Random Thoughts – The 3 M’s of Worldbuilding

World building is hard. So is figuring out how to have fantasy creatures interact and engage with that world. But how do you introduce those creatures early if they don’t play a role until later in the series? The 3 M’s answers that question.

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…

Until now.

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?

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to check out the latest Flash Fiction Friday post. Follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

As always, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 007 – A Wizard’s Duel

Two wizards meet in a forest clearing and challenge each other to a duel. Thrill as they display their power and seek to gain the upper hand. Will raw strength succeed or will cunning conquer?

“A wizard’s duel?” Orpheus raised a brow in surprise and intrigue, a small smile playing across his lips. “What a fascinating thought. Rules?”

“Elemental based att-”

“Boo! Booooring.” Orpheus chuckled the look on Maliek’s face at being interrupted.  “Come now Maliek. Don’t frown so.” A sigh escaped from Orpheus’ lips. “Fine. Fine. Elemental it is. Really, you Mariesian mages need more creativity.”

Just as Orpheus finished, Maliek stabbed the ground with his staff. The earth shook and rumbled beneath Orpheus’ feet, and he was forced to reach out to a nearby tree for support. Before he could fully regain himself, Maliek slashed upwards with his staff. A blade of air burst from the staff’s path, causing the tree to explode.

Orpheus dove out of the way, rolling into a kneel. Splinters and bark rained down around him. He saw the blur of Maliek’s staff as another blade of air shot towards him. He did not dive away this time but clapped his hands together at the last moment, catching the airwave. With a twist of the wrists, he turned the wave and flung it up into the sky.

Bringing his arms down, Orpheus directed a bolt of lightning towards Maliek. The larger wizard shielded his eyes from the blinding light while spinning his staff to scatter the bolt’s power. Orpheus took advantage of the momentary distraction to rise. A spinning of the finger caused a wind to swirl about Maliek, surrounding him with a thin layer of dirt and leaves. With a snap, Orpheus called forth a clap of thunder.

The clearing was filled with a deafening sound as wind and thunder mixed. As suddenly as it began, the noises stopped, and all was silent. Maliek stood alone in the silence. His vision was still spotty from the lightning and his hearing muffled from the thunder. Cursing, he spun about as he searched for his opponent.

Movement behind a tree caught his eye, and Maliek thrust his staff towards it. Instead of the flame flying from the end of his staff, Maliek’s instrument exploded in his hands. The ground beneath his feet rose in the air and tilted, spilling him to the ground below. Vines rose from the exposed earth to bind his wrists and hold him fast to the ground.

“I yield.” The surrender was more a growl from the large wizard.

“Poor Maliek,” Orpheus said as he stepped from behind a tree. “Always thinking that your magic flows from your weapon. A flaw in the thoughts of the Mariesians.” The vines binding Maliek retreated and Orpheus offered the man a hand up. “Come on now. It is time for lunch.”

Maliek took the hand and rose with a grunt. “You owe me a new staff.”

“Of course, of course.” Orpheus smiled. “I was thinking mutton stew. I’ve been wanting to try the mutton stew at that new tavern near the academy.” With a flick of the wrist, Orpheus opened a gateway to the city gates. “You’re buying by the way. Victor’s rights and all.”

Maliek’s growl was a halfhearted attempt to keep from smiling as he shoved Orpheus through the gateway.

If you liked this, let us know and share with your friends. Remember to follow for more stories and musings on storytelling. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. We also have our quarterly newsletter you can sign up for with the link on the sidebar. Sign up for exclusive short stories and news about our projects. And remember, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 006 – Terrors of the Deep

The Viribus sails the cosmic seas. But there are dangers that lurk out in the dark expanses. Can the Viribus survive or is it doomed to be consumed by the universe?

Crow’s nest duties were always the worst. It was supposed to be done by convicts, but the trip had been long and there were no convicts left. A quarter of them were back in their cells below babbling incoherently. The rest had disappeared.

The crow’s nest needed to be manned, however. So it was that Marius was sitting in the small wooden circle atop the mast. He had shown a little too much disrespect to his section lead. Normally this was punishable by a little extra duty and a forfeiture of pay. Given the need for lookouts, though, he was ordered up to the top of the mast instead.

He shivered as he stared out into the darkness. There was no real day or night out on the cosmic seas, but it was the twenty-third hour. The decks below were as silent as the cosmos surrounding Marius as the majority of the crew slept. The solar winds provided no warmth and only heightened the feelings of isolation.

