Wednesday, August 28, 2019

World Building: Mr. Ford, Start the Conveyor Belt

The advancements in your society
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week I talked about education, and that feeds right into this week’s topic: Advancements. As your society ages, more and more discoveries, and more and more advancements will occur.


Where do I start? Well, let’s start with the time period that you’ll be modeling this after. For worlds that are entirely made up and don’t follow Earth’s timeline, this might be a little trickier. In the case of the latter, you can pick technology, science, and medicine somewhat à la carte if you so choose, rather than sticking strictly to a time period. 
What exactly do I mean when I say technology? This isn’t just a term applicable to items that require electricity to work. Technology ranges from basic farming tools to computers. What this could mean for your world is you’ve got an early Victorian setting, but for the sake of convenience, you’ve got modern plumbing, which didn’t start until the very end of the Victorian era. You’ll also have to think about what technological advances have already been made by the start of your story and whether they’re the norm or only available for a few.
Conversely, you could also have ancient civilizations with technology well beyond the bounds of their imagination. Stargate is a wonderful example of what this means in stories, between ancient Atlantians having tech that allows them to travel billions of light years, to the goa’uld ruling as the gods of the old world and making certain innovations possible with their advanced technology.
Or, if you have magic, will technological advancements fly out the window because magic covers everything you could possibly need? Surely, there’d be no need for someone to invent an air conditioner; someone could just give you a cooling spell to keep their home cool during the summer months. Who needs the mechanics of an elevator? We’ve got magic to take us from floor to floor instead of having to use the stairs.
Another thing you’ll want to think about is to whom this technology is available? Is technology cheaply available and usable by all, or is electricity only available to the rich? Historically, innovative new devices cost so much that only the rich can get their hands on them at first, but as our societies and demand grow, newer technology becomes attainable to more and more every day.


Ah, science. Science is a subject that has many believers and non-believers. In your world, you’ll have to decide how lauded science is among the people and if it’s spread throughout all levels of society or only the higher educated.  
As with technology, you do have to decide what time period you’ll want to have your story set it. This will mean that there are certain advances in science that have already happened or, if it’s later than our current year, far beyond what we can achieve today. 
In particular, one thing you’ll want to think about in the development of science in your world is if the laws of nature will be different, and if they aren’t, how many people know about them. In today’s schools, everyone is taught the very basics of the laws of nature, but in the fourteenth century, only the learned would know that not every action and reaction is divinely enacted. And if it isn’t attributed to divinity, would the people would attribute the laws of nature to magic if you have magic users in your world?
Now if you have a futuristic society that’s set six thousand years in the future, will you have a limit to what science can do? Will people be able to be reanimated after death or be able to defy death all together because scientists have found a cure, for lack of better words, for aging? Will people be able to get flesh and bones repaired in a matter of minutes from a stem cell producing gun—ray? Beam? You’ll be able to figure out a name, I believe in you. 
No matter what level of science you choose for your world, make sure that it fits within the period you’ve set and the story that you want to tell. 


Medicine is a tricky subject in fantasy novels especially. We’re all fans of healers with their herbs, tinctures, and draughts, but that’s not all medicine can be in your fantasy world. There’s nothing at all to say that a healer can’t be formally trained in medicinal arts, anatomy, and surgeries.
First, as with any of the topics covered today, when figuring out where your categories can advance, you must know where they start. In your world, will you have more primitive medicine that’s handled all by medicine women and shamans? Medicine of the mid centuries during which apothecaries believed bleeding a patient would balance the humors in their blood? Today’s medicine with well-versed anatomy and pharmacology? Or, rather, will it be a combination of these where certain social classes have access to certain levels of medicine?
A second thing to consider when thinking about the medicine of your world is if the medicine is magic based. If it is, will that have stalled any sort of advancement in the general public for curing basic ailments, like peppermint tea for nausea or garlic as an anti-inflammatory for the arthritic?
Finally, and this is true with all of the subjects, is how will the knowledge be passed on? Is it through observation and practical application, a trade school where certain subjects are learned, or a university-based education?
No matter what you choose, make sure that it fits your world and your story. 

