Today, my World Builders guest is Emily Kester, author of An Aarainian Tale: The Monarch’s Rabble, currently funding on Inkshares.
Emily Kester is the author of An Aarainian Tale: The Monarch’s Rabble and creator of the world of Aarainia and her neighbour across the sea, Iara, along with all the other lands still to be discovered. Her dream is to publish her book and all the others to follow in hopes of making a living off of doing what she loves. In the meantime, she’ll continue to work with animals while wearing any costume elements she can get away with.
Here now are Emily’s insights on world building.
What is the appeal of world building to you? How does it compare to the importance of character and plot?
World building is a fun process that allows me to create a world to explore in. I tend to love a challenge when it comes to writing and world building is the perfect challenge that is just frustrating enough to keep me wanting more (at least my process is). World building, I would say, is right up there in importance with character and plot. If you don’t have a plot you have nothing for your characters to do. If you don’t have characters, you don’t have anyone to drive the plot. And if you don’t have a world there’s nowhere for them to live and plot and interact.
What aspects of the world do you have to figure out before you start a story? What do you allow to unfold as you write?
Before starting to write a story, I have to know where it’s taking place. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing my novel or blowing off steam with a friend through roleplay. But as far as a brand new story goes, I have to think about what I want the setting to be. In the case of my Aarainian Tales series, I knew I wanted a Midde Earth style fantasy realm: rustic with no modern technology, a castle, villages, and lots of forests (perhaps too many forests!) and mountains. Once I had a rough idea of what I wanted, I could begin writing while letting the world unfold on its own.
While I like to know where to start, I also like to let things run amuck and see where the story wants to go. The joys of a first draft is you can easily let everything go its own way (while keeping some semblance of control, mind you) and refine it in the next drafts.
Do you have a technique for keeping track of world building as you go? How do you ensure your material is easily retrievable and easy to modify?
I am a pen and paper person. Despite the fact that we live in an age of technology, I do everything with pen and paper. All my notes and sketches are handwritten on paper and stored away in folders. And even if I typed them or drew them on the computer, I print them and store them in my folders. For the novel I’m currently writing (the sequel to The Monarch’s Rabble), I have a little black coupon folder with label tabs. Each tab holds notes for some part of my project and one of those tabs is the name of the current world. There I try to keep all information pertaining to my world: city names, city characteristics, random facts and thoughts, and anything else that may pertain to it. Although, one of the cities has become essential enough that it gets its own tab.
Knowing exactly where to find what I need makes it easier for me to dig through only one pile of notes instead of all of my notes like when I started The Monarch’s Rabble seven years ago. If I feel I have everything figured out, I may have a master sheet with all the solid facts about a land that I can re-visit and modify as need be. Maybe not the cleanest and most organised method, but it’s what works for me. I love my little file folders and notes!
What do you enjoy the most about world building?
I love mentally exploring a new land and adding in what I want, where I want (so long as it makes some sort of sense). And it’s really challenging. Even though I may complain and whine about problems as they come up, I really do enjoy sorting them out. It’s super rewarding to unknot the tangle of problems that can come with a new world. However I do have to be careful to know when I have enough research because I can get caught in the trap of only researching and refusing to work on the actual writing. I believe it’s a common form of procrastination among writers.
It’s also a great feeling to get your world built, stand back, and see what you created. Like finishing a piece of art you’ve spent 30+ hours on.
Do you use diagrams? If so, what kind? What about charts, schematics, or other visual representations of your world beyond textual material?
Once I have things figured out, I like to have a map. It makes it easier for me to track the characters’ journey and see where everything is in relation to itself. It also allows me to better guesstimate how long it takes my characters to get from point A to point B. Mapping out the world also makes it apparent what I need to change and what I need to add.
Maps don’t have to be fancy, either. While I’ve tried to make fancy maps of Aarainia, it was most likely just another scheme to procrastinate the actual writing or editing.
Crude maps are probably the best when you’re using them for personal references.