Out in the distance, a sole balaeic drifted through space, its massive body undulating and writhing on unseen currents. The Jues Nebulae glittered beyond the bow, a red and green beacon that signaled the final leg of their journey. With a little skill and a little luck, the Viribus would be back at a friendly dock within a week.

From the shadows below Jues, a glint of light caught Marius’ eye. He fetched his looking glass and lifted it in the direction of the flash. The image of another ship jumped into his vision. The vessel was thin and sleek, bearing a single mast, and its bow was carved into a strange shape. While it was still too far to make out the design of the bow clearly, the shape of the ship was unmistakable.

“Pictusings! Pictusings below the Jues!”

In response to Marius’ cries, the bell on the deck below began to ring out its alarm. A flurry of motion erupted below him as the crew was woken. They rushed to their battle stations as the Pictusings ship approached.

It wasn’t long before the Pictusings were upon them and the battle was made. The clash of swords and the thud of clubs exploded around the two ships. Screams of the wounded and dying pierced the air. Even though the Viribus was a larger ship with a skilled and hardened crew, the Pictusings were known for their fierceness, dragging the fight on longer than it should have. Longer than was prudent.

Out from the depths of the cosmic seas, a shadow moved. It was drawn to the sounds of pain and scent of blood. There was no form to the shadow as passed by the battling ships, only an indescribable sound. The sound bore into Marius’ ears like a screw digging into wood, removing shavings of sense and sanity. His screams were echoed by those below until a fog passed over his mind, blurring out reality.

* * *

The Viribus drifted into the port of Helenesopia. Once secured, the dockmaster strode up the gangplank, notebook in hand, ready to record the declarations from the ship’s logistician.

“A little more trouble than normal on this run Heraclon,” the logistician reported. “We lost all our convicts about eighty percent of the way through. Mindeaters and the like seem to be growing in the Adriomos region. Had a little run-in with the Pictusings near Jues as well. I recommend you put a notice out on those two spots.”

Heraclon nodded absently as he made the notes. “Of course. We will also start the paperwork to refill your stock of convicts. Any thing else to declare?”

The logistician tapped his chin a moment in thought. “No, not that I can think of. Cargo is all accounted for and our paperwork is in order. All in all, I would say it was a fairly successful trip.”

If you liked this, let us know and share with your friends. Remember to follow for more stories and musings on storytelling. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. We also have our quarterly newsletter you can sign up for with the link on the sidebar. Sign up for exclusive short stories and news about our projects. And remember, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 005 – The Golden Horde

As the day of battle was reached, the Golden Horde stood ready to meet their foe. #flashfictionfriday #fantasy #battle

The sound of a thousand breaths echoing in a thousand helmets filled the first few ranks. Behind, standards fluttered in the breeze, undulating with the same determined beat of the warriors. The sun rose behind them, casting the field in a glorious, golden light. It was a good omen.

The heavens were smiling on the Golden Horde. Though chaos still loomed ahead, order would soon be brought to bear as sure as the dawn was ending the night. It was a certainty, as sure as the dawn.

A horn sounded in the distance and a cloud of smoke rose on the horizon. The earth shook as the wild ones marched forth. Their army outnumbered the Golden Horde three to one, but that did not cause a stir among the ranks.

General Gradicus observed how the wild ones marched forward. Their steps were out of time with each other and their ranks bent like a reed in the wind. This was not a professional army, merely a mob meant to scare and intimidate.

Gradicus allowed himself a small smile as he wrote several orders on scraps of parchment. These orders were handed to nearby runners who sped off towards the designated officer. This army was not easily scared and would show this rabble what true military force can do.

If you liked this, let us know and share with your friends. Remember to follow for more stories and musings on storytelling. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. We also have our quarterly newsletter you can sign up for with the link on the sidebar. Sign up for exclusive short stories and news about our projects. And remember, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Tropes 001 – Why is it Always a Farm Boy

Tropes are important for storytelling. They are essential tools that help an author. They can also feel overused and outdated.

Fantasy heroes have a pretty standard origin. They are either the noble son of the noble father of the noble line, destined to rule with peace and prosperity…or they are a farm boy. But why a farm boy? Why always a farm boy? Let’s take a look at why this trope exists and what function it serves. I mean, we need to look at why it’s always a farm boy before we can find a replacement.

First and foremost, this person is supposed to become the hero. Farm boys work because working farms are hard. You get those country muscles. I could see a farm boy overpowering a soldier. If that were the only case, that leaves us with some other jobs that are good subs. Blacksmiths are great, dock loaders, pretty much any physically demanding job.