Join me next week when I talk about commerce and trade.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

World Building: Don’t Need No Education…Right?

How the people of your world are educated
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, I briefly mentioned schooling in my Magic post, and this week, I want to expand on that for your general population.

Who is educated?

This is a pretty easy question to answer; either the mass population is educated, or education is for the elites. Depending on what kind of story you want to tell, only elites being educated can be a very effective tool in keeping the masses in check. If they can’t read and don’t have the basic skills for forming a rebuttal against a well-educated person, it’s very difficult to fight back.
If we take an example from religious history, this is actually one of the points in Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. The Bible had only been printed in Latin, and how could a commoner who doesn’t know how to read the religious texts make any sort of decisions for themselves in regard to faith?
If your mass population is educated, however, you’re like to have a more advanced world with new technologies and advances coming from every level of the social system, and it will put your people on equal footing. No one can cast down a person for lack of education.

Who are the educators?

This is really going to depend on that kind of story you want to tell—which is likely something that you’re going to hear in every section so...sorry, not sorry.
We have several examples in history of the kinds of teachers that you can have for your world. If you look at ancient Rome, they eventually founded a system of education that was based on tuition, much like the college that we have today, and before that, the children were educated at home by either slaves for that purpose or freemen. We’ve all seen the period pieces where there’s a governess in the home to teach the children privately, or there’s a school house for an entire village/town that educates through a wide range of ages. And then we also have tax-funded and mandated education systems like we have today, where children attend school—or are homeschooled—from kindergarten through their senior year of highschool, and if they want to continue their education after that, they can by going on to trade schools, community colleges, and universities.

What is taught?

Say it with me, kids: “This is going to depend on the story you want to tell.”
Do you want everyone to know the basics of reading and writing? That should be taught. Does everyone need to know the entire history of their world? Maybe. Maybe that’s a subject that’s more specialized based on the career that the people want to pursue. Education in your world can easily be a la carte if you want it to be, or you can model it after your own education, where you had to learn math, science, reading, writing, history, etc.
Another question that will come into play is, if you have magic in your world, will the theory of magic be taught to everyone, or just those who possess it? And if only those who possess it are learning, will they branch down an entirely different path for education than a non-magic user, or will they still need to learn the same thing?

What types of schools are there?

Well…I think the title of the section says it all, really. What types of school are there going to be in your world? There are plenty of options that we see all around us in our own world, but will you be translating them to yours?
You can have governesses and schoolhouse teachers as mentioned above, private schools for people who can pay for them as you did in ancient Rome and today, charter schools, public schools, trade schools, wizarding schools, community colleges, universities, and the list goes— Well, it doesn’t really go on, but I think you get my point.
There are a lot of options for you in your world that you can easily find in today’s world to model it after, so you don’t have to struggle with this part of your worldbuilding as much as you might think. But, as I’ve said several times throughout this series, and I’ll say several times more before it ends, make sure that whatever decision you make for your education fits within the world you’re creating and the story that you’re telling.

Join me next week when I talk about advancements.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

World Building: Do You Believe in Magic?

The fantastical wonders of magic
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, I talked about creating your military and war-making. Today, I’m going to be talking about magic. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an expert in this subject as I typically avoid it in my own work, but I will do my best to give you as concise a direction I can for when you plan how you want to put magic into your world. 