Before I started my newest novel, I had a little map drawn of an island across the sea from Aarainia with squiggly lines for the divide for each realm. It’s still a go-to map for the broad placement of things!
My characters in this new story recently entered the capital city of one of the realms and I needed to know what the city looked like to get an idea of where they were going so I grabbed a large drawing pad and started to map it out using an ancient Egyptian city as a rough guide.
What tips do you have for aspiring fantasy writers on how to create a solid, believable world?
Research. Jot notes. Research. Sketch. RESEARCH.
What is the inspiring factor behind the world you’re creating? If you can pinpoint that, you can use it to help guide you.
Aarainia is inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Earth’s medieval period so I spent time doing a bit of research on the period while running about Middle Earth via Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). One of the realms in my next book is based off ancient Egypt. So I’ve done some researching of ancient Egypt to help me get a feel for it.
There are plenty of fantasy books out there if you need some ideas of how a fantasy world works but my favorite way to explore fantasy worlds is through video games. Skyrim was a big help not so much in world building as it was for developing my antagonist’s wife (who, sadly, doesn’t make it into The Monarch’s Rabble but plays a huge role in many short stories set before the novel). But the world of Skyrim is an excellent fantasy world to explore. And as mentioned above, Lord of the Rings Online is a great way to explore the classic fantasy realm that is Middle Earth and the maps I drew for The Monarch’s Rabble for personal use were actually drawn using the maps in LOTRO as reference. Plus, I find it a lot of fun to be able to dive into a fantasy realm that you can see and not just imagine.
Also try to think things in your world through and make sure they make sense to you and have a purpose. Everything in writing has to have a purpose or belong. It can’t always just be there because you want it to be.
Thank you, John, so much for inviting me to guest-blog and answer your questions on world building.
It was a pleasure having you here sharing your insights and letting us into your world. Thanks, Emily!
Be sure to check out Emily’s fantasy novel, An Aarainian Tale: The Monarch’s Rabble:
When Jirnethelle returns home he finds his village razed to the ground with no survivors, that is until he hears his father was called away by the king of Aarainia. Determined to find his father and learn what happened to his village, Jirnethelle sets out for the capital only to discover things are not what they seem. Deceit, hidden truths, a mysterious woman, and a tale about an ancient Monarch beckon him to discover secrets kept hidden for more than a thousand years.
And here is a short excerpt from An Aarainian Tale: The Monarch’s Rabble:
The room was dark, smoky, and nearly bursting with patrons as Jirnethelle slid and twisted his way through the crowd of Men, trying to find a place private enough for two. He started past a table occupied by four Men when their conversation caught his attention.
“I hear the Gnomes are makin’ a comeback.”
“Yer daft. The Gnomes ain’t been seen since Atar slew the last one hundreds of years ago.”
“I’m tellin’ ya, I saw ‘em.”
“You were drinkin’ again, you were.”
“I was not! Alright, mebee a smidge, but ya can’t mistake those pointed hats of theirs fer antlers.”
“And just where did y’ see these Gnomes?”
“I was out huntin’ between the forests, near that ramshackle inn ‘tween here and Palaceide. I’m tellin’ ya. I saw ‘em out there in the brush.”
“Excuse me,” Jirnethelle said, sidling closer, “but did you say you saw Gnomes?”
“An’ what’s it t’ you, Elf?” The four Men all turned in their seats to stare at him.
“Have there been other Gnome sightings?” Jirnethelle wondered. “A friend and I are on our way to Palaceide.”
“Well ain’t that just bloody good for you?”
“If there are Gnomes on the road, I should like to know.”
“Yeah, I saw a Gnome. It was just one, but you know the stories. Where there’s one, there’s at least a dozen more.”
“Thank you for the information, gentlemen,” Jirnethelle said, “and I’m glad they didn’t see you. Good evening.” He turned to leave, but the Man who claimed to have seen the Gnomes reached out and grabbed his arm.
“Now wait jus’ a minute, Elf. What’re you gonna do with this information I’ve so freely given ya?”