Second, farm boys come from humble origins. They have to overcome their social class as well. This adds at least two decent subplots as the farm boy learns to be gentile and some snobby git tries to sabotage them for the farm boys heritage. If this is the case, any lower class job would work. I’d start to avoid things like blacksmiths at this point as they would have routine dealings with nobles who need repairs and arms. Depending on skill, a blacksmith might have more leeway to say what they want, but they still know their place. Kind if ruins some of the humble origins bit.

But the most important reason why it’s always a farm boy is this. They are easily ignorant of the world. Farms are in rural areas. Rural areas are simple and innocent and poorly educated because everyone has to work all day. So the farm boy leaves the farm and now doesn’t know anything about the world. He gets to ask questions and get explanations, meaning we get explanations. He doesn’t know urban politics so we get the crash course in the major houses and who hates who. Same with the war and the rebellion and etc and etc and etc. So who can replace the farm boy here? Well, someone rural. But they also have to be strong enough to become the hero in a 100 pages. See how we are starting to run out of jobs? So that’s why it’s always a farm boy.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss any other discussions, updates, or stories. Be sure to share with your friends so they can be just as awesome as you. Finally, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 004 – The Coming of Spring

Spring is a magical time, especially for fairies. But Fionia has a special challenge ahead of her. How will her work hold up against February? #fantasy #flashfiction #flashfictionfriday #fairy #spring

Spring was the best time in a fairy’s life. The ability to flit around in the early morning sun and spread the blossoming flowers. Fionia loved helping the flowers to blossom.

And so it was Fionia found herself fluttering about the open meadows on a late February morning. The sun was barely rising in the east, shooting golden beams of light down towards her and her work. A rainbow sparkle trailed along behind her, and where it fell, blooms of red and orange would spring up.

Fionia spent several hours flying back and forth through the meadow. At noon, she found the shade of a nearby tree to rest and admire her work. Nearly every inch of the meadow was covered in little flowers. The sight caused the fairy to smile to herself.

Fionia was so confident with her work that morning that she decided that a nap was in order. As she pay under the shade of the tree, she dreamt of a world of color. A soft music filled the air, causing the vibrant hues to explode forth. Soon, Fionia’s dreams were a neon saturated light show.

The sun was near the western horizon by the time Fionia woke. She rose on thin legs and stretched delicate arms high above her head with a yawn. The sky was a blaze with pinks and purples, contrasting nicely with her red and orange meadow. In the distance, a white haze began to creep along the edges of the meadow.

Fionia frowned at the haze. It crept further into her meadow, passing over her flowers and causing them shrivel. It was night frost that was settling over the coming night. Unfortunately, it was just not spring enough yet for the flowers to last.

With a huff and a kick at the dirt, Fionia took flight and gave the meadow once last glance. Her frustration eased as she flew home. Just as her mood was evaporating, this frost will disappear in the morning and she will be able to make the flowers bloom again.

Random Thoughts – Time Management

Time management is always something I have struggled with. You can call it the curse of having too many ideas, the curse of taking too many projects, or the curse of being lazy. I’ve used all three excuses.

Take my current situation. I have a full time job and it requires a large amount of my time. I also have a wife and a baby girl who both need and deserve a large amount of my time. So what do I do instead? I decide to finish my college degree and start writing a book and run this blog and beg people to sign up for my newsletter and start a story telling podcast. (Luckily that last one has a bunch of cool people involved and I’m excited and you should be too. The first episode comes out soon.)

Of course, all of this stuff is manageable. Realistically, my college classes take two, maybe three hours a week to do. The podcast is split between people, so I really only have to worry about that when it’s my turn to tell a story. That leaves plenty of time for my family and a steady writing habit….except that time management thing.

I spend a lot of time doing dumb things (I’m looking at you YouTube). I waste a lot of time. Hell, I wasted 30 seconds just starting out my windshield before writing a sentence on how I waste time.

In the end, maybe it’s just fear. As long as I have a lot of things going on, that’s why no one thing is done without a deadline. As long as the story stays in my head, it us the perfect example of my literary genius (as opposed to all my other geniuses which are totally legit).

Maybe it’s not fear but just contentment. I have a good life. Everything is fine and going according to plan in the grand scheme. I have procreated so I’ve succeeded there. I have a career that I do well in so I’ve succeeded there. I’ve hit all of Maslow’s blocks. Who needs self actualization? (Of course that also requires one to know who their self truly is and my philosophy is way too jacked up to accommodate that.)

Or maybe I am just lazy. You know, it’s probably that one. No worries though. I’ll figure it all out.

In the meantime, make sure to share this with your friends. Maybe the self validation of others will help. If your friend shared this with you, congrats. You have a fantastical friend. You should totally subscribe and be fantastical as well.

But until next time, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.