Friday, September 20, 2013
"Hooking the Reader through World Building" with Sam Graber (part 3)
Sam Graber is a homeschool graduate and avid reader and writer. He is a college student, and enjoys both playing and arranging music. Sam recently begun a novel titled Korina of Two Worlds, which he hopes to make his first published novel. You can find his author page on Facebook.
Hey guys. Brian and Alex are both busy this week so I get to step in to give you a few tips on Hooking the Reader through World Building. Today I want to focus specifically on designing an interesting and realistic world, including a little bit about making maps.
#1: Creating a landscape
No matter what kind of story you're writing, it's going to be set in some kind of landscape. In a sense, this is similar to Alex's point that the world should reflect the story. In contemporary stories you'll have towns or cities. Often you can find real towns on the map to suit your purposes. Other times, you're creating your own world, so the landscape is up to you. In this case, you'll probably want to take some time to think about what your landscape is going to be like. This is especially important if you're making a map.
Creating an interesting landscape isn't necessarily essential to a good story, but it can add interest. If you are creating a map, you probably want to make your landscape diverse, or else your map's going to look plain and not very realistic. However, sometimes it can be useful to make a 'plain' map with terrain that wouldn't appear in our world. That way you can draw attention to the world to add interest to the story. Brandon Sanderson does this in the Mistborn books, creating a desolate world where volcanic ashmounts cause ash to rain from the sky. The important thing is, if you're going to make an 'unrealistic' landscape, you'll want to draw attention to it in the story. Otherwise, readers will see your map and assume you were just too lazy to add terrain to it.
#2: Making your populous realistic
Another thing you'll need to think about for your story is what the populous is like. In particular, I'm going to focus on making your population sizes realistic. This is geared towards people who are building their own world, but it's also important to think about if you're writing in the real world. Are there too many people in the town?
When creating a world, especially a less advanced world, you have to keep in mind that the cities aren't necessarily going to be the size of New York. The largest cities in the middle ages had populations of a few hundred thousand at the most. London had less than 50,000. Compare this with a present day population of over 8 million for both London and New York! One of the biggest reasons for this difference in population sizes is that farming techniques in the middle ages weren't capable of supporting that many people. If you're creating a medieval world, your population should be somewhere between 30 and 120 people per square mile. The largest city in your kingdom should be something on the order of 15 times the square root of the total population of the kingdom. That's about 15,000 for a kingdom of 1 million, and 47,500 for a kingdom of 10 million. For a more defined formula, as well as other helpful world building details, check out this article on medieval demographics: http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm.
#3: Making your battles/wars realistic to the world
Some of you may not have any major wars in your story, so this may not be relevant to you. For those who do, I want to give you a few tips specifically on making your army sizes realistic. If you have a kingdom with a population of 1 million and a capital of 15,000 people, they're not going to be fighting in a battle with an army of 500,000 men. If they did, the kingdom would experience a severe famine that year and they would probably lose more men to hunger than in battle! In reality, only a very small percent of a kingdom's population is actually going to find its way to the battlefield. Remember, half of the population is women. Unless your world is different, not many of them are going to join the army.
Lets look at a few of the details. For an average kingdom, about 88% of your population isn't even going to make it to the draft pool for your army. This number is made up of women, men who are too old, boys who are too young, men who are exempt because of their profession, and outlaws who would refuse to serve in the army. Beyond that, only about 10% of your remaining pool (of the 12%) are likely to actually end up in the battle. Some will be unable to fight because of disease. Others will be called away to serve as the kingdom's navy, town watch, border guards, customs agents, bodyguards, garrisons, and camp guards. These men will be a part of the kingdom's military, but they won't actually end up on the battlefield. This leaves us with an estimate of about 1.2% of the kingdom's population on the battlefield. The kingdom with a population of 1 million would only be able to field 12,000 men. Depending on the circumstance, some kingdoms might be able to field more than 1.2% of it's population, but the army size is never going to go beyond 7% without risking a famine in the kingdom. Here's a site with a few more details about army sizes: http://www.writing-world.com/sf/hordes.shtml.
Well, that concludes our third episode of "Hooking the Reader through World Building". I hope you enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, especially if you're planning to build a world of your own.