The Slow Death of a Page Called “The World”

It’s time for a meta post!

So, I care a lot about worldbuilding. Big surprise, considering I’m a fantasy author. I’m also majorly into organization and lists, so creating and maintaining my own “wiki” for worldbuilding sounded awesome when I first created this website. There were five years of details to keep track of, and I didn’t know what would be making it into Blood of Ice/Legacy of Flame and what wouldn’t.

The answer ended up being “most of it.”

Most of the worldbuilding made it into those two books. It resulted in a pretty detailed story in Legacy of Flame, packed with history, but not so dense that I thought I needed to create a series rather than a standalone. I’ve seen enough readers wistfully wonder why more self-published debut authors don’t do standalones, so I knew there was an audience for it, and I liked the idea of publishing a “series of standalones” in the same universe. I also knew from the beginning that Legacy of Flame was going to be by far the most complex of the stories I would tell, simply because it was built atop the skeleton of three (barely passable, kind of terrible, learning experiences galore) books.

Initially, the page I labeled “The World” was meant to catalogue the worldbuilding details that fell through the cracks: things that still existed but had no place in the overarching narrative. Political details like inheritance/succession laws across Northern Cerulis, policies like guaranteed income and education in the Ice Realm, varieties of calendars, references to the common tongue and native languages—all the stuff rattling around in my head. As I get closer and closer to publishing Legacy of Flame, though, it’s become clear how little of that worldbuilding actually did fall through the cracks.

There are certainly things I was never explicit about in Legacy of Flame; for example, it can only be gathered from seriously reading between the lines that people who get married in the Ice Realm (marriage is unrestricted by sexual orientation, BTW) keep their individual surnames. When they have a kid or take a ward, they decide together which last name to give their children.

There happen to be two princes in Legacy of Flame, but that’s only because it shook out that way with their family lines. The Southern Arm and the Spine’s ruling houses no longer have patriarchal succession, unlike Blood of Ice, where they explicitly did (along with most of the North of that era).

Legacy of Flame references dates heavily, but it only utilizes the Ice Realm calendar, even though there’s also an Empire calendar. And nowhere is it mentioned that all three independent kingdoms use the Ice Realm calendar simply because the Ice Realm is the oldest out of all of them.

Other things—weeks being five days, a year being three hundred days, a day probably being longer than 24 hours because binary star systems create all kinds of fun problems—were too difficult to naturally work into the narrative, so I dropped most of it into the worldbuilding page. As a result, the organizational process has been in a state of flux from the start—first the page was just a map, and then a giant list of bullet points, and then it was split up into regions, and then I added jump-links and information about Eineria as a whole, and then I was thinking about organizing the details by book … and I couldn’t quite figure out what benefit I or any reader was gaining. They’re fun facts, but if the details were essential to the storytelling process, they would have entered into the narrative worldbuilding. And any measure of worldbuilding outside the scope of the books I publish only makes for more things to keep track of when I really should be writing.

In the end, I chose to revert the page back into a hub for the various maps that currently connect to the books/short stories, and the maps that will be generated as I explore new places. (Next up: Southern Cerulis!) This is partially because I’ve been doing a brain-breaking amount of reading about worldbuilding lately, ushered along by books like Worldbuilding for Fantasy Fans and Authors and The Dark Fantastic, which have cajoled me into thinking more deeply about my own strategy. I love what Brandon Sanderson does, answering questions posed by fans about various aspects of the Cosmere, and hope I’ll have a big enough platform one day to do something similar. Because as every friend of mine knows, once I get started talking about my world or my characters, it’s really hard to get me to stop.

For now, all the little nit-picky details about Cerulis and Eineria will continue to live in my head, and anyone who wants to ask me about them is welcome to endure my long-winded explanations and puppy-like excitement.

The maps were the best part of the worldbuilding page, anyway. My husband made them. He’s pretty cool.

Curious cats are welcome to leave a comment below asking me how people use the bathroom in my universe. Spoiler alert: I KNOW HOW THEY DID IT IN 5345 IRC, AND I KNOW HOW THEY DO IT IN 7350 IRC.

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