Magic Users

The first thing that you want to establish is who can and can’t use magic, why, and how. Let's talk about where magic comes from to start: does it come from the gods to bestow upon their people? From nature? Is it a learned skill or one that you’re born with?
The reason it’s important to establish this is so there are no surprises...or there are. We’ve all read the story about the surprise magic user who will save the world, so if it’s established early on what, who, and how, your reader will be—excitedly we hope—surprised when a character doesn’t follow the mold.
School is for losers
First of all, let’s not be dude-bros about this. Everyone has to learn how to harness a craft, whether they’re born with it or not—prodigy or not. No one likes a Mary Sue/Marty Stu. 
Let’s talk about the kinds of schools that you can have. We’re all familiar with Hogwarts, whether you’ve read the books or not, because Harry Potter is so prevalent in our culture. This is one example of the kinds of schools you can have, where everyone learns a bit of everything until they start to get a little more specialized in their later years at school. This is the one I personally would recommend, but it’s not the only kind. 
There are two schools that are very often seen in fantasy novels: Private tutoring and guild masters/master-apprentice tutelage. The first is especially prominent if the characters in question are nobility. You can find this kind of student-teacher relationship in founder B. C. Marine’s A Seer’s Daughter. For master-apprentice teaching, you can see examples all throughout history, especially when it comes to architecture and painting. However, if you want to see it in a piece of fiction, you can check out another of B. C. Marine’s work, “Seeing Through Him.”
One of the other kinds of schools that you can have is like a trade school for magic, where you learn to do only one thing until you’ve mastered it. This is much like the guild masters but on a larger scale. Is this effective for people who want to have specialized magic users who only have one thing they’ve mastered, like healing? Sure. But what if someone comes along who knows how to do battle magic and attacks a hospital, and there are very few people who can help? It can be an interesting story, for sure, but you’re going to make your characters needless suffer for their ineptitude. 
Rules are meant to be broken
But are they? Everything has its limits. Power is not infinite, no matter how much we want it to be. One thing you’ll need to establish right off the bat is what kind of rules there are going to be for your world of magic. Does magic follow the laws of nature? Can people cross the veil or wander the Elysium Fields in the Underworld to bring people back to life? Is that a big no-no because the cost of power is too much and could kill the caster? 
Are there going to be any moral rules, like there were in Harry Potter? Would there be any consequences to taking over someone’s mind to, say, go rob a bank and give you all the funds you could ever wanted? Will there be any sort of magical council that handles its magic users when they commit a crime? An Azkaban where the most evil of evil are sent, perhaps? 
You might be thinking, “But I don’t want to limit the magic users!” That’s cool, but think of magic the same way you would the law in your town. The person who has the only car in the city wouldn’t be allowed to just speed through town and endanger all the people in it—and potentially kill someone by not knowing exactly how to control it—so why would you let a magic user run rampant through society with no consequence?
No good deed goes unpunished
What does this mean exactly? It means that nothing comes without cost. So, in your rules of magic, what is the cost of using it? I’ll use David Eddings as an example this time. When Garion is learning how to use his magic under the tutelage of Belgarath the Sorcerer, magic uses a massive amount of energy. When Garion tries to move a boulder, he ends up sinking into the ground because of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: a force always acts in an equal and opposite reaction. The reason why Garion sinks into the ground is because the boulder was pushing back with force equalling the amount he was using. 
I’ll give another example from The Belgariad. In the books, magic follows the laws of nature, specifically the first law of thermodynamics: energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The magic users in Eddings’ world pull not only energy from themselves, but the world around them in order to use their magic. So, if a magic users channels too much of their own energy to create a spell, they can die.

I can do it, and so can you for the low, low price of $9.99!

We’ve all been sold a thing or two at 2:00 a.m. when we’re sleep deprived and watching As Seen on TV advertisements, maybe a little high on cough medicine because we’ve been sick for two weeks and accidentally took the daytime pills instead of the nighttime pills. No? Just me? Well, either way, it leads me into my next point: 
If there are people who can’t conjure magic on their own, can they use technology made by magic users to suit their own needs? I’ll give an example. If someone doesn’t want to dig a garden bed to plant their vegetables, is there an enchanted hoe—go ahead and giggle, I did—that will do the work for them? There are other options for this as well; if someone needs a healing spell or a curse, can they buy one to use on their own? 

