1. Blag
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    Blag New Member

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    Geographically feasible worlds and settlements

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Blag, Aug 31, 2015.

    Where can i start to look if i want to learn how to make geographically feasible fictional places. I'm trying to write an epic, yes, but i've been trying to write one ever since i read treasure island and lionboy (these two are my prime motivations for writing). I'll list the problems i'm facing currently (Please keep the technological context of 500-1000 AD in mind):

    1. Rivers: I'm trying to send rivers everywhere so that people can farm everywhere and there can be a lot of cities and fertile land, but to make that possible im creating glaciers and mountain ranges everywhere too, how else are rivers formed?
    2. Wetlands: I'm trying to create a complete kingdom under the protection of naturally created wetlands (the kingdom is embedded inside a huge wetland). Are wetlands difficult enough to maneuver that a whole kingdom can rest assured that nobody will cross it? What are the methods of converting wetlands into replenishing fertile lands? Can a patch of highlands(apprx the size of france/germany) embedded in the wetlands have fertile lands/rivers? If its a peninsula surrounded by only ocean and wetlands, would that change something?
    3. Population: I doubt it comes under geography, but this is a issue too. I need to make enough arable land so that the population can shoot up, (i need to recolonise a catastrophically destroyed land/half-continent).

    My main concern is about the wetlands.
     
  2. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay - first I think you're overthinking it. You don't need to create a whole world for a novel. You need to create the ILLUSION of one. Not everything in every fantasy world makes total sense or is totally feasible. Asimov's sci-fi worlds did all sorts of weird tricks like cave-based underground cities and tidally-locked "rimworlds" where one side of the planet faced the sun all the time and was too hot, and the dark side was too cold, and all life existed on the boundary "rim" that existed in perpetual twilight. So, I'd just have fun and do something that makes sense to you on paper - work details later.

    That said.

    1) Most rivers in temperate areas are glacier-fed. Rivers by definition are places where water collects and flows downward to the sea via gravity after falling from the sky. In glacier fed rivers this is from melting winter snow. In some tropical rivers the source is more direct - monsoon rains feed directly into rivers.

    2) Not an expert here but wetlands are pretty hard to get through - There's still not much in the Florida Everglades, and the Marsh Arabs in Iraq went largely untouched for centuries before modern tech enabled Saddam Hussein to drain the swamp and do nasty things. A good portion of North Australia is borderline-impassable during the wet season. That said, relying on a marsh for protection is dicey unless it's one heckuva big marsh. You can go around wetlands. I know nothing about converting wetland to arable land - but my gut says your should research Dutch history - a lot of The Netherlands farmland is land reclaimed from the sea.

    3) Go research geography and population trends in medieval Europe - maybe France and Germany. Pick a fertile place and figure out how many people it supported in the time frame you're shooting for.
     
  3. Blag
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    Blag New Member

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    This is gonna be difficult. I've tried creating worlds 5 times and each time i failed to keep on it. I've been unable to create logical illusions, and my reviewer, thats my dad, is always able to find these logical flaws.

    Never been able to. I have written and scrapped 5 novels before they could finish because the plot lost direction, the reader and the author both were wondering where is the plot actually going? So i decided to first plan it all out and then execute it, i've had enough of writing 50 pages, and scrapping it again so many times.

    But thanks for your info though, i'll try to research more about claiming arable land in different circumstances.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need rivers in order to farm. In modern day, we're so accustomed to having piped or running water for irrigation that we have trouble realizing that agriculture is possible without those things, but it is. For centuries, most farming was based on rain. You grew what worked with the most common rain patterns in your area--even if the most common rain pattern was 'no rain in the summer'--and if you had an uncommon year, you had a crop failure.
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I get what you're saying but I do have some small tips in this regard.

    1) Get multiple reviewers. Only having one reviewer tends to hold your story hostage to that person's personal tastes and hang-ups. That's not an indictment of any reviewer, it just happens with everyone.

    2) This holds doubly true if your reviewer is family. We all respect our parents and look up to them, but that means we also trust their biases more. I thought my writing was crap in high school because my mom couldn't relate to it - I've later learned that my mom knows very little about fiction and how it's constructed, has a hard time relating to ANY fiction, and I use her as my test subject for "readers who prefer fast pace and have low attention spans". I run the construction through the writing group and use my mom as the control group representing people who don't pay the same level of attention as the writing group.

    3) You should have at least one reviewer who is a writer and knows about writing as a craft.

    4) Hence, my advice to everyone is to find a local in-person writing group if possible - mine is a godsend. It gives you access to other people who are doing what you're doing and you can compare notes on how well you are or aren't doing and learn from eachother (there are also online options but I'm a big advocate of the bonding that comes from in-person groups).

    5) Sci-Fi and Fantasy are a lot about worldbuilding - but if you want a story you can finish, the trick is to start with characters and plot, not world. You need to find a story you want to tell, about people you like, and go from there. I started a bunch of stuff in high-school and college and never got very far into it. Then I dropped creative writing entirely for about eight years after college and focussed on short-form opinion writing, journalism, etc. I came back to it because there was one story that wouldn't leave me alone for almost a decade. I'm now having all sorts frustrations learning craft and actually writing that story, but there's a reason I'm able to keep doing it and not giving up - I like the story, like the characters, and am comfortable spending large amounts of time with them. Other stories, including some I've started in the last year, I get bored with. The main project, however, I'm able to keep slugging along - primarily because it's the story I never get bored with and the characters I've enjoyed hanging out with for more than ten years now. The key to finishing isn't in executing the world perfectly, it's enjoying the company of your characters and caring enough about them that you feel like you owe it to them to tell their story. People approach things differently, but I can't invest emotion in a world the same way I can in a character.
     
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  6. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    Im a bit confused here.

