"What are some major parts of your world that you’ve built this month that you hadn’t quite gotten to before? What are some parts that you never thought you would have built but have become important components to your world? Today we’re reflecting on all the work we’ve done and maybe even looking further back from when you first dreamed up your world, what was it like back then when the creative spark had yet to be fanned into a flame?"
Oh man, good questions! I sort of got into that last question in a previous post, I believe? Most of my human cultures are still massively underdeveloped, but this challenge really, well, challenged me to think of things I hadn’t yet. Government, economy, education, architecture, fashion, all this stuff I had barely put any thought into until recently. I updated the map of my world because of this challenge (just napkin doodles, but still…).
What I do know for sure is that I have a lot of work ahead of me. But this is a passion project, so I’m not going to force anything. I have the basic outline (in my head) and ideas of where I want the characters to end up. I do have an ending in mind. It’s just all the in-between stuff that needs work. Oh, and I super need to step up my drawing and digital art game, because yeah.
Overall, this was a really fun thing to do. I eagerly awaited every single prompt, and I enjoyed reading posts from the other participants. This certainly got me back into the swing of things, at least creatively speaking. I can’t wait to do this again next year, with an even more fleshed out world (yeah, it’ll probably be the same one, haha!). Until then, I will be turning this into more of an arty blog. Or I’ll try to, anyway.
"One of the biggest mysteries of our own world is the sea. It’s deep, vast, and for the most part is still inaccessible in its deepest parts. What dwells in your worlds oceans? What about other bodies of water? How does it fit into the lives of your people? Remember that rivers and seaworthy vessels were and still are invaluable to trade over long distances."
I mentioned in the Underground post that the Leviathan might still be lying in wait below the ocean’s depths.
Most of the creatures in the ocean and other bodies of water are equivalent to our own, save for the Sea Serpents, which are the less evolved cousins of Dragons. Many underwater species have yet to be discovered.
Water is, of course, crucial for trade in this world. It is the main means of transport in the River Kingdom, as its name implies. Tamsen learns the ways of other humans (having only known the one previously) after living a few years on a ship that circles much of the known world.
A Noah’s Ark type tale in the story (which is a myth in this universe, based on some historical truth) posits that the entire world was covered in water save for one continent, Aves, which only became more vast as the waters receded. The Ark was said to have made land on the highest mountaintop of what is now the Mountain Kingdom. It is that very peak which some believe can reach up to Heaven. There are other legends explaining the origin of the Islands, but those aren’t fleshed out just yet.
Mainland Aves is roughly the size of Africa and Eurasia combined (but likely smaller). This, the Island Kingdom Archipelago, and the two polar ice caps are the only landmasses. The entire other half (or “Other Side”) of the world is just ocean. It has been circumnavigated, and there is nary an island in sight, or so we are led to believe.
Many Native Islanders believe that the Realm of the Dead is on this “Other Side”. The dead are usually placed in small boats and sent out to sea in hopes of finding their way there.
"What’s beneath the surface of your planet? What lurks in dark caves and churns under the crust? What lays idly by asleep for centuries awaiting to be awoken? What awaits treasure hunters who excavate down down down?"
The mines of the Mountain Kingdom go surprisingly deep. Many miners have been lost, thought to be consumed by the centuries-old coal fires that burn deep underground if their bodies are never recovered. Most of them are just children. This is the Mountain Kingdom’s version of Hell. Truly egregious criminals (the Eyeless), most of whom are imprisoned below ground anyway, are sometimes tossed to these flames as the ultimate punishment.
There are two main underground organizations that quite possibly control this world; the Phoenician Society and the Guild of Dragons. They have headquarters throughout Aves, and they may be secretly waging war against each other, even if that means taking the rest of the world down with them.
There are mysteries that lie in the deepest trenches of the ocean, and in the darkest forests in the far far north. The Leviathan and the Simorgh lie in wait. Or maybe they just want to be left alone for good, who knows.
"How do the folks in your world form together? How do their friendships and more than friendships work? Do they greet each other with a punch in the gut or a subtle gesture? Do they believe in love? Do they believe in soul-mates? What about when their relationships get to the next level, are there rituals involved there?"