Magical Animals

Behold, the dragon! 
Or not.
Next step in creating your magical world is deciding on whether or not you’re going to have magical creatures within it and how they interact with your people. Will you have dragons that are beholden to whomever conquers them? Unicorns that have made an alliance with the wizards so that they can hide from people and not worry about being harrassed?
No matter what magical animals you choose, you will need to know how the interact with not only with the world, but with the people. 

It’s a miracle!

Lastly, I want to briefly talk briefly about how magic works with whatever religion you have in your world. 
Traditionally, magic is seen as a heretical act. But will it be in your world? There are plenty of reasons why it would be heretical: it’s an unknown, only God should have power, man can only do evil with such power, etc. etc. But, that doesn’t mean that it has to be. There are plenty of religions that are aided by the use of magic, and you can even make your own religion that centers around magic, depending on what kind of story you’re telling—Earth versus Not-Earth—where it’s revered and loved, and it’s a blessing to those around. 

Next week, I’ll be talking about Education.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

World Building: This Means War!

The military, war, and weaponry of your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
This week, I want to talk about war making and what it can mean for your world. Your modern systems will be shaped by the people of the past, and to create a rich and believable world, you need to know how, and why, they did it.

I like a man in uniform

Before you can wage any sort of war, you’ll need a military of some kind. There are plenty of examples for how to structure your military, but I want to just go over what kinds of armed services you can have. Let’s start with the basic ones that we have today: the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard. I’m going to separate them out, talking about your land, air, and sea options.
Having an Air Force in your novel will only serve you if your world is technologically capable of having one, there’s magic that allows people or objects to fly, or you have mythical creatures. This is an armed service that will likely be used more in a SciFi novel, where they could have both an Air Force and a Space Force. What these would do is patrol the airspace for any sort of enemy or oncoming attack.
Next, you’ll have the land fighters—this will be your Army and your Marines.* You can call them whatever you’d like, they can all be the army, they can all be foot soldiers, they can all be knights; it’s your story. But these are the men who are going to get their hands the dirtiest because they’ll be fighting close up. There won’t be any water between them, nor will there be sky. I would like to quickly mention that if you don’t have an organized military, any force that forms to fight an enemy is called irregulars.
Lastly, you’ve got your sea options. Mostly, when people think of the sea-faring military, they don’t think of the Coast Guard, but this branch of the military does have a purpose other than rescuing stranded people. This branch enforces maritime law alongside the Navy. Generally, though, in a fantasy or SciFi novel, you aren’t going to see a distinction between the two, and they’ll likely get the blanket term of Navy. This force is what will be fighting any sort of sea battle for the protection of an island nation, or a nation that has water on at least one side of their border.
Now, this isn’t including elite forces that could be in any of the branches, like Navy Seals or Army Rangers and their specialized line of work. Whether you have those in your story or a single unified force in your story is going to be entirely up to your discretion.
*Yes, the Marines are a department of the Navy, but they are typically depicted as land forces and thus went into the land category.
Who can join the military?
Will there be a legal age of who can join the military in your world or limitations to one sex? Historically, wars have been fought by men, and if women participated, it was because they hid their sex in order to hide their gender and participate—I say this as a blanket statement, but as time goes on, archaeologists are finding evidence that there were women who fought without needing to hide their gender. In your world, you’ll need to decide exactly when and how someone can join. Another question that remains is, will your military be a voluntary service, a drafted service when the need arises, or a mandatory service for an allotted time to teach discipline and keep numbers up?
Ranking system
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the ranking systems of military—this seems to be something that people want to avoid putting in their books, and I can’t blame them. It’s difficult to come up with your own, and it can feel like you’re cheating if you model it after an existing one. But, here’s the thing: it doesn’t look any better when everyone’s a soldier, and you can’t tell who is in charge of whom. Go ahead and call someone a corporal or lieutenant colonel. It will help your readers understand any military situation better.