Jirnethelle looked down uncomfortably at the vice-like grip before licking his lips and meeting the Man’s eyes. “As I said, either prepare to face them or choose a different route. I’ll need to talk with my friend about it.”
“His friend, eh? What’s ta say you aren’t in league with the Gnomes?”
“What?” Jirnethelle scoffed, finding the idea absurd. “Who in their right mind would be in league with the Gnomes?”
“Did I mention I saw someone else with the Gnome? Tall and lanky like an Elf. Like you.”
The other Men rolled their eyes. “Oh so nows there’s an Elf with them?”
“Just how much were ya drinkin’ out there?”
“Shad’up. I wasn’t drinkin’.”
“And my wife’s the queen.”
“Ye don’t gots a wife.”
“Exactly. And he wasn’t not drinking.”
“I assure you, I’m not in league with the Gnomes,” Jirnethelle said with an uneasy laugh. “I’ve never even seen a Gnome.”
“There are you!”
Jirnethelle felt a surge of relief as he heard Khale’s voice. He looked over his shoulder and saw her coming up to them. “Khale, I was just looking for you.”
“Over here at a table full of Men?” Khale raised an eyebrow. “No offense, gentlemen.”
“This one with you, lass?” the Man holding Jirnethelle asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Khale grinned. “Is he causing you boys trouble?”
“That depends. He in league with the Gnomes?”
Khale’s jaw dropped. “What?” she laughed. “That’s absurd. Who would be in league with the Gnomes? Aren’t they all locked away or dead, anyway?”
“That’s what I was sayin’,” one of the Men muttered. “There’s no way ya saw a Gnome.”
“I said shad’up!”
Jirnethelle took the moment to pry his arm from the Man’s grip. “I’m sorry for troubling you,” he said and grabbed Khale’s hand, quickly retreating with her.
“What was that all about?” Khale asked, a slight laugh in her voice. “It looked as if you were about to get yourself killed.”
“I wouldn’t go as far as that,” Jirnethelle said, “but I overheard their conversation.” He finally found a place where they could sit and talk. “One was saying he saw Gnomes recently and I was curious.”
“So you just helped yourself to their conversation?” Khale shook her head. “That may work with Elves or Faeries, but Men seem to take offense to that for some reason. So,” she propped her elbows on the table and put her chin in her hands, “what did you learn?”
Jirnethelle leaned in close and said, “If they’re to be trusted, there was a Gnome seen at the Last Inn, between here and Palaceide. And then he said there was an Elf with them, but,” he shook his head, “that was probably nothing. He added it only after they’d taken offense to me.”
“What are we going to do?” Khale asked. “The only way to bypass that would be to go directly through the Forest of Aarainia.”
“I don’t know we need to worry too much about it, but you may be right,” Jirnethelle said. “The other Men seemed convinced he’d been drinking, and I can agree with them even with that short encounter. All the Gnomes are locked away so the chances of one of them being loose is incredibly slim.”
Khale looked around and leaned in close as a thought crossed her mind. She lowered her voice and asked, “What if Gnomes are the reason the Council was called?”
“If that’s the case, why haven’t we heard anything about more Gnome sightings? A thing like that would spread like wildfire.”
“It is strange, I’ll admit…” She shrugged and sat back. “Well, whatever you decide. At least we’ve got some warning.”
“You don’t have to come with me,” Jirnethelle said.
“Are you kidding? You’ve got me intrigued,” Khale grinned. “You could say I’m invested now.”
Jirnethelle smiled. “I’m very grateful for the company.”
Half an hour later, after going their separate ways for the night, there was a frantic pounding at Jirnethelle’s door. Startled, he opened the door to find Khale glancing over her shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” Jirnethelle frowned.
Khale snapped her head forward. “Quick, hide me!” she exclaimed, pushing past Jirnethelle into the room.
“What is it?” he asked, peering into the hall.
“Don’t look! Shut the door!”
