Limited Worldbuilding

So, I’m worldbuilding again. Well, kinda, but not exactly. Okay, I am, but I’ll call it limited worldbuilding. The reason is that the world already exists. Though, in the end, what I’m doing will benefit the world as a whole, my primary focus is on a tiny piece of it.

NaNo Cover: CA Hawthorne

A single city and its environs, to be exact. Duskspell.

In late August, while finishing up my edit on Protecting the Pneuma Key, I added a character, Talma Loyal (that’s another kinda-sorta, but it’s also a spoiler). Her part in the novel is of moderate importance, her importance to me considerably more. I’d found the heroine for the fantasy noir novel I’ve been wanting to write for several years.

As I mentioned briefly last week, she was perfect. Not only that, her novel was already jumpstarted because of the events in Pneuma Key, though that novel was about Zephtasha Barcaine.

I’m always cautious with new story ideas or I’d become buried in them. I prefer to write proven ideas, not chase flimsy ones. Talma was perfect, but was her story worthy of exploration? I let the idea bounce around in my head for a few days. It bounced. It multiplied. It became time to think about the idea more seriously.

On August 27th I opened a file (yes, a file, not a project … caution!) to explore the idea in my spare time. It expanded so fast I couldn’t keep up. It’s blown past 16K and now there are two other files with scenes from her backstory. A project is imminent.

* To understand the rest, keep in mind that Pannulus is a fantasy nation, meaning there’s magic, and its society is akin to about 1925 in our world.

Courtesy: Pixabay

The novel? Talma Loyal and the Case of the Deadly Stroll.

In brief, Talma Loyal is a photographer on the trail of the serial killer she didn’t escape whole. The trail leads to Duskspell, a gritty industrial city on Lake Arcana. There, and wearing the impossible, she waits for her prey’s next move. While waiting, she becomes the first female crime scene photographer and sought after by dangerous men. She’s also discovered, by her prey and her past.

That main file, as I said, has exploded with facts about Talma, but also about several other primary characters. There’s also a list of over two dozen other characters (so far).

Here’s where the worldbuilding comes in…

I always treat my primary locations like important characters. Barnavava, Meldenphire, and Cather come to mind. Unlike those, though, Duskspell will be front and center more than in any other novel. For that reason, I’m lavishing more time on the city.

So, what did I know about Duskspell going into the planning stage? Specifically? Nothing. But that isn’t to say I lacked a strong foundation. I say that for two reasons.

The first reason is that, as I said, I’ve wanted to write a noir novel. That means there were some preliminary pictures in my mind. You know, glistening foggy streets and all that. It also meant crime, corruption, motorcars, jazz (I listen to it while working on the notes), and people in the shadows. This is fantasy, so there’s also airships, potions, and magic.

Lake Arcana is the largest lake and located at the lower left. Duskspell is on the lake’s northern shore. Pannulus Map, ©2020 CA Hawthorne

The second reason is that Pannulus, where Duskspell is located, already exists in the World of Ontyre. That means the entire system of magic is in place. By worldbuilding Duskspell I’ll add some to the overall worldbuilding, but I’m far from starting from scratch.

As I’ve said before, Ontyre is a place where I can tell any kind of story.

Okay, so what happens when you add limited worldbuilding to what is preexisting? To explain I can let you glimpse one isolated topic. Potions.

That means backing up to the beginning of the beginning…

As determined by my original worldbuilding, potions are created by witches, whose magic differs from wizards. Although it wasn’t stated then, I thought there were only two types of potions. We’ll be revisiting that.

In Riparia’s Bk1 in Carrdia, potions are only mentioned. In Bk2 they play a small role.

Later, when I created Pannulus, which is more advanced, potions became regulated by the government. Strict laws prevented citizens from appearing as someone else whenever they pleased. Those laws attracted criminals looking to profit from breaking them. Also notable, there are severe physical and psychological risks associated with indulging in potions.

While writing Protecting the Pneuma Key I introduced potion dens. They’re based on the opium dens of old, but any similarities end pretty quickly. Too, if you leave under the influence you’ll do some major time in the slammer (as will the owner).

Now we reach The Case of the Deadly Stroll. This novel is prompting me to delve even deeper into the world of potions. That’s led to more formally classifying them and discovering that there are at least five different classifications. In addition, I’ve worked out how potion addiction recovery works. I’m sure there’ll be far more ideas to come.

Keep in mind, this evolution addresses the potions, but not so much the human element. Ah, but that’s where stories come in.

Talma Loyal is a successful freelance photographer, her work sold to newspapers and collectors. In addition, she’s pioneering crime scene photography.

Talma Loyal is also a recovering potion addict who must keep more than that a secret. Meanwhile, Duskspell is a city full of crime and potions. Worse, her lone lead points to a tie between her quarry and potion dens.

Potions are but a pinhole glimpse at my Duskspell worldbuilding. I’m also developing the surrounding towns. There are major buildings, suspension bridges, and other important landmarks to name. A map is forming. I’ve even created an address for my protagonist. There are the big issues, too, like more detailed climate, commerce, geography, and city society.

The more I learn the more I discover I didn’t know, of course. Delving into the characters and plot will reveal more. That’ll happen again when I draft, and when I edit, as I’ve discovered numerous times. Some examples over the years have been airships, the Time Library, the gender spirited, and Talma Loyal.

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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