I guess in terms of romantic relationships, monogamy is pretty much the norm here (exciting!?). Love is a very important thing in this world, in all its forms. Marriages stared out how most marriages started out back in the day, but then evolved into a gesture of love between two consenting adults (though children may still be married off in some places and ugggghhh don’t wanna talk about that). Marriage rituals vary from culture to culture. Certain tribes in certain kingdoms may practice polygamy, and polyamory is a thing. Not a widely accepted thing, but it exists. Forms of birth control exist too, so free love ya’ll! The legal status and/or social implications of using birth control varies from kingdom to kingdom. Abortion, gay marriage, adoption, children out-of-wedlock, surrogacy, divorce, re-marriage and so on, all things that exist, but I probably won’t get into much if at all in the story proper.
Interracial or inter-ethnic marriages are a little more common nowadays, though they are not always widely accepted. The Kingdoms tend to keep marriages within their borders, and each land is not as diverse as it could be (with the glaring exception of the Island Kingdom), but they are slowly getting there. Friendships are highly valued, even above romantic love or family, in some cases (though family usually trumps all). It should go without saying that the friendships formed by the main crew in this tale will shape them for the rest of their lives, and blah blah blah, you know the drill. And that’s no small feat considering they are all completely different species.
My friend Ally came up with the bestest prompt!
"What is the biggest change between the universe you have now and the one you first came up with? Or you can make it how much has one character changed since you first came up with the idea?"
This universe has changed SO much from the start, and it still has a long way to go. I may have mentioned this at some point, but this idea originally started out as just a series of illustrations based on the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals (+ Cat) with a very loosely connected “back-story,” mostly as a way to beef up my portfolio. The back-story was basically the same; Cat seeks out the 12 other animals for some important mission. Only in the original world, it’s implied that talking animals are a normal thing, at least in the walled-off human cities. The untamed forests that covered most of this world (Alt-Earth, Future Earth?) still had wild beasts living in them that acted much more beastly and spoke not a word. I still have yet to make any such illustrations.
I have no idea where or when exactly I decided to pursue it as a full-blown fantasy web comic, though it was definitely sometime around early-mid 2012. And I got a crap ton of inspiration on a train ride that summer, to Baltimore no less (for Otakon ‘12). I knew I wanted to do a fantasy comic before then to offset the slice-of-life one I had been working on. But I was debating about whether or not I should flesh out an older sci-fi/fantasy story I had lying around (one with angst-y teens as the main cast instead of pets). That story will likely never see the light of day. But who knows…
The nice thing about this story, though, is that I am able to recycle many elements from that old sci-fi/fantasy one and combine it with variations on a bunch of the animal characters and stories that I had in the back of my brain too! And I’ll be able to include allusions to my favorite animal-based fables, fairy tales, legends, and so on and so forth. Plus I have an excuse to draw more critters than people. I think I made the right choice.
"I’m going to be stealing this one because I spaced on it even though it was one of the first posts I made about my own world for WBJ! I think we all know how rough it is to give something or someone a name. It’s a huge commitment and will be the first impression most folks get of that character. Even the names of cities, spells, and everything in between are important! So let’s dig into those names. What are common naming tropes in your world and why have you chosen them?"
Haha, I feel bad now, I came up with this as my prompt to a friend! Oh well…
I really just pick names that I like, that sound good, look good, make sense for the character/place. I LOVE researching names for characters and places. Some of them have meanings for the characters and within the context of the story. Some of them don’t. Each Kingdom may follow a naming scheme (plant-based for Valley, mineral-based for Mountain, and so forth). I have very few place names at this point, and I still haven’t even settled on the geography of this world!
All 12 Zodiac animal characters have names that refer to their species and/or a specific aspect(s) about them. Tamsen is a variation on Tamsin, which is a shortened version of Thomasina (and Tom cats are males, so… yeah). Jasper is just a name that I love and wanted to give a character or pet. And I made him red, which jasper the mineral often is, so it can also refer to that. His middle name, Jeraco, is something I saw on a bumper sticker once and I liked the look of it (and the fact that it can allude to Jericho the place). Luath is one that I came across while researching dog names. It is apparently the name of one of the canines from The Incredible Journey (book and/or movie), and it is a pretty unique name to boot. Waqi’s full name is Arabic because she is basically a thoroughbred horse and that breed is descended from Arabian horses. Her last name means “horse” and her first name means “fallen,” which could allude to some things about her later on. I could go on and on about all the characters’ names, but I’ll save that for another time…
There is no one language that I am basing character and place names on. It is sort of a mixed up jumble. Which suits my mixed up personality and this mishmash of a story, I guess. But I’m still working on it.
