Wednesday, 27 April 2016

World Building in The Raven

"It took days to move the clan to Ona's Valley; almost a full cycle of Imbrit's moon would have passed by the time they arrived for the summer solstice. They travelled over mountains and valleys, through plains and forests, loosely following the path carved out by Mittha's River."

A map showing the estimated territories of the Onan People
Map made with Inkarnate

Like most fantasy authors, I have a dream to write a broad-sweeping epic that will take place in a rich setting. Another Westoros you ask? Well, I can only hope! 

With this in mind, mid last year I sat down to begin building the world my saga would take place in. I opened up a new file in scrivener to organise pages and folders in an attempt to write an encyclopedic catalogue of my imaginings. 

My enthusiasm faded in about five minutes. Most fantasy nerds love this process. What was wrong with me? Every time I tried to focus on an era, or astrological event, my mind would wonder into the realm of story. No matter how many times I ripped it back to the 'facts' of world-building it refused to remain focussed. 

It was after one lengthy daydreaming session, after the cursor had been blinking for a full half hour and no new 'facts' were entered, that I stumbled across an idea. Why not do world building differently? Why not build the world for my epic fantasy through a collection of 'Histories' that contextualise the world for me? It was one of those rare moments where I thought I was an actual genius (didn't last long) and I stopped the encyclopedia and started the story. Thus 'The Secret Chronicles of Lost Magic' was born with the first 'era' of my world contextualized in The Raven.

I've drawn on a useful article called, A World Building Checklist on arcadia.net to help me categorise elements in the world of The Raven.


1. Economy

The Onan people have no currency per se. Rather, they trade goods with other clans. The Wolf Clan, for example, have an abundance of honey and roses to make their famed crushed hips. They regularly trade with the Bear, who have ready access to salt and seaweed, which when dried, makes a light and easy to make broth. In the south, the people of the snake make snakeskin clothes, a popular item for trade. Also popular is the beautiful turquoise stones from the Otter.

2. Government

Each of the eight clans are lead by a group called the Circle of Eight – the group includes the clan's soragan, medicine woman,  and six elders from old families. The Eight meet regularly in the Tree of Knowlegde. They mainly meet to talk about upcoming festivals and necessary migrations. They also meet if there is a need to deal justice to a wrongdoer. Although, this is very rare among the clan people.

3. The Land

The clans live in a stretch of land roughly the same size as Nepal. Like Nepal in our world, their country has a range of climates. Unlike Nepal, it includes access to the sea. There are mountains, valleys, plains, forests, rivers, and deserts.

4. Society and Culture

The clan people enjoy painting rocks and the interior of caves. They enjoy swimming (and bathing) in the lakes and rivers on hot days, and in the warm mountain springs in the winter.  A typical day in each clan involves everyone contributing in some way to food collection. The hunters bring in meat, and also gather vegetables and fruits. Some people help to prepare the food, while the Cooks attend to the evenfire and ensure that everything is cooked nicely. Every clan member attends the evenfire for an evening meal, which is often followed by storytelling. Elders especially enjoy reciting tales from the Dream Days that aim to teach children an important lesson. Most clan people sleep in family groups in caves, though some clans have limited access to caves. The Wolf Clan has compensated by making houses in trees out of mud and bark, a hive-like structure called 'tree-dwells'. The clans follow the seasons and the effects of 'orbiting' suns, stars, moons and planets, which they use as their calendar. The eight Benevolent Ones are given thanks on a daily basis – usually through a small offering, but sometimes through a sacrifice. They each have a festival in their honour, the biggest being the Festival of Light in which all the clans travel to Ona's Valley, every eight years, to celebrate together. The Malfir are largely ignored (or feared), apart from mid-winter, when they are offered a sacrifice to appease them and keep them at bay.

5.  Magic and Science

Magic is only practiced by those with the Gift, and the gifted must first be prenticed to a soragan (master magic user) before they can safely use their gift. There are tales from the Dream Days that warn of the consequences that arise if a gifted person practices magic without training. They become a dangerous portent for the Malfir to operate through, and there are plenty of Dream Day tales about rogue witches and warlocks. A soragan draws on the energy of him/herself, the Otherworld (spirit world), and nature to manipulate their environment and perform magical acts. The more difficult the magic the more draining and exhausting to the soragan, and much time is required to recuperate. Each clan also has a medicine woman. The medicine practitioner is always a woman as it is believed that women are closer to the god of healing – the all powerful Mother Ona. The soragan and the medicine woman are considered the clan's most wise and respected leaders – the knowledge keepers.


That's a quick checklist of the world as it stands right now. Of course, the next book in 'The Secret Chronicles of Lost Magic' will contextualise a later era, perhaps a century or millennium later, and the world will evolve and broaden further. And I'm looking forward to that!


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