As you’ve probably guessed, most of my research on getting a couple of characters together and then designing a world around them has been pretty hands-on recently. (This one even feels like it’s going to let me keep writing it past a month or so, if I can just keep my enthusiasm up. Yippee!)
I’d started with two elements: a pair of character archetypes I’d seen put to good use in a game I was in, and a bizarre picture which included a bird whose plumage was the Northern Lights and a tree cradling the moon with ants bringing light to it that… just sort of happened to me, honestly. I’m not sure how much of the picture I’m going to use, but it gave me an image of a world where power was gained through age and complexity, and objects with sufficient age and complexity tended to acquire sentience and/or magical properties in varying orders. And the characters—well, let’s just say what got me going was “what happens if I stick a career manipulator whose favorite weapon is the surrounding social mores and a semi-outcast with a misanthropic streak, both of whom share the Power of Common Sense, in a fantasy of manners?”
A lot, apparently.
My design was haphazard at first—I’d grab a piece of paper and start freewriting. I have snarky commentary about the effect of one’s ancestry on her social standing in the voice of the other (the line “Her father was inconsiderate enough not to inform her mother that he could stretch his arm to twice its natural length” comes to mind), I have some speculations on how fashion and its trends might be affected by some of the garments functionally being alive and probably less than amused by the idea of being discarded after a few uses, that sort of thing.
Then I got a bit more disciplined—the mapping approach I detailed on Tuesday. I started with my main characters, Lian and Malora, my “I’ll have one eventually” main antagonist slot, and a smaller antagonist who had to exist because of Lian’s backstory. Then I started listing traits, and trying to figure out where they came from. Lian is well-versed in subtlety, because her family is hiding something and likes to train its children in keeping secrets early just in case they find that something out/in preparation for when they’re ready to be let into the secret. Malora’s parentage manages both to explain why society looks down on her, and why she’s an only child (a human bearing a shapeshifter’s child is rendered infertile in the process—good if it’s your fifth and nobody’s figured out you did it, not so good if the kid is your first), which in turn led me to the idea of everyone knowing but nobody admitting that sometimes, a woman with a large number of children would go arrange to have a child with a shapeshifter to keep the family from getting out of control….
I’m not even sure where the beginning of the story is, but I’m having a field day with this world already.