"When you look up in your world, what do you see? What’s up there? Birds? dragons? Thick oppressive clouds? A couple moons? A ring that encircles the planet? We look down at our feet as we build but it’s time to look up and out. What do your wild new horizons look like?"
I mentioned in previous posts that this world had flying Dragons and Phoenix birds roaming the skies. Once. But not anymore.
There is only one moon, like our moon, and one sun. And constellations that are unique to this world, though they may look similar to ours (they just have different names and origin stories, etc.). The sky is your average blue on sunny days, grey on cloudy days, etc., but of course this all depends on where you are in the world at any given time.
To elaborate on the 3 Sacred Animals (or “Untamables”) which include the Dragons and Phoenixes; because they were so powerful, all 3 acted as a natural checks and balance system. The destruction of one would be fixed or offset by the other (though Unicorns were rarely, if ever, destructive, so they would do a lot of the clean-up work). Following the Unicorns’ extinction, the balance was thrown off, and magic turned to chaos. The Phoenix Plague (which evolved to kill off Dragons, and even some Humans) was seen as God’s way of eliminating the problem.
Many have said that these three species were never meant to exist in the first place. They were the “children” of the First Beasts. The Leviathan created the Dragons, the Simorgh shaped the Phoenixes, and the Behemoth made the Unicorns. But by giving each some god-like powers, they acted in defiance of God, and thus angered Him. But God could not undo this, and so he let the creatures live for a time (or so the holy texts say).
((Sorry I added that other stuff. I had a feeling this would be another boring post from me!))
"What grows on your world? What sorts of crops do the people grow and which plants are most prevalent? What sort of plants would you find near the equator as opposed further towards the poles? In stories with much more localized areas, maybe it’s time to do some research on the local greenery."
I’ve only really thought of trees for this one.
The Northern Kingdom is the number one exporter of lumber in this world and they have some really fantastical trees that could only exist in, well, fantasy.
There are the Ghost Pines, which are mostly translucent and glow when the sunlight hits them just right. A truly wondrous sight to see. Rarely cut down, but the wood, if cut thinly enough, can be used as a suitable (and less breakable) alternative to glass in windows.
The Evergold trees, which are coniferous trees that are completely gold in color, and extremely rare to find (and it certainly doesn’t help that they are nearing extinction). The wood has been used to make the opulent golden thrones of the Desert Kings for centuries. This practice has since stopped. (Inspired in no small part by the Golden Spruce.)
The Blood Oak trees, outside and inside are the same blood red color, they secrete a thick red sap that, once fermented, is used to make the popular drink Blood Wine.
There is also a secret forest in the Northern Kingdom where it is said to be eternally spring. The bodies of long-dead Unicorns are believed to be buried there, and their remains have continuously fed the roots of these ever-flowering trees to this day.
All of the Kingdoms are based on real (if heavily fictionalized and simplified) places, and their local flora will match accordingly.
"What is strife like in your world? How do countries or individuals settle their differences when everything comes to blows? Do they march vast armies towards one another? Send missiles at each other? Do they shoot or do they brawl? How even does a small fight work out?"
Haha I have been so at a loss for these last couple prompts, I must be losing steam…
Basically, wars work here just like they do in our world. Which is to say, I am super clueless about this kind of stuff, so I am going to research real wars as much as possible!
In the story proper, the Island Kingdom breaks a decade of peace by instigating war with the Mountain Kingdom, and all the other Kingdoms get hit in the crossfire. Very advanced weaponry (including missiles, yes) will be used. This will be our heroes’ time to shine, as it were.
Small fights are fought with fists! Or claws, in Tamsen’s case. Or words, if you’re a more sensible critter/person. But whose got time for words?