Utterly confused, Jirnethelle complied locking the door before he turned to face Khale.
“Those Men I rescued you from earlier are after me!” Khale exclaimed. “I came in from the barn and was heading back this way when one of them stopped me. The others just watched.”
“Are you okay?” Jirnethelle asked. “They didn’t hurt you, did they?”
“No…no, I’m fine,” Khale said and gave a cheeky grin. “Actually, I hurt him. Gave him a good roughin’ up and ran here. But they’re coming!” She let out a gasp and looked towards the door. “Whatever happens,” she whispered, “I’m not here!” She hurried and ducked behind the bed just as a heavy fist pounded on the door.
“Open up! I know she’s in there!”
Jirnethelle opened the door just enough to peer out. It was the Man from earlier who had claimed he’d seen a Gnome. His nose was dripping blood and Jirnethelle did his best to hide a smirk at Khale’s handiwork. He opened the door more and asked, “Can I help you?”
“Where’s the Faerie?” the Man demanded.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her since dinner.”
“Haven’t seen her…” the Man muttered. “I know you know where she is! Yer travellin’ with her after all!”
“That doesn’t mean I keep tabs on her,” Jirnethelle said.
“Nice try, Elf,” one of the other Men from the table spoke up, coming up behind the first. “We saw ‘er run down this way.”
“And just why are you looking for her?” Jirnethelle asked, his voice going dark.
“The little witch struck me,” the first Man growled, “I think she ought to learn a lesson.”
At that, Jirnethelle drew his sword. “I won’t let you harm one hair on her head, one feather on her wings.”
Jirnethelle and the Men looked down the hall to see Khale coming towards them. She crossed her arms and looked scornfully at Jirnethelle. “Are you getting into trouble again?”
“Not at all,” Jirnethelle said, “just trying to protect you from these scoundrels.”
“So, came back for more, did you?” Khale glared at the first Man. “I’d leave now if I were you.”
“Or what?” the Man asked, pulling a hidden knife from the leather bracer on his forearm.
“Or I’ll show you just who you’re really messing with,” Khale said, placing her hands on her hips.
“I got me friends with me and you’re just you two,” the Man said, drawing himself to his full height. “Y’ can’t hurt me.”
“No?” Khale cocked an eyebrow. “I can if I use magick.”
At that word, all four Men recoiled.
“I thought magicks was illegal,” one of the Men whispered harshly.
“That don’t make it any less real,” another added. “C’mon, Braithern, let’s get outta here before she can do something witchy.”
“I’d listen to him,” Khale said, raising her hands and causing the Men to flinch again.
“Alright, alright!” Braithern exclaimed. “We’ll leave.” Reluctantly, he turned around and motioned for his friends to follow.
Jirnethelle watched them leave with narrowed eyes, not sheathing his sword until he was certain they were gone.
“Phew,” Khale breathed. “Glad that’s over with.”
Jirnethelle looked at her. “Do you really have magick?” he asked, speaking in a low conspiratorial tone.
“Of course not,” Khale scoffed, waving a hand. “Like they said, magick’s been illegal since before the Dark Days. I doubt it even exists anymore outside of the Unicorns, but Men are so superstitious. Either way, I’m glad we’re leaving tomorrow.”
“So am I,” Jirnethelle nodded. “Will you be fine the rest of the night?”
“I think so,” Khale said. “I can’t imagine they’ll think of bothering me anymore, not if they think I’ll do something nasty to them.” She grinned. “Thanks for the help. I’ll see you in the morning?”
Jirnethelle nodded. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
If you’re intrigued, please go over to Inkshares to find out more.
Inkshares is a crowdfunding publisher who chooses which books to publish based on whether enough readers have shown interest in them. Successful projects have been reviewed in the NYT, US Today, and Washington Post, and have been distributed to numerous bookstores including Indigo and Barnes & Noble.
You can connect with Emily in the following ways:
Deviant Art: www.sadict.deviantart.com
Email: darthsadict “at” gmail “dot” com