Posts Tagged ‘world building


NaNoWriMo Prep Work

I spent a couple of hours scouring name sites for common Japanese names and their meanings.

I spent some time looking up the language of flowers and what they mean in different cultures.

I spent two hours pulling my hair out, arguing with someone on whether I am “allowed” to write about an Asian main character. (The person I was arguing with was not Asian, for the record.)

I spent an hour running down articles about the presence of yakuza families in Hawaii because I was told there was “no such thing.” The individual telling me that didn’t even know what a yakuza was.

I spent an hour being interrogated as to why my main character was a yakuza and the antagonist is an onryo, when my “essential whiteness” says I should only have a two-bit white thug and a generic ghost.

I spent twenty minutes having the plight of the Japanese following WWII explained to me, and how it makes it horribly insensitive and problematic to even touch on anything related to it, being a white oppressor who is just as responsible for the nuking of Hiroshima as anyone on the Enola Gay who actually dropped Little Boy.

In other words, I’ve spent about three hours actually trying to work on things relating to the story I want to tell, and four and a half or more being told all the reasons why I shouldn’t be allowed to write it, most of those conversations ending with me being blocked after a healthy round of alt-right insults.

It makes me not want to bother. I had a lot of nervousness going into this, since writer’s block has been kicking the crap out of me lately and fighting with my depression to decide which will leave me less functional today. The little twinkle of an ex-yakuza being stalked by a familial ghost was with me when I woke up one day gave me some hope. “Gosh, maybe I can do something with this,” I thought, as I poked and prodded it. I did a profile over on the NaNoWriMo site, and plastered the little banner in the appropriate places, thinking that gave me some accountability requirements. I was pledging to do this thing, if only to try to jump-start my brain and give me something to focus on besides my physical pains and mental issues.

It’s getting to be more than it’s worth, and making me want to do a full-scale retreat. Not sure what to do about it.

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Unique, or Part of the Horde?



I spend a lot of time thinking about monsters. Kind of part of the job description, I should think. But I was mulling a few things over today while skimming Wikipedia for nuggets of lore to appropriate and hit upon this question:

“What’s scarier? A unique, solitary entity with no frame of reference, or a ‘race’ or ‘species’ of being?”

Net answer? I don’t know. It depends on a lot more than that question can easy reference; how unique are individual members of this species, for example. Does the title of “werewolf,” for example, dictate anything beyond “blend of man and wolf,” or can you start there and run with it? (Obviously, you always can do so, but I mean in the worldbuilding sense. Do werewolves in your world have a forced homogenity of any kind, and how deep does it go?)

I remember reading something in the Buffy Watcher’s Guide where they were talking about Der Kindestod, a monster that appeared in an early season of the show. I don’t recall if it was Whedon who said it, though I think it was. The gist of it was that he didn’t want to call it a “kindestod demon,”  that it was just THE Kindestod. He said he found it more frightening if it was just a solitary entity, rather than some species demon Darwinists could “collect” for study. I kind of agree with him.

I’d seen similar concepts in reference to the Antedeluvians, Malfeans, and Earthbound from White Wolf’s World of Darkness game lines; they may superficially be members of their supernatural races (vampires, wraiths/spectres, and demons, respectively) but they have gone so far beyond the “template” for their species that they can only be understood as something that has transcended that starting point, a unique entity of unknown power and quality. I think it was quote from Orpheus, but I could just be making things up, that referenced the Malfeans as each “being a nation of one, with little to no relation to its confederates.”

On the other hand, I’ve seen intstances where someone trying to go with the singular entity explanation flubs it. Being unique and alone means the creator can essentially just create the rules as they go along, which some folks take as carte blanche to delve into fanfiction levels of “nuh-uh, I win,” allowing the beastie to do anything it wants whenever it wants, instead of being subject to any kind of logic (fractured, supernatural, paranormal or otherwise) or rules.

What about you folks out there? What’s worse? An individual entity, or a horde of Samey McSamersons with an occasional unique individual? Is it still an “individual” if it springboards off a known template, or must it be completely unexplained and seperate from more general terminology? Let us know down below!

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Worldbuilding: Concordat of Lashan – Klameth


The Klameth are unique among vampirekind, at least so far as the Concordat is aware; while the Stryx and Lashando have undergone painful transformations while still living, and the Velassen have crept to the edge of the abyss and stared in before being pushed away, only the Klameth have actually crossed the barrier of death.

Called the Soulless, the Klameth were so selfish, violent, tortured, or vile that even the gates of Hell are closed to them. Their tainted, broken spirits are thus forced back into their corpses… though not intact.

The spirit of one of the Klameth is torn, broken, and flayed; their life and will constantly seeping from the spiritual wounds. The only thing that can mend the injury – for a brief period, at least – is to steal such essence from others. Thus while the Sirens or Forsaken may drain the passions of their companions, and the Accursed take their blood, the Soulless consume the will and soul of their victims. The Klameth seeks to fill the void within with energy from without, leaving their victims entranced, weak-willed, and barely able to continue breathing of their own volition.

