World Building Part 11-1 – Magic – The Basics

Welcome to Part 11-1 of my World Building blog series 😀 I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know 🙂

Magic is one of the biggest perks of writing fantasy. The possibilities are endless and you can explore so much with this topic. There are dozens of types of magic, but we’re mostly going into general set up and how things work in this post. I won’t be going into detail on magical healing, combat magic or animals, because those will be getting their own posts.

First things first, where does magic come from in your world and how is it expressed? Are rituals required to invoke magic or is easily accessible? Is there an ultimate power source people can tap into or does it come from the individuals? How much energy does it take to wield magic? What effect does magic have on the user? Are users corrupted by too much power? Does it have a physical effect? Most commonly, if you’re having the magic come from the user, you’ll encounter exhaustion, nosebleeds, fainting, etc. from excessive use. How is magical energy recharged if a person exhausts their resources?

Are magical artifacts used and if so, how? Magical artifacts come in lots of varieties, the most common being jewelry and weapons. How are artifacts created and how available are they to the average person? Here is a fun place to do some research and see what is used through various cultures to get yourself some ideas. Herbs, crystals, writing, etc. are components of magic around the world and you can expand beyond the simple magic rings and swords.

How strong is the magic in your world? What I mean here, is how much of magic exists? Your world doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can limit things to only specific types of magic (elemental magic in Avatar the Last Airbender), require tools for spell casting (wands in Harry Potter), have low level magic (divination tools like tarot.) or you can make magic really difficult to master.

How noticable is magic in your world and how integrated is it into society? Can people tell when magic is being used or where magic is coming from if it’s not visible? Is there a way to mask magic use? Is it a hidden part of the world or is is openly integrated? If you have magical segregation, is it between types of magic users or is it a magic vs. non magic situation? I’ve read lots of stories where magic people are treated as a marginalized community or are alternatively the ruling class simply because of their magic, so it’s entirely up to you how you want to place magic users in your world.

Are there any illegal forms of magic? Most commonly you’ll see this with necromancy or blood magic, but you could also set it up so that other varieties are illegal, or even all magic. If magic is illegal and your characters have magic then you have an automatic conflict. Maybe magic isn’t illegal, but is strictly controlled.

Are people born with magic? If yes, at what point does it manifest? Do certain types run in families? How does training and education with magic work in your world? Who can receive training and how long do they train for? Is training mandatory and what happens if someone refuses training or is somehow missed/doesn’t know they have magic? I usually see this go one of two ways – either the person’s magic never fully develops or it develops erratically to the point they’re a danger to themselves and others, which usually requires extreme intervention.

Can magic in your world be countered or undone? You can bring a lot of tension to your story with this concept. If there are no counter-spells or ways to undo magic that’s been done, you’re stuck with impulse decisions. How are curses handled and managed? Do they follow generations or are they only applicable to the person/object that is cursed? What are the views on love potions? A lot of people don’t really take into consideration that love potions are basically magical assault since it removes the recipient’s ability to consent to anything.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully I covered enough to help.

Happy writing!

-Erin

World Building Part 10-3 – Medicine – Mental Health and Disability

Welcome to Part 10-3 of my World Building blog series 😀 I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know 🙂

Mental health and disabilities need to be approached with care and respect. If you are not deeply familiar with what you’re writing about, do your research. If your characters are going to deal with something specific, talk to people who deal with the same thing and get their perspective. Aim to be as respectful and accurate as possible with your representation. Let characters struggling with their mental health and/or disabilities be heroes too.

How does your society react to disability in general? Does this view change based on whether or not the disability is visible? Does the view change based on whether the character was born with it or whether it developed later due to illness or injury? Is there accessible care and/or treatment for the conditions you have present in your story?

How is mental health in general regarded in your world? Are there treatments? Are there stigmas? How do the above change based on severity or type? Is your society cruel and focuses on segregation with asylums, etc. or are they more progressive and have support systems in place to help? Depending on how you’ve set up your educational system, do you have anything in place to support those who need additional assistance?

How does your world react to/treat chronic conditions, permanent injuries, etc.? People who are involved in physical careers (ie. soldiers, masons, cooks, etc.) are probably more likely to suffer serious injuries since they’re working with weaponry, blades, and other things that can cause a lot of harm if handled improperly. Is there any compensation if they are injured doing their work? Does physiotherapy, or things like prosthetics, mobility aids, etc. exist in your world? If not, how do characters who have disabilities and injuries cope?

Remember that this is fantasy. If you want to have a herb that properly balances all your neurotransmitters or if you want magical healing to allow limb regrowth, you can do that. Your characters with mental health issues or disabilities don’t need to be “fixed” in order for them to be the hero and their issues don’t have to disappear as a reward for completing the quest, though you can look into that if you want.

A lot of examples I can think of are from comic books like Daredevil and Professor X. Characters who have limitations can still be heroes or villains, main characters and love interests. Those limitations don’t have to define them, but neither should they be ignored. If you’ve set your world in a more primitive level you can still support your characters with things like rudimentary prosthetics, specially designed saddles, walking sticks, etc.

How do characters with disabilities see themselves? How are their communities structured? Is there stigma within the communities based on severity or type? What is the view on seeking treatment? How do religious views impact treatment or living with disabilities? Are there any cultural or religious implications involved with certain ones?

Once you’ve decided on what disabilities or mental illnesses you want to be part of your story, learn how people who have them deal with them on a regular basis. Learn symptoms, coping strategies, reactions they’ve received, etc. so you can get a more rounded understanding of what you’re writing about. When you’ve done that you can adapt it to your fantasy world.

Happy writing!

