The history that makes your world turn
Rebecca Mikkelson, Editor-in-Chief Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, I talked about the land and what it can provide, but this week, I want to talk about how that land is settled. Developing a vivid history for your world and what it means for your people will help give your people motivations for their culture, their traditions, and their storytelling. Your history gives you the why of your people and your story.
Where did you come from?
Your world’s history is so important to the motivation of your people. Your reader doesn’t need to know every single detail about how Henry Gobbledigook VIII of Turkeydom didn’t like Waddle-Waddle III of Crackledom, so he sent soldiers to conquer Crackledom if it doesn’t affect the main plot of your story...but you do, because it might come into play later.
In the Beginning...
As the question is presented at the top of this section, where did your people come from? This will also help you determine a question that was presented in setting up your world: how long have your people been there? Depending on the kind of story you’re telling, that means determining whether your people were put on the earth like Athena springing from Zeus’ head, or if there’s another form of divine creation, or if there’s evolution in your world. This will be an important step in what kind of beliefs and legends that your people will have. You’ll also need to determine whether you’re going to be basing the story off a familiar history or going completely original.
Once upon a time…
Legend and lore are essential to human development. These help develop a rich culture for your people. These are important whether you have a world based off Earth and its people’s history or if you’re totally making up your world and all its wonders. People have been recording their stories and histories since cavemen figured out how to paint on walls. Realizing how your people record history will also help you develop the way they interact with each other. Take the indigenous peoples of America—or American Indians, if you will. They are oral storytellers, and their histories are preserved through song, dance, and telling stories of their ancestors, creation myths, and their gods. Don’t worry, I’ll be going more in-depth with culture in a later blog post.
I’ll make my house...over there
Migration will not only mix your people but their cultures. This will tie into how people travel in your world, how they interact with other people, if there are good or bad relationship between tribes or country, and how people evolve based on their geography. This will also affect the development of your language. Spain and France have fairly similar languages because they’re rooted in Latin.
You might have countries that you have a similar enough histories that they could either have very similar goals in mind and have great trading relationships, or you could have countries that are so similar, they end up doing nothing but fight because of a single event. Take North and South Korea for example. They have the exact same history until the Soviet Union and the US stepped in, and now they’re so divided because of political differences that they likely will never reunite.
Get off my lawn!
This is where you get to have a little bit more fun and go into more depth in sharing historical details with your reader: focusing solely on the history where your main story is going to be taking place. If your story is only taking place in a single country, it should be the shining star, and you should heavily focus on the development of that. Don’t get me wrong—you’ll still need to know the general history of your whole world, and all of this information can be used on a micro and macro level.
I’ve touched a little bit on this already, and I’ll touch on it again with another blog post when we talk about trade and commerce, but I wanted to cover it here in case you, dear reader, get bored with me and decide not to continue. Your people make up your country. Yes, I know that sounds obvious, but hear me out: your people’s hopes, dreams, fears, and wants will shape their history.
That might sound a little melodramatic, but it’s true. Take Alexander the Great for example—or any other conqueror, really. He wanted to fulfill his father’s dream of defeating Persia, and once he did that, he had the taste for conquering. His need to finish his father’s work led him to create the largest empire the ancient world ever knew and irrevocably changed the world.
As with everything else in these posts it seems, there will be more in-depth posts about war and military later.
As we talked about in People, wars shape the world. We see evidence of that all throughout history, whether it’s destroying countries, making new ones, or forming or destroying governments. Will your world be started post fall of a government? A revolution a la Madame Guillotine? A utopia that goes wrong? No matter what route you choose, you need to know a few things: What caused it? How was it won? What are the after effects are on the people, land, and government.
Lastly, I’m going to talk briefly about social hierarchy because I don’t want to repeat myself too much in—you guessed it—a later blog post.
There are several different forms of social hierarchy that you should be familiar with: the feudal system, the caste system, and the peerage without indentured servitude. The feudal system is one that you’ll see most often in fantasy novels. A few questions to ask yourself when choosing what system are how it came about, are the people content with the system, does the system cause problems, and will the system come to an end within your book.
No matter what system you go with, it will shape how your people behave.
Join me next week when I talk about Customs.
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