Saturday, April 24, 2010

World-Building Days 1 + 2

Well, yesterday was full of fun. I may have found something I'll actually get hired to do, so it was time well spent. Because of the job-hunting, i didn't get a chance to put up a blog post, as I used that time instead to work toward my small daily goal for my world-building project.

Something I have learned over the years as I have created various creatures for fantasy and sci-fi setting is that it's hard for some things to actually sound believable. Sure, you could have something that's huge and that carries your character around the world conveniently, but what do they eat? Where do they live in the wild? What kind of food requirements do they have?

Take, for example, the creature I was fleshing out yesterday. Because I still haven't created the language for this world yet, I just give everything pretty basic, descriptive names. The one I focused on was called the "Spiny Herdbeast" which fits quite well as a description for the picture that was drawn to go along with it. It's easy to tell this one apart from my other "herdbeast" type animals, and I can easily use it as a way to name it once I've smoothed out the language.

The first thing I wanted to do with it was have it be quite large. Since the characters I am using on this world are at least two or three feet taller then the "average human male" scale that is generally used in these types of illustrations, I got out a measuring tape and laid out on the floor how tall, how long and how broad it would be in order to get real world dimensions. Proportionally, they're similar in size to my main creatures in the way horses and cows are to humans.

The Spiny Herdbeasts are herbivores, so I took a look at the map I'd drawn of my worlds, and plotted out where they might be in every season, their migratory habits leading them to follow the water as they moved from spring/summer grazing to fall/winter areas. The terrain also posed a problem, and I adapted for that, drawing inspiration from Giant Ground Sloths of the ice age who had "hands" to help them graze.

When building fantasy creatures it seems like it's always a good idea to at least have a facet of real animals, or use them as a basis for the way the creature interacts with it's environment. Horses and cattle both have rather high energy requirements, so they end up grazing throughout the day. I used that as an aspect of the behavior of the Spinys, as it gives them at least some sort of grounding that makes them seem more real when they're written or drawn.

Because they graze so much, their diets also need to be full of energy rich foods, so I researched the kinds of plants that have high energy yields and based their stature and basic body structures on things that would help them to reach the foods they were most benefited by. As a result I ended up with a heavily built, stocky creature with a short neck, "hands" that help them reach things that are too high for them to eat and dig to find roots.

For day 2 I worked on a second creature. When fleshing out beasts and beings for worlds, I always like to have either a "fact sheet" or a reference sheet about them that I can use to quickly get information about them, especially if I need to use them for something. Having these around is also a good artistic tool for when I decide to draw them or use them in a scene for an illustration.

Basics I always look at first are a good, basic description (how do they fit into their environment? Do they have flashy colors, or do they blend into the background? What do they eat? How do they move?) all of those questions help me determine the size, shape and general behavior, which helps me as I get more in depth with my sheets, breaking down three groups (male, female, offspring) in the description area.

I also keep notes on feeding behaviors and migration patterns, making a sketchy drawing of the land masses and water on my planets and marking where they spend different seasons in different colors. My readers may not ever hear anything about some of the creatures, but I like having these sorts of notes around just in case. Plus to me they make the world more three-dimensional, as I am able to see things more clearly in my head when I'm writing.

Daily Goal: 3 pages
Day: 2
Page Count: 6

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