-Erin

World Building Part 10-2 – Medicine – Sex and Reproduction

Welcome to Part 10-2 of my World Building blog series 😀 I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know 🙂

Buckle up, we’re going to talk a lot in this post about what’s going on with fantasy world vaginas. Sex shows up a lot, but menstruation is almost never mentioned unless it’s a lack of it happening to announce a pregnancy. Pregnancy and birth are usually skimmed over when they occur and they deserve a little more attention.

If any of your characters have a uterus (barring them being super young or having other health conditions) they’re going to menstruate. It happens to half the population, so why does no one talk about it in literature? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something where a uterus-bearing character is on a journey, etc. for months and there is not a single mention of what is going on with their body. You don’t have to be graphic, but acknowledge it. A lot of people are in a lot of pain/have other debilitating symptoms. Acknowledge it. Deal with it. How are your characters going to deal with bleeding for days if they’re out saving the world? It happens in real life, the world doesn’t stop and life has to keep moving, so how do your characters manage? If you’re squeamish, again, you don’t have to get graphic. Mention pain killers, mention hygiene supplies, don’t be afraid to say the word tampon. It’s not a curse word and variations of them have existed throughout history. Give your female characters the means to manage their own bodily functions.

Do birth control and contraceptives exist in your world? They probably should in at least some capacity because people have been focused on stopping baby-making for a loooong time. Herbs, barriers, magic, etc. are all alternatives you can look to. If your characters are having sex in m/f pairings, this should be a consideration. Do your characters want children? Why or why not? If not, are you going to help them along with that by developing something that makes it possible? If you have birth control, does it apply to men too? It’s fantasy, you can make it happen if you want to. What happens if a character gets pregnant and doesn’t want to be? How available is abortion, adoption, etc. and how is it treated in your world?

On the flip side, how is infertility treated in your world? Does the view of it change based on which partner is infertile? Are there treatments for it? Are there alternatives for characters that want to have children and aren’t able to procreate themselves?

On to pregnancy! What happens if your character develops complications? Do they just die or have you developed something in medical system to treat it? Consider things like hyperemesis gravidarum or prenatal/postpartum depression. Alternatively, some people have really easy pregnancies and your story can reflect that too. In terms of the social side of pregnancy, how would a character be treated if they were unwed or underage? What about if they’ve been abandoned or their partner is dead? What are the circumstances of the pregnancy and how does it influence the characters? How does society treat pregnancy as a whole?

Birth, especially in a setting without modern medical care, can be terrifying. How does your pregnant character (or their loved ones) feel about the impending birth? Who is going to be delivering babies – physicians, midwives, relatives? Where is the delivery going to happen – hospital, home, during travel? How are multiple births treated? Some cultures have superstitions about twins, how do your societies feel about it? Are there any rituals your culture has related to birth/pregnancy?

In regards to sex, I want to tackle the concept of consent and autonomy. How easy and safe is it for characters to refuse sex? Do people have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies? Are there any circumstances where this would be overridden? Does your society have an age of consent? If consent is an important factor in your society, what happens to people who violate consent? If it’s not consensual, it’s rape. Don’t romanticize it or try to explain it away.

Does the concept of virginity exist and how does society view it? As a final note here, PLEASE don’t make a character’s first time having intercourse hurt just because that’s a common idea. It’s not supposed to hurt and it doesn’t have to (barring underlying medical or physiological issues) if time and care are taken.

Happy writing!

-Erin

World Building Part 10-1 – Medicine – The Basics

Welcome to Part 10-1 of my World Building blog series 😀 I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know 🙂

In any adventure (and life in general) injuries and illnesses are bound to happen. How are your characters going to deal with them? There are probably going to be different levels of medical care you’re encountering, whether there’s magical healing, fully equipped hospitals, field first aid, etc. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail here, but you should be aware of what’s going to be available to your characters if/when they find themselves in need of medical attention. I won’t be going into any detail for magical healing, reproductive health, disabilities or mental health, because those get their own posts.

When you’re developing medicine for your world, keep in mind that you probably want it to be limited in some fashion. If every injury and disease can be easily cured, then there’s no reason to worry about anyone who gets sick or hurt. You’re going to want your readers to sweat when something happens to your characters, so design medicine in your world to accommodate this. Also, try to be consistent with what is going to be curable at each level of care. If you don’t want to go big on injury or illness you can also create some tension by giving the character something that would be curable at a low level of care, but keep them in a situation where they simply don’t have access to it.

Who is doing the medical work in your world? Typically you’ll most often see specific types split between the sexes, but you’re perfectly welcome to mix this up. Are certain types of medicine seen as more valid than others? How accessible is medical care to people? Do you have healers that specialize or is everyone a jack of all trades when it comes to their methods? How much knowledge does the general populace have with regards to basic healing? Who gets to practice and how are they taught? Is medicine taught at educational institutes, by practicing professionals, by apprenticeship, etc.?

Herbal healers are the most common type I see in fantasy. There’s nothing at all wrong with this. You can add some authenticity to your use of herbal healing by doing your research. Know the differences between teas, elixirs, tinctures, etc. Get to know common herbal lore from climates similar to the world you’ve created. If you’re exploring more modern alternatives in medicine, figure out what’s appropriate for your world. The history of medicine is fascinating and can lend a lot of ideas to your story.

Disease can be a good plot point, utilizing the plague/epidemic concept to create tension and obstacles for characters. Plagues can collapse societies and bring a whole other level of conflict to your world. If you need to really shake things up or kill off high ranking characters without having your characters do the dirty work, send in a plague. You can create a power vacuum that prompts a whole load of fresh political conflicts.

Happy writing!

-Erin