Worldbuilding A Dynamic Society Brimming with Story Potential

Sweet mother of all! Sorry, but I couldn’t think of a different way to begin this post. Summer has arrived. I’m walking and biking. I’m seeing the benefits of yoga after only three weeks. I’m back in Pannulus.

Sweet mother of all, I’m in Pannulus (an island republic in my fantasy world, Ontyre, for those who don’t know). When worldbuilding goes right you end up with conflicts in a society that beg for you to write about them and in that regard Pannulus has exceeded my expectations.

Courtesy: Pixabay

I’d thought to launch into Stealing Light as June dawned, but I discovered two issues, one tied to the other.

To begin, the pacing in the first half of the novel drags. Wandering early has been a common problem for me (until I wrote Pneuma Key). The other issue was I assembled the group of students too late in the novel. It was procrastination born of developing seven characters separately. Would they work as a group?

They did. The chemistry was magic and the credit goes to the separate short stories I wrote for them. Besides examining the characters, I wanted to explore their common link, though they aren’t aware it exists. At present, I’m performing the first edit on those stories.

Those seven students come from scattered locations across the islands. When they come together it’s at a location I dearly love. Thornwillow School for the Gifted. Even more so it’s about Cape Caprice, which juts into Vortex Bay where the Mysquanmic (magic) Vortex is located. Although the vortex affects all of Pannulus, Cape Caprice is nearest to its epicenter.

Here’s where worldbuilding jumpstarts stories…

©2020 CA Hawthorne

On the cape, the magic in the air is virtual humidity so heavy it almost takes a sharp knife to cut it. Time bends on occasion. Ghosts and the other unexplained phenomena wander its gnarly, dense forests and rocky, jagged hills. The forest itself is a presence, its streams flowing mysteries.

The cape is named for Caprice Restoven, the Lady of the Wood. Hundreds of years before, she developed the abilities that made her the first Lumen (ability to manipulate light and dark). Problem was, her husband thought she was possessed and had her hanged. She didn’t stay in the grave.

The village of Din Haven was settled by pirates and hasn’t changed much. The village of Verker? All its residents disappeared on a single night, no signs of violence left behind. There’s buried treasure no one has found and strange goings on at the lighthouse. A good portion of the cape is owned by the Worthington’s. Worthington Manner sits near Cold Heart Point, the perfect place for the brokenhearted to jump.

Amidst it all is the old fortress that became Thornwillow School. All that remains is the surrounding wall, six towers converted to student housing, the seventh serving small airships. Almost centered is the new “Art Deco” boarding school built on the ruins of an ancient structure.

Into the midst of all this I’ve placed gifted teenagers. In the midst of those teenagers I’ve assembled the most diverse and talented group the school has ever seen. Each has a tragic past. The school has a secret plan for their future.

For the sake of brevity I’ll skim over Pannulus itself. The focus is mostly on internal threats like societal fracturing, crime, extremists, smuggling, and a host of other issues. It’s also a country entering a modern age of airships, motorcars, and even a fledgling motion picture industry.

In other words, it’s a time of great change and great threats. To us, it’d look a little like 1920 (my grandparents era), but with magic.

Pannulus. ©2020 CA Hawthorne

The student backstories aren’t short. Each one is over 10K. In other words, together they constitute a short novel of over 65K (at present).

I’ve been building the magic of Ontyre for almost twenty years, but Pannulus for only a couple. Still, it’s ignited my imagination (countless short stories, two novellas, and two novels). Recently, I added to its worldbuilding, having ignored sports for too long. In doing so I discovered a frequent theme: a propensity towards circular design. After all, Pannulus means pan– (all-inclusive) plus annulus (ring shaped).

Sweet mother of all, I’ve a created a country brimming with stories, which is exactly what worldbuilding should do. It was the same when I wrote Protecting the Pneuma Key where there were rylls and smuggled artifacts along with a potion den, prejudice, and a mysterious killer.

Worldbuilding? Don’t just build a society, build a dynamic society (for better or ill). From the ground up my intent was to create a world where I could tell any story. When you have a world where you can imagine anything happening then you’re doing it right. Already I’ve written about a romance on a train, a mysterious murderer, and a school for gifted teens. Short stories abound.

Sweet mother of all!


About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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2 Responses to Worldbuilding A Dynamic Society Brimming with Story Potential

  1. Rick Ellrod says:

    Great description, Christina. You’re getting me interested in this world . . . 🙂

    I agree that building a world to accommodate numerous stories is a good approach. Both in fiction and in RPG campaigns, I try to design a universe deliberately so that there are many kinds of stories to tell.

    • Excellent! Worldbuilding must always evolve and its bedrock must be, not only its magic system, but adhering to the rules of that system. That’s one place many fail. The other, of course, is creating a society built specifically for one specific story (and often out of convenience as they’re going along). That means disaster when someone tries to write a sequel. They struggle to write a story that’s different than the first one.

      My exposure to RPG is limited, but I do know many players build elaborate worlds any writer would envy. Many of the best maps I’ve ever seen were for RPG. Absolutely amazing work.

      It’s always a pleasure to talk to you about this topic. 😃

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