No Flag, No Country

Wars are often fought for the sake of colonization, but that isn’t the only thing wars are fought over. Wars can be waged over poor relations between countries, resources, colonization, and so on and so on. You can be a pacifist all you want in your world, but it doesn’t mean that your world won’t have a history.
How many wars have there been?
This is not a question you need an exact number for, but you do need to know the basic history of your world through war making. We don’t even know the exact accounting of wars that take place in our own history because our written history only started five thousand years ago. No doubt, between interbreeding, Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens warred with each other over hunting grounds and other resources.
What you need to know for your world will likely only be a few hundred years, and a millennia at most. You might think that’s a huge time span to know for your story, but each war will affect the way that your world is shaped. Take Genghis Khan for example: his leadership in conquering and nearly uniting all of Eurasia changed the world for the better. You might not think a man responsible for millions upon millions of deaths could spread anything as wonderful as religious tolerance, international laws, free trade, diplomatic immunity, and a regulated postal service called “Yam,” but all of that was the result of one man’s ambition. And all of that happened less than nine hundred years ago.
What kind of wars have been fought?
There are so many types of war, you might not even think of the possibilities for your world. I only want to cover a few of them because, otherwise, I’d be writing you a novel that you didn’t ask for and I’m not entirely qualified to write.

Wars of Aggression

These are wars that are fought solely for the sake of territorial gain and subjugation. So, basically what England did for hundreds of years until their empire was as complete as it was going to be. These wars might be hard to justify within your world—especially with our 21st century mindset—and just like in our own, often lead to rebellion and throwing off the yoke of oppression through more wars, which make for really great stories.
Wars of Independence and Civil Wars
It’s pretty easy to guess what this means, and it’s a war following a declaration of independence and autonomy as a new country from its sovereign country; said sovereign country sends military force to stamp out the rabble rousers. These kinds of wars are often seen in fantasy books because they make great stories of the oppressed winning against all odds.
The reason why I’m combining these two is that the only difference between civil wars and wars of independence is who wins. Let’s take the American Revolutionary War for example: if the British had won, it wouldn’t have been a war of independence; it would have been a civil war between England and its colonies. Or even the American Civil War—if the south had won, it would have been the War of Confederate Independence rather than the American Civil War.

Preventive Wars

As with Wars of Independence, it’s exactly what it sounds like. These wars are started to cut off any possibility of a future attack from another country that has either postured that they intend to make an attack in the future, or to avoid a shift in the balance of power.
Cold Wars
You’ve likely heard this term often in reference to the United States and Russia in a conflict that spanned almost half a century. This kind of war happens when no military action is taken, but fought primarily either through espionage, economic, political, or propaganda measures.
Religious Wars (aka Holy Wars)
We’ve all heard of this type of war, thanks to the crusades and the medieval Catholic church. This type of war is rooted in religious ideologies and can sometimes be used for land grabs and sometimes for conversions. For the sake of peace and decorum, that’s where I’ll leave it.
How are wars waged?
You don’t need to be a brilliant tactician to be able to put this kind of information into your book. As with the kinds of war, I only want to go over a few kinds of attacks that can be waged during battle for the sake of brevity. Keep in mind, some of these tactics are going to feed into each other.
Guerilla Warfare
I want to talk about this first because we can see examples of it throughout history before the term “guerilla warfare” was even coined. This is when a group of combatants use ambushes, raids, sabotage, and petty warfare to achieve their goals. In other words, this is a hit and run of people in times of war. Historically, you’ll see this tactic used by the Goths in ancient times, Europeans to prevent the Mongols from taking a stronghold in all of Europe, and, even in more recent history, the World Wars.