Whether as an adjunct to their feeding, natural inclination from manipulative and self-serving lives, or a gift from whatever infernal powers allowed their return, the Klameth are adept at commanding or crushing the wills of others, treating human minds as little other than tools. Some vampires worry about the possibility that older Klameth may be able to exercise such power on other members of the Concordat as well… though such whispers are typically voiced very quietly indeed.

Their hell-born constitution renders the Soulless far more resilient than their cousins, suffering what should have been a traumatic or fatal injury with little more than a smirk or a shrug. This and their natural affinity and calling to the element of Air leads them to expose themselves to the elements atop high mountains or in scathing desert valleys, frequently naked, challenging the elements themselves to attempt to destroy the vampire. Thus far, the elements have not been successful.

Being reanimated corpses, the Soulless have no need to eat, drink, or breathe, though they are quite capable of miming the activities – though it should be noted that they will need to find a way to purge any fluids or food they consume eventually, and given that there is no digestive process in their corpse, forced vomiting or surgical skill are the only options. Likewise, though they do not care for the sun – or heat in general – it does them no lasting harm. Soulless can be detected, however, by the faint aroma of rot that wafts around them at all times, often growing stronger with age and experience. Some say the elders of the Klameth even begin to degrade physically, resembling a months dead cadaver in some extreme cases. They also cast no shadow, have no reflection, and do not show up in recording mediums such as photos or videos. Those with psychic abilities also report that Klameth do not register the way humans or even other vampires to; they are noticeable by their absence from the psychic spectrum, walking talking wounds in the spirit realm.

Like others among the Concordat, legends claim there is hope for redemption among even the Klameth… though there are no records of a Klameth even attempting it, let alone succeeding. Supposedly if the Klameth can convince a mortal, without any supernatural compulsion and of the mortal’s own free will, to forfeit their own soul as a form of ransom for the Klameth’s, the vampire may be allowed the peace of a quiet death and release from their curse. Elder Klameth who might be aware of such a potential cure, however, are likely to be far too attached to their place in the world to give it up.

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World-Building: Concordat of Lashan – Lashando


The Accursed are those vampires who met their ruin due to magical influence. Whether a curse brought down on their own heads by overzealous supernatural explorations or one levied against them by another, each of them has been marked by dark magic and prowls the night as an eternal fiend as a result.

Their curse levied by magic and with backgrounds typically steeped in occult knowledge, Lashando frequently find themselves blessed with formidable supernatural might, especially when compared to other vampires of similar age and temperament; beasts of the field live to serve the Accursed, and they are frequently capable of taking animalistic forms themselves. With further experimentation, the Accursed are able to bend the strength of their unnatural condition to willwork and spellcraft, achieving results that humans and most other vampires would consider unnatural and impossible.

This power comes at a price, however; the Lashando are those among the Concordat who most closely resemble stereotypical depictions of vampires. Unable to stand sunlight, drinking blood, and frequently sporting unnatural and recognizably inhuman features such as eyes that burn red, odd and animalistic pointing of the nose and ears, or elongated, claw-tipped fingers are common among them, and such deformities frequently become more pronounced and numerous the older the vampire is.

Lashando are heavily attuned to the element of Earth, craving the stability it provides; they rarely travel far from their homelands, and typically keep some of the soil from that place with them at all times. Others go so far as to dig a fresh grave and slumber within it or even to use their powers to melt into the earth itself. Removing them from their territory or denying them access to fresh soil frequently provokes irritability and unpredictability in their magic.

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World-Building: Concordat of Lashan – Stryx


The Stryx, occasionally also known as Sirens, are like their cousins the Velassen, in that they are frequently well-hidden and mistaken for humans. While the sun is no friend to these vampires, their hearts still beat and their hungers remain strong. It is those desires that lead to their condition; Stryx are frequently the result of those suffering from nymphomania or satyriasis. Their compulsive approach to sex leads them to the point where they exhaust their partners spiritually as well as physically until sooner or later someone dies in the act.

Feasting on sexual energy, Stryx are often engaged in a never-ending search for a partner who can keep up with them, almost inevitably leading to burnout for their human lovers. This rarely bothers the Stryx for long, however, as their hunger drives them to move on quickly and find a replacement.

The few Sirens who either seek or believe in a cure typically preach celibacy and fasting, hoping to starve out the inhuman part of them. It rarely works – if the Stryx was strong-willed in their human days, they likely wouldn’t have become what they are – but it doesn’t stop them from trying, and far more frequently than other vampires. Some suspect it has something to do with the ease for which they can pass as human, leading to them lamenting their state, and unlike the Velassen, they are able to enjoy and appreciate the sensations.