    You started 5 novels and never finished them because your plot lost direction. So you decided to plan them out.

    Perfect, totally with you so far!

    So you sat down and started trying to figure out the river and agricultural systems. How wetlands can be converted to farmable livable land. How an area of land the size of france and surrounded by an ocean and consisting primarily of wetlands can support a kingdom (See England for the answer to this question).

    So here is where my confusion comes into play. At no point have you focused at all on the problem that you encountered in your first 5 novel attempts. Plot. None of what you are working through and laying out here concerns the plot of your Novel. Even if you build this world perfectly, having a detailed agriculture system in place is not going to carry the story in Act 2 and 3.

    What you essentially have told me is that your car doesn't run because your engine is missing a ton of key parts. So what you have done to fix the problem is invest a ton of time in giving it a really killer exterior paint job. Sure its gonna look pretty right at the start, but the car still doesn't run.
     
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  7. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    Well, this is the Setting Development forum. :p

    I think some fantasy/sci-fi writers will inevitably focus a lot on details, while others will focus on characters more. A good story always need to have good characters, but the level of detail an author wants to get into when building the world is a matter of preference I think, and how much detail you build into your world will probably affect what audiences you end up appealing to. Some people want to read fiction that is logical, detailed, and very well constructed. Some get bogged down in the details and would rather the story be simpler.

    I'm guessing your father probably has those preferences, and I am also a big fan of works with a lot of details. But don't feel that plotting out all of the minor details are a requirement. I guess the important thing is finding your own personal preference. How much detail do you want to include of your world and setting? What settings interest you the most, and therefore are ones you'd enjoy researching?
     
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  8. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    I love world building as much as the next guy, but the OP specifically said that his last few works suffered because the plot lost direction. Better world building does not solve this problem.
     
  9. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    I jumped into the story (more so the characters practically grabbed me) and the worldbuilding was done through the natural exploration. Now, I already know a lot about the structure of how an actual world works. Right down to what types of minerals can be found in what types of rock, how the water table and seasonal variations work. For whatever reason, the world is incredibly consistent and keeps revealing more and more of itself as the story progresses.

    Things like the solar and lunar cycle, flow of the water table, minerals, weather patterns, natural crops, predators and prey relationships. The characters exist in a paradise, but the conflict of man vs nature is a major issue in the story and it just works itself out. I take notes on what my characters tell me, but I inadvertently will miss some of the finer aspects of how it works, but I can see the world if I close my eyes and imagine it. They have been entirely consistent and a journey of five miles for has been made several times by them to reach the grassland in the shadow of great mountains.

    It is probably not normal to see it like I do. However, if you do not have enough "worldly knowledge" to understand how water flows and moves, then such things as the founding of a settlement is probably beyond your grasp. A settlement requires stability and should be the optimal location in a general area, even if it is self-sufficient or dependent upon trade.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @Commandante Lemming. Be careful of taking a single vote of "no" or disagreement or "don't like" as an absolute.

    Example #1

    I recently read the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer. It was spectacular and, as a writer, intimidatingly good. Really, just awesome. The story takes place somewhere along the southern area of the east coast of America. The exact location is never disclosed, but all signs point to somewhere Georgia/Florida. The coastal terrain makes up a big part of the scenery and locations of events of this story. It's important, not just some passing mention or storyline "wallpaper". Vandermeer gets it all wrong. I'm a Southern Beach boy. I have lived with the waves lapping my toes for the better part of my life. I know the coast of the South East of the U.S. very, very well. It was home to me for decades. Vandermeer describes some areas as being pretty much on point, but then just an hour's drive up the coast he gives coastal topography and seaside forrest that are more like northern California or Oregon. It's not correct in the least bit. Totally wrong. And it doesn't matter because the story is not a lesson on coastal topography. It's a powerfully character driven tale and his geographic errors or creative license is totally forgiven because he delivers a stonkingly good story.

    Example #2

    The Darkover books by Marion Zimmer Bradley are some of the best known, widely read, long lived, and popular books in the world of Science Fantasy. They are riddled with topographic errors, inconsistencies from one book to the next, impossibilities of adjacent climate zones, etc. Marion herself has oft been quoted as not wanting to put together a map because she knows full well that there are inconsistencies that would only make a map impossible and that, frankly, zero are the number of fuqs she gives since the popularity of the novels make it quite clear that people are not reading them for the joy of perfect adherence to such things. She has made it bluntly plain that she is a writer, and that her stories are about the stories, and that if it matters that much to someone that Town X be exactly this many days journey from Town Y in each and every book, then maybe what the reader needs is a date and some sex, not a book.

    Example #3

    This example has nothing to do with maps or topography. Not everyone is going to like a given thing in a given story. Some people may love the thing, some people may not even notice the thing, some people will hate the thing. That's life. Because one person tells you that they don't dig a thing is not reason enough for you to get rid of it if you like it or if it makes sense to you in the telling of your story. I recently posted a small, rather unformed, bit of a new thing I'm writing in the Workshop and had a critic make mention, more than once, of the exception they took to a couple of gals in the story who happen to be rather pretty. Their inclusion in that form may not make sense to a particular reader, but that doesn't mean I just take them out. Pretty girls exist and have been my friends across the span of my life. Including them isn't in any way unrealistic or pandering to me. It's just my personal experience. But it's not everyone's personal experience and to some it may seem out of place, or gratuitous. *shrug* This doesn't mean I remove them. They make sense to me exactly as they are.
     
  11. historymom
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    historymom Member

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    Your setting reminds me of the Saxon series by Bernard Cornwell. "The Pale Horseman" in particular goes into a lot of detail about wetlands and farming (although Cornwell uses real locations meticulously researched). You should read it - loads of helpful info there.
     

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