Attrition Warfare

This is very similar to guerrilla warfare in that its purpose is to wear down the enemy by continual losses in personnel and/or resources. What this means is there will be small parties that launch raids to either execute personnel or steal/destroy supplies from their enemy as they do in guerrilla warfare, but on a much grander and continual scale. This is used in an attempt to take away the enemy’s ability to fight, and if you want a good example of this type of warfare, you can look at General Grant’s strategy to win the American Civil War.
Maneuver Warfare
This is another tactic that you’ll see in a lot of wars, and it can arguably be said that you can’t fight a war without using this tactic. Maneuver warfare is when you try to wear down your enemy’s decision making abilities with shock or disruption. This tactic aims to make your enemy lose the will to fight.
Siege Warfare
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress where the forces or residents within refuse to surrender. This is really a combination of both Attrition Warfare and Maneuver Warfare in that it aims to not only prevent the enemy from fighting, but also to make them lose the will to fight through lack of resources. What’s unique about Siege Warfare, though, is that it can work both ways. If a fortress is well stocked and fortified, the longer an army is forced to stay staring at a fort with no end in sight, that army will gradually become demoralized and give up because they’re needed elsewhere. If that fort isn’t well provisioned, the soldiers within can quickly grow weak and demoralized for seeing no way to win and then surrender.
Chemical Warfare
This isn’t something entirely new to warfare, but what we’ve come to think of as chemical warfare is after WWI. What our current definition is, is using things like mustard gas, chlorine gas, or hydrogen gas to subdue an enemy. But, that’s not the only thing that quantifies as chemical warfare. This can be using poison arrows (like Hercules did, using the venom from the hydra), arsenical smokes like the Chinese used, and poisoning water supplies with deadly herbs. All three of those tactics were used in the ancient world, so your fantasy novel doesn’t have to be limited to only modern era technology.
Let’s talk a little bit biochemical warfare. There's a long history for spreading disease to enemy camps through contaminated supplies, contagious locals/prostitutes, or launching animal/soldier corpses via catapult. So, you could easily have some smallpox blankets given to locals (ahem, colonials) to kill them off so you can grab more land.


Weapons are going to be an important part of any defense, whether it’s self defense in the home or defending your country on the battlefield. I only want to go over a couple of types of weapons that can be used by almost anyone, and since five seems to be the magic number of this post, I’m going to limit it to that.
These I see so often in fantasy novels that they’re practically a staple of the genre. These are small weapons that can be easily hidden for self defense or sneak attacks and don’t require years and years of practice to use for the purpose of self defense. Is it better to have it? Sure. But that young lady traveling in a caravan doesn’t need much further knowledge than to stick people with the pointy end to get them to leave her alone. Another wartime purpose for the dagger is to deliver a mercy blow to a wounded and dying soldier on the battlefield.
Heaven above, there are so many swords, I don’t think I could list them and their definitions in five pages, much less this short paragraph that I’m going to be writing. The only two that I want to talk about are the quintessential fantasy swords: the longsword and the broadsword. If you want a quick visual reference, the sword that Brienne of Tarth uses (Oathkeeper) is a long sword—it’s longer than the average sword, and the hilt is long enough for two hands, but it can be used with one or two hands, depending on the strength and skill of the wielder. The broadsword has a basketed hilt—which means that there is metal that goes over the hand for its protection—and is meant to be used with only one hand, not two. If someone is using that two handed, they’re going to look like an idiot. These two swords are often mixed up and are definitely not interchangeable.
Out of the four types of bows, it’s likely you’ll only see three within fantasy novels. These will be recurve bows that are often used on horseback in military or hunting excursions, longbows made for long distance shooting during wars, and crossbows. Bows have their place in and out of war and can be an effective weapon if used correctly.
Gunpowder weapons
These are going to be your cannons, muskets/rifles, pistols, and mortars. Pretty much anything that needs to be propelled and goes boom that isn’t a futuristic weapon only seen in SciFi novels and shows. The type of boom-boom weapon that you’re going to want to use is going to depend on your setting and the advancement of your people. If you’re writing in a medieval setting, your average cannon is the way to go. Do you have a more futuristic society? Probably a gun of some sort.
This a particularly useful weapon in mounted warfare. Some of you might know what these are, and some of you might not. A caltop looks quite similar to a jack in the game “jacks and ball” but can sit mostly flat on a surface when thrown down, and they have sharp ends to puncture the hooves of mounts or soles of foot soldiers. These are thrown down before a mounted attack and are very effective in felling a large number of horses at once.

And on that happy note, I hope you’ll join me next week when I talk about magic!

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