Stryx are prone to subtle forms of supernatural power, those especially well-suited to their feeding preferences; they typically exhibit paranormal allure, drawing potential prey to them. With a more practiced application of their arts, they can even alter their forms to appear more desirable… or horrifying.

Stryx seem to have an innate connection to the element of fire; their temperaments often reflect this, with manic mood swings having them first create great things before consuming everything around them, growing hungrier as they do. A Siren who is denied the pleasure or want of the moment often turns to rage in response.

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World-Building: Concordat of Lashan – Velassen

Something that exists behind the scenes in a few of my works is an organization I refer to as the Concordat of Lashan. Since they’ll be factoring into the next serialized bit of fiction I intend to post (once “Riptide” is done, that is…) I thought I’d share some of the notes I made for them.

Put simply, they’re a loosely affiliated group of vampires, though most of them don’t feed on blood. They’re tenuous allies at best, but they are aware there are folks out there who don’t take kindly to people like them, so mutual information and protection proves more valuable than any sort of supernatural racism or competition.

There are five groupings within the Concordat; there may be other, similar creatures stalking the night and making trouble for folks like Dante Bishop or Greg Perron, but they are more isolationist or perhaps more rare. The upir from “Old Dead Things” would be one example.

Today I thought I’d share the first of those groups.



The Forlorn are considered to be the closest to human of those in the Concordat; the sun offers them no trouble; they breathe, eat and, and drink; they have a heartbeat, though one that is frequently out of rhythm or so slowly its hard to detect at first. This affords them perks that other vampires may not have, mingling with relative ease amongst the herd of humanity. This is frequently to the detriment of those they consort with, however; the nature of their curse brings only sorrow, pain, and potentially death to all those around them.

Velassen feed on the psychic energy of hope, life, and love, draining positive emotion and good health from their surroundings merely by their presence. In addition to leeching such things from their environments, the Forlorn are unable to feel such things themselves, always existing in a twilight world of depression and hunger that allows no exit.

These beings are cursed by failed suicide attempts; the pain and sorrow of their choice to end their lives becomes a toxic malaise that spreads around them and keeps them tethered to the world. Rumors claim that a Velassen who learns to truly appreciate life and let go of the troubles that led them to their state may be forgiven and cured, but no reliable accounts of this actually occurring have surfaced.

Unlike many vampires, Velassen do not frequently evidence much in the way of overtly supernatural gifts. They are typically stronger and more resilient than an average human and have an intuitive grasp of empathy and emotional manipulation, but nothing that seems paranormal or beyond the grasp of their neighbors.

Velassen have an intrinsic link to the element of water, most frequently found in areas of high humidity or rainfall and show a marked preference for places near larger bodies of water. They seem to grow agitated and weaker when separated from sources of water for extended periods, though no one is certain if this is a physical response or psychosomatic.

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God must have had it easy. I mean, think about it; whatever supreme entity or cosmic force you choose to believe created the world, they just had to start it off with a few protozoa or a couple of humans. The rest would sort itself out.

Meanwhile, if you’re a writer and pursuing alternative histories of the real world or creating fantasy worlds from whole cloth, you have to create either an entire fictional history of that world, or discuss the changes and alterations from the point at which you decided history diverged up to the current era of the story you’re writing, whatever it may be.

I’ve discussed this before, in reference to Rotten Apple; I not only had to design the “zombies” and the stories I wanted to tell with them but figure out all the changes to human history – especially in the field of medicine – from around 1890 up to 1970, where most of the stories take place. Those of you who’ve not undertaken such a task probably aren’t aware of the ridiculous amounts of change one has to make to cover 90 years of history, especially fairly modern history. It’s not just the big things (like the World Wars) that had to be considered, but current relations between the nations, the sociopolitical geography of the world, the nature of religion in a world where the dead sometimes do walk. I also had to consider changes that would occur after that so I could tie the “current” events in the story to where I saw things going. Just in case I ever decided to push past the noir and counterculture roots of it into a more modern setting. For anyone who has undertaken such a quest and fully succeeded, I salute you; for those who’ve done even longer periods, I put you among the greatest.

For a fantasy world it’s even more difficult; for Parthenon, my ill-fated fantasy RPG world I still occasionally poke at, I had to cover 10,000+ years of creation and destruction, write the histories as they were presented by six or seven very disparate groups, then the real history that they were all interpreting differently, and then how that shapes the world of “today” in that setting. It was – and still is, when I prop up the tablet and open the document titled “Milefront Schtuff” and peck at it for a while.

That’s a whole lot of rambling that basically amounts to “worldbuilding is hard. Can I just go poke some nice, placid, plain modern fiction for a bit?” Which is exactly what I plan to do. Believe Me and “Riptide” are both owed a few chunks, I believe.

But what about you out there? Who has tackled the summit of worldbuilding, and come away reasonably unscathed? How did it turn out? How did you do it, and what methods or resources helped? Share your thoughts down below!

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