East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Trying a different approach

I’m trying something different for my next story, and I thought I’d tell you about it because… ah, because as usual, doing these things in public forces me to go through with them, can’t make any excuse and waste my time watching Youtube videos and stuff.

So, I am about to write a fantasy story set in a world without gods, in which magic is devastatingly dangerous, and in which life conditions are harsh.
Really harsh.
Blunder-and-you’re-dead kind of harsh.

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Nuts & Bolts on Worldbuilding

My Patrons just received the second issue of Nuts & Bolts, an irregular series of pieces about writing – focusing on practicalities rather than theory. This is the second post of this kind I do this month – the first was successful enough to convince me it was a good idea to go on.

The topic of today’s post is world-building, and was inspired by a very stupid argument fueled by this image.

It is good, they say, being my Patrons.

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This week I made the students of my worldbuilding course happy because I announced one extra lesson, free.
The need to add a lesson became apparent to me when I realized there is one essential worldbuilding question we had not asked ourselves, and we had not explored – that question being WHY.

Which is of course very philosophical and all that, but more simply, it is

Why do we decide to set our story in a specific world?
Why that world and not another, that time and not another, that city and not another?

And no, “Because” is not a good answer. Continue reading


Worldbuilding resources

I have updated my Pinterest pinboard on the subject of Worldbuilding.
I recently noticed that many articles linked on Pinterest have been deleted, moved or anyway are no longer available, so I am trying to keep the collection up to date and as free of dead links as possible.

Fact is, I am designing an online course in Worldbuilding, I’ll be offering early next year. Continue reading

Worldbuilding, in fantasy long and short

This is going to be long.
As readers of this blog might have noticed, I have sort of a personal interest in worldbuilding – both for professional reasons (building worlds pays mt bills) and as a sort of hobby of mine. I like imaginary worlds, which probably explains why I read and write imaginative fiction, or the other way around.


Now, as I was browsing the web in search for some documentation, I chanced upon an old article from The Guardian, whose title caused me to pause and take some time reading.
The article, that was published in May 2015 and you will find here, is called Fantasy cannot build its imaginary worlds in short fiction.
To which my basic reaction is, really? Continue reading

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A new feature: Worldbuilding

As a spinoff of the massive work I’m doing on the Hope & Glory project, I’ve rebooted my old collection of Worldbuilding Resources as a new feature page here on Karavansara.
You find the relevant link on the top bar, under Features.


The page collects articles, books and software for writers interested in worldbuilding – that is not only the Tolkien-esque chore of spending thirty years drawing maps and noting down Elvish irregular verbs, but also quite simply the task of providing vivid and active detail to your story.
Or game.
Or whatever.

Check the page out.
If you have any suggestions, if there’s anything you think I left out, please use the comments on that page to give me a pointer.

I’ll post updates to this Feature occasionally.

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Riding the Leviathan

So far I’ve had it easy – most of my fantasy is historical fantasy, after all, and the action takes place in historical settings or pretty close to them.
World-building means a good history reference book (or five) and a few pages of notes on what’s hiding in the cracks of what we consider historical.


I’ve worked like that on the Aculeo & Amunet stories (set in the Third Century AD), on my novel The Ministry of Thunder (set in 1936 China), and on my current Le Corsaire project (set in the Mediterranean area, in the 1950s).
And the Corsair stories are not even fantasy – they are action thrillers.
Yes, even on my science fiction novel, The Hunt for Tethys1, I did most of my worldbuilding on a handful of post-its. Continue reading