series: Scar of the Downers #2
Author: Scott Keen
Genre: Fantasy | Young Adult
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Publication Date: 22 November 2016
Review Format: N/A
Other Formats: eBook | Paperback
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones