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THE INHABITANTS OF YOUR WORLD

February 13, 2019

In the second part of this geography lesson, I’m going to talk about the inhabitant side of the geography angle. Like I alluded to in the previous article on geography, it’s taught less and less in schools, to the point that most younger people nowadays don’t even know what it is…or that it has two parts.

I that last article, I talked about physical geography, or the landscape of your world. In this one, I’m going to talk about the inhabitants, or the people and critters (icky bugs), monsters of your world.

REALITY

It goes without saying if you’re writing a real-world story, you need to get your facts straight. If your novel takes place in Spain, for instance, and it’s up north near the French border, you can’t discount the Basque population. If it takes place in Eastern Turkey, you can’t discount the Kurds.

You also have to consider languages spoken throughout these places. Just considering here in the You Ess And A, or how about good ole’ Canada and Quebec? You can’t ignore French Canadian and the French speaking population up there.

Right here in the Southwest, there’s a heavy Spanish speaking populace which could come into play in your story.

FANTASY

A fantasy story is a completely made up world. There are certain tropes that one does NOT have to comply with. Many readers expect a certain amount of them, but who says you have to use any, or all of them?

There should be regions within your world where there are populations of “whatevers.” They can be a certain creature or creatures, they can be a mix. They can be anything you want. How you decide and what you base them on is up to you, they just have to make some kind of geographic sense.

WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF YOUR ICKY BUGS?

Most fantasy and science fiction has fantastical and alien icky bugs (monsters/creatures/beings). What’s your source?

Many use the standard Tolkein/D&D tropes and sources and tweak them to make them their own.

We have elves, dragons, dwarfs, vampires, zombies, faeries, and usually, but not always humans, and just about anything out of the D&D monster manuals. You can take real-world animals and alter them to make them your own. Many take inspiration from the D&D manuals and tweak some of those monsters into their own versions not only to make them their own, but also so as not to violate copywrite.

Others have never read or seen those old manuals and just make stuff up on the fly.

RULES

Now, you’ve created your critters as you go along if you’re a pantser, or if you’re an outliner, you created your stock of beasts beforehand (and maybe added a few along the way).

Now, you’ll need to create rules of geography and rules of physics for these creatures.

Where can they exist, and what regions are they restricted to? What kind of climate can they tolerate? Where do they thrive and what areas do they avoid? What kills them and what makes them stronger? Where do they hide out, what kind of burrows or hovels do they live in?

Your heroes are, of course, going to run into these beasts, whether friend or foe, along the way, so you need to set up the time, place and conditions for them.

This, of course, not only goes for icky bugs (a loose term), but for civilizations as well.

You then can’t just have a desert bug show up in the snow, right? That’s breaking your own rules (as an extreme example). If you do, you have to have a big reason for it, a logical one that affects the plot.

TYING IN WITH THE REAL WORLD

Even if you have certain monsters and real-world creatures mixed in to your fantasy world, they have to make some kind of sense. If they don’t, you either have to dump them or find a way to explain them to the reader so they make sense.

You can’t just create something illogical, even in a fantasy world. You have to give it some kind of logic, even if you’re making the rules. Those rules have to make some kind of sense to justify what you’re doing.

Sometimes, you may make a rule based on something you know for a fact from the real world. It may be something others may not think is real. In one of my recent readings to my writer’s group, I ran across this situation with one of the critiquers. He thought what I was doing did not make sense. When I explained, he still did not believe it until several other people chimed in because they knew exactly what I was talking about. It made sense to them because they’d experienced the same thing. As long as you can back it up with reality, you can use it, but it had better be reality and not just rumor.

Creating your own world and your own rules is fine as long as they make sense.

SUMMARY

World building can be a lot of fun, whether you do it on the fly, or map it all out ahead of time.

Geography, both physical and inhabitant is an important part of it.

Happy writing!

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