So I am in this awesome writer’s group on Facebook. The people there are great. They are also super helpful, always willing to offer help and advice on story issues. Occasionally, though, you get some random jackass who has never published a book who tries to speak with authority and offer their two cents…Well, not being content with being just a jackass on Facebook, I have decided to expand on one of my ideas here for you fantastical people.
There have been a lot of question on Fantasy Writer’s Support Group on worldbuilding. Not just how to create a new world and populate it with interesting peoples and creatures, but also how soon or late to introduce these elements. Many of these writers have plans for a multi-book series, and they want to keep book one very mundane and ordinary with barely a hint of fantasy creatures, only to introduce these different races in later books.
Initially, my advice was always to get the creatures out there as soon as possible in book one. It’s fantasy. Fantasy creatures are allowed to be there. Besides, you don’t want to have book one feel like some type of historical fiction story only to do a genre bait-and-switch in books two or three.
Now, this is still my advice. To quote Martin Luther (the theologian, not the civil rights leader) “Here I stand. I can do no other.” I never really gave a lot of thought to how to actually do this, though.
After all, it is easy to say “toss those creatures in there.” It is harder to do. Where do you put them? What if you have a xenophobic government? These were questions I did not have an answer to…
The 3 M’s of Worldbuilding:
Merchants, Mercenaries, and Marauders was the answer I needed.
There are certain groups that are pretty much ubiquitous in every society, especially medieval based societies. These groups are merchants, mercenaries, and marauders. Let’s break it down.
Merchants are one of the few groups of people who are pretty universally welcomed. They bring new and exotic items from across the globe…or a new tray to bake bread on. Either or. Either way, merchants have a lot of freedom of movement. They are also a group that is easy to have other races fill.
After all, in our own history, you could get raided by a Viking ship today and tomorrow another Viking ship will show up to trade with you. (Ok, it wasn’t that extreme, but you get my point.) Merchants can show up anywhere and be accepted. Maybe not trusted, but accepted.
Mercenaries are another group that is all over history. There is the famous story of the Anabasis where 10,000 Greek mercenaries traveled to Persia to fight for Cyrus II. They typically tend to show up more in later history as gunpowder led to strong, centralized governments capable of raising the taxes to pay for them, but fantasy loves its mercenary bands.
Historically, these mercenary bands travel all over the place. The Vikings (geez, again!?) sent a group of mercenaries into Asia, these mercenaries became bodyguards, then these bodyguards took the crown and established Russia. (Slight exaggeration on the timeline, but still a true story.) So it is easily possible to have a mercenary group of a different race, especially if your fantasy has a war going on.
Finally, we have marauders. These are your raiders and pillagers. (Vikings strike again!) But in this sense, I use marauders more to represent criminal organizations because I am an author and alliteration is awesome. (Also because MMCU or MMG doesn’t quite flow off the tongue.)
Any xenophobic society is going to attempt to push outside races away from good, societal jobs. This leads those groups to have to find some means of surviving. Raiding, stealing, and selling secrets are all good ways to earn money for those who don’t have the burden of living up to a society’s moral codes. (Granted, it also leads to stereotypes, but that’s not the point here.)
Now, the other awesome thing about the 3 M’s of Worldbuilding is that you don’t have to focus on these groups. There doesn’t need to be a whole lot of explanation behind them or a deep dive in their cultural history. These groups are just there. They form the background.
They also get your creatures in the story easily. You can explore them later at your leisure. They can impact the plot whenever you want. But they are already there and you don’t have to worry about them coming out of nowhere.
So what do you think? Are the 3 M’s helpful to you? How do you like to build your worlds?
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As always, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.
3 thoughts on “Random Thoughts – The 3 M’s of Worldbuilding”
Yeah, these are pretty good ways to introduce other races. Those Vikings are really useful role models.
I think one should be careful, though. My sis-in-law told me how she gave up on a series, and one of the things she mentioned was that the author kept mentioning dwarves and other races, but they never showed up in the story as a character, so it frustrated her. She had other reasons for not liking the series, but that was the one she was most vocal about. She’s of the opinion that “if it doesn’t serve a purpose, why include it?” Then again, she’s very blunt about what she doesn’t like, like that time she told me she absolutely hated my main character…
Very true. Economy of storytelling, Chekhov’s gun, whatever term you want to use. It is important that revelations have a point. You can’t just slap a coat of fantasy on a story (look at some of the failings of Bright in this regard). This is more for helping make sure a foundation is in place for when you do plan to bring these creatures in. As annoying as it is to hear about dwarves without seeing them, it is even more so to have no mention and the a dwarf shows up.