"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Landscape and Characters in the World of FINDER

This week I'm very happy to host guest blogger Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of FINDER and the soon-to-be-released A TIME NEVER LIVED.  The world of FINDER is similar to our Mediterranean in climate and geography.  Here, Terri-Lynne talks about how she constructed her world, and the impact of her landscapes on the characters that inhabit them. 


Getting the map right is one of the things many budding fantasy writers don't take into account when worldbuilding. I know I didn't. An Arctic tundra two weeks walk from balmy swampland? No problem! Except there is.

When creating a world, some things are generally taken for granted. There is one sun, usually one moon (the tidal kerfuffle two or more cause alone is not worth the coolness factor.) Both are similar distances from our worlds. The size of the world, the land to water ratio, the atmosphere and size of land masses will be largely similar to our own. There are those writers who go the extra lengths to create wholly unique worlds with strange but workable weather patterns and such, and then there are those who keep their worlds to one small, magical, Europe-like forest; but most of us fall in that middle ground of keeping things largely the same, just tweaked a bit.

I'm not going to pretend to be some sort of geological expert. I'm not even close. When it came time to create my world for Finder, I modeled it loosely after the Mediterranean. My characters travel Southern/Eastern Europe and Northern Africa-like terrains. The mountains to the east are there because continental shifts put them there. The same shift cut off part of the once-vast ocean, creating the Bloodbane Sea. Only narrow straits allow water in or out, cutting off larger sailing ships from entering the Bloodbane from the west, and making the basin extremely defensible from the east. Therk's Iabba Desert is what's left of the ocean floor after the waters receded.

Like our own world, the south toward the equator is generally warmer than the north, so while the mountains in Greater Argoa are often quite cold, those to the south only get snow in the higher elevations. The Bihn Iabba River flows--unlike the Nile--north to south. There are more pine forests farther north in Greater Argoa, and scrubby cedars along the western coast of Therk, in Tinnangar, while the southern mountains mainly contain deciduous hardwoods. Once again, these are things I borrowed from our world, because I know they work, even if I don't know why.

Another aspect of geography that most budding fantasy writers don't take into account is how it affects language. Idioms, curse words, colloquialisms, even religion, often stem from environment. "That's a fine kettle of fish!" isn't an idiom that's going to come from the middle of the desert, and neither is "three sheets to the wind." The local gods of agricultural regions will be gods of planting, harvest, weather, the hunt; those along the coastline will be watery ones. In my desert, the gods are "ornery desert gods" because, let's face it, a harsh climate is going to birth harsh gods. By the same token, the gods in mild Bosbana are more inclined to art and revels. There are always exceptions, of course--but these will have stories to go with them. For example, in my recently completed novel, A Time Never Lived, the migration of mountainfolk brought their vastly different gods to the desert. Their stories changed over time to reflect assimilation, but some core elements that simply do not make sense environment-wise--like redheaded gods in a land that does not produce redheads--remain.

Obviously, the clothes your characters wear will reflect environment, not just in weight and material but in color. Desert people will wear a lot of white to reflect the sun. Most colors would be expensive; the cost of importing the plant extracts or mineral compounds to create them would be prohibitive. Even if there were succulents, grasses and such available, they would not be abundant enough to make color cost-effective. The wealthy could afford color, the poor could not; however in a heavily wooded or farming community, color is abundant. In the world I created, the wealthy Merchants along the Strip adorn their businesses with colorful pavilions, a way to show their prosperity.

We are where we come from, there's no doubt about that. City or country, coastal or desert, the way we think, speak, eat is determined largely by our environment. Geography is part of every story ever written, whether the writers and readers know or not; it comes out in details we often take for granted. This is why the geography needs to work, and why we have to know what our worlds look like north, south, east and west. If we don't, our worlds won't be believable, and it will show.

Terri-Lynne DeFino's FINDER is available in hardcover, softcover, Kindle and Nook formats.  Look for it on-line through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  You can also visit Terri at her livejournal blog, http://bogwitch64.livejournal.com/