1. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    Fantasy world from the ground up

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by aguywhotypes, Jul 20, 2015.

    I want to design my own fantasy world, creatures - everything from the ground up.

    What I want to know is - can I redefine dwarves, elves, etc? Or is their definition to ingrained from previous literary works?
    In other words if I want my own version of dwarves, goblins, etc will I need to come up with a new name for them as well?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can do it either way, in my view. Orcs are different in Tolkien versus the Warhammer stories, but they're called orcs. Stan Nichols uses different types of orcs in his books, but they're called orcs. I think Mary Gentle used even a different version in Grunts. Jim Hines has turned the typical goblin idea upside down, and I can't even guess at how many different variations on elves I've seen over the years, all called elves.

    Some authors choose to invent new names for races, but you can see during the reading that they're a different take on the idea of some stock fantasy race.

    Neither approach is wrong, so I think you just have to go with your own personal preference as the author.
     
  3. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    You can write them anyway you want. Elves already have great variation across their many deceptions.... there's everything from Santa's elves, Keebler elves, Dark Elves from "Thor," Elves from LOTR. As far as your dwarves go, maybe they actually live on the tops of mountains instead of under them, or maybe they gave up mountains and underground cities long ago and have integrated into mainstream human society.

    The only things that have to stay the same are some of their physical attributes. All elves must have pointy ears and all dwarves must be short, facial hair isn't a must but still a plus
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2015
  4. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tolkien got the idea for elves/dwarves/... from Norse mythology. If you really want to build from the ground up, maybe start with creatures from non-Norse mythologies? mythicalcreatureslist.com tends to be a pretty good source of ideas.

    Some of my favorites are:

    Psoglav (one-eyed wolfmen from Eastern Europe)
    Water Leapers (bat-winged lizard-tailed frogs from Wales)
    Baku (dream-eating animal spirits from Japan)
     
  5. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    I like what Tolkien said about writing fantasy. He said to write good fantasy, you have to be grounded in reality.
     
  6. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    You could also use semi descriptive names for stock fantasy creatures. Goblins become Creeplings, Elves become Glitterfolk, Dwarves become Underlanders, Orcs become Verdants. Once you start describing the creatures in question, the reader will likely make the mental connection without confusion. And if you give them original traits and qualities it won't feel like you're just trying too hard. The elves shine because of the mineral deposits in their skin. Dwarf beards are sensory organs to help them navigate tunnels. The green skinned orcs are highly evolved plants.
     
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  7. Clover
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    Clover Member

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    I think redefining them would work, as long as you make their characteristics clear from early on. There are variations of fantasy creatures of the same name all through folklore and literature... most readers have probably come across several types of elves, dwarves etc. On the other hand, if you're going to the trouble of coming up with a lot of original characteristics of those creatures, renaming them might be preferable. If you're creating a world from the ground up, using already known creatures could make you feel like you're limiting yourself a bit. It's entirely up to you. :)
     
  8. Song
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    Song Active Member

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    Lots of writers have redifined popular creatures and monsters. Just look at vampires. From the original folklore to Bram Stoker, then from Bram Stoker to people like Anne Rice and after all that you get the vampire diares and twilight. It's your book, you get to make the rules. You just have to make it clear to the reader what the rules are. Some people make reference to the popular form and then show how it doesn't work in your book (like someone tries a cross on a vampire in the Ann Rice books etc).

    Have fun with it. For me building the world is a big part of the fun in building and crafting a story.
     
  9. Frankovitch
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    Frankovitch Member

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    When you use a word like elf or goblin, it'll draw a strong mental picture for your readers. You can then start changing that picture through your story. On the other hand, giving your creatures a new name will give your readers very little to work from, so you have more of a blank slate. Depending on where you want to end up, it might be easier to start either of those places.
     
  10. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    Very helpful to all. Thank you.

    A lot to process.
     

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