Lenora Good of Coffee Break Escapes was an early reader of Paris In Ruins. In our back-and-forth exchanges, I discovered that Lenora has written a novel and also writes poetry. So I asked about her novel and after discovering that it’s science fiction, asked her about world building. Here’s Lenora’s post on creating a world for her fiction.
I was introduced to Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) while in the WAC back in 1966. I loved it, especially the various worlds. I read other genres, but always got back to SFF, although in later years I’ve shifted more to the F side than the SF side.
The original Dune books by Frank Herbert were my “thumb sucking” books. When I became stressed, I read the books. I’ve been through all seven of them at least seven times, and I have no idea how many times I’ve read the original trilogy. I was stressed a lot as a single and working mom. 😉
Besides the stories, I could escape into the worlds. Somewhere along the line I started writing, and I realized I liked building my own worlds—whether a generational spaceship, or a planet. It was fun to figure things out. And because I’m me, and wanted to get down to the story, I decided to make most of my planets similar enough to Earth that they were familiar and we could live without still suits or space suits or special enhancements, but still, different enough to be fun.
I wrote Jibutu: Daughter of the Desert during Nanowrimo one year. Then I spent the next couple of years re-writing it, but I had the bones down. I blatantly stole an idea from Mr. Herbert—the epigraphs before each chapter. And, to be honest, I suppose his Dune books played a bit in my desert, though mine is much different than his, and doesn’t take the whole planet. There are no giant worms making spice on my planet, but the desert people do use giant lizards, sliwas, as beasts of burden. There are also mountains, forests, grasslands, and water lands where people live on boats lashed together to form a city. The idea for the grasslands came from the tall grass prairies of the Great Plains.
The first thing I did was draw a map, with a compass rose, so I would remember where the towns were, and where the people were not to mention the deserts, the mountains, the roads, the countries etc.
Then I set down to logics. At least my brand thereof. I pretty much stayed away from major religions, developed my own adoption ceremony, and in general, had fun.
I did need to know what foods would be available in the desert, fortunately that was fairly easy. I have a friend who lived in Palestine and Jordan for several years. And I lived in New Mexico for a while. As to the mountains, well, I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, so I knew a bit about mountain living. Imagination and my own claustrophobia played into the grasslands. Plus, the fact my protagonist went thru a horrific fire where she lost a hand, so she was very concerned about having to go through, and living a while, in the grasslands. I talked to people who had lost a limb, and used my imagination on that one.
Mostly, it was just common sense and imagination. I did very little actual research for the book, however, I’m sure I did some. I’m also a voracious and eclectic reader and am sure I picked up tidbits of information from those books and stories of which I’m not aware.
Hooded robes make the most sense for desert travel. They keep the sun off most of the body, and on our planet, the Bedouins make their robes of wool. Sounds hot, doesn’t it? My understanding is they maintain a pretty constant temperature of 75 degrees on the inside, not matter how hot it gets outside. Goats survive well in the desert, and sliwas, the giant lizards used for beasts of burden. Sliwas, as well as humans, need to eat now and then, and goats were the perfect solution. Goats also give wool for weaving and milk to drink and make cheese. The desert tribes of my novel are nomads, and gather annually to swap stories and gossip, barter for goods, and marry.
The towns on the edge of the deserts have high walls, more for defense against sandstorms than marauding armies, which I conveniently left out of Jibutu’s story. Again, common sense.
Because Jibutu is a novel, in a place and time of my choosing, I did not have to consider tying her into history. I did not have to research clothing, manners, speech—all the things an author of historical novels must do. I just had to keep my “bible” handy so I could remember how to spell names and be consistent in measurements, timelines, and when needed genealogies.
In a way, it was much easier building my own world than trying to write a story to fit into one that existed, and that people know about. I didn’t have to worry about any timeline but mine. And the vocabulary was also mine. I didn’t have to worry if a word I wanted to use really existed in 1852 because my world had no 1852.
Jibutu’s world is on another planet, enough like ours to be comfortable, different enough to be intriguing.
Jibutu: Daugher of the Desert by Lenora Rain-Lee Good ~~ As part of the ritual to become a healer, Jibutu drinks the fermented juice of the Death Cactus and dreams of her unknown birth mother, who calls her by a name she can neither hear nor understand. Later, having gained status as a healer, on a quest to learn who her birth parents were, and her true name, she also becomes a shaman. Astride a giant lizard, she crosses the desert with her sister shaman, and is attacked and taken by slavers. Jibutu loses everything and everyone she knows and loves as her world is turned upside-down.
You can read one of Lenora’s poems at Quill & Parchment.
Many thanks for sharing your thoughts on world building, Lenora. Best wishes for your poetry.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.