Rebekah Loper wrote a book as a result of her A-Z Challenge one year. Her theme – worldbuilding. Since I did the same some years later, I was delighted to see what she’d made of the subject. Answer – a lot more than I did! Read on for the interview afterwards, and also don’t forget to enter the giveaway, either on my blog or on the A-to-Z Challenge site.
The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch
Worldbuilding is the ultimate act of creation for speculative fiction writers, but how exactly do you worldbuild? You ask ‘what if’ and use each answer as a springboard to more questions and answers about your fictional world.
In THE A-ZS OF WORLDBUILDING, that ‘what if’ process is broken down into 26 themed chapters, covering topics ranging from architecture to zoology. Each chapter includes a corresponding set of guided exercises to help you find the ‘what if’ questions relevant to your story’s world.
Fair warning, though: worldbuilding is addictive. Once you get started, you might never put your pen down again.
This is a handbook, or manual, to an essential activity for any author. Even when you think you’ve got your world down taped I guarantee that working through this book, or even flicking through it, will bring something new to your ideas. I learnt on my first A to Z that I hadn’t delved deeply enough into my Princelings world. Reading through Rebekah Loper’s guide, I thought of two more aspects I’d never really considered in depth. And although I’ve done better with the Viridian System, there are still aspects of culture on all the different worlds which need attention. My weak spots in the books are history, religion and arts. But Rebekah highlights other aspects that I hadn’t really thought of, one of which is reproduced as an excerpt below (the author provided it for this blog tour).
If you aren’t actually building worlds from scratch, I expect you think this is of no interest to you. Wrong!
I think any reader deserves that the author has taken this much care over building their world. If feel there’s something missing, this book could help you spot it. In any case, don’t you sometimes wonder about how ‘x’ works?
Rebekah Loper covers a huge range of topics; I’d have difficulty identifying one not covered. She wisely suggests talking to experts on some of them where she feels she has limited knowledge. As time went on I felt glad I’d waited this long to get back to world-building. Experience and training in so many fields has finally come to fruition. Even if I’m still not interested in history and religion!The A-Zs of Worldbuilding breaks down the 'what if' of worldbuilding into 26 themed chapters with guided exercises to help you find the questions and answers relevant to your story's world. #AtoZChallenge Click To Tweet
X is for Xenial
Concerning the Hospitality of Guests
The word ‘xenial’ has to do with hospitality. Specifically, it can pertain to the type of hospitality shown to strangers and guests. Since travel is an integral part of many speculative fiction plots, hospitality is an important thing to consider in your worldbuilding. We will look at both day-to-day hospitality and hospitality shown to guests and travelers.
There are many different ways people say hello or goodbye, as well as potential cultural reasons why they don’t say either of those things. It can be complicated or simple, and perhaps it ties in with other cultural occurrences. There may also be additional greetings included, such as during a holiday season (Merry Christmas!)
Depending on how your society is set up, there may be common mandatory courtesies for those of different rank. Think of whether royalty must be addressed in a certain manner, and if people are required to bow or curtsy. If someone is seen as having descended directly from a divine being, perhaps culture demands that people fully prostrate themselves in their presence.
There may be those who are not acknowledged publicly at all – like servants, peasants, or beggars. There are multitudes of reasons a society might see certain people as inferior, sadly.
Attitudes and language in general can be more or less formal, and may depend on how well people know each other, the capacity they are interacting in at that moment, societal rank, or gender.
When devising protocol and courtesies between ranking individuals and their equals or subjects, keep in mind that many things will be shaped to lessen the fear of the risk of assassination. Words and phrases that are perfectly acceptable in common company may be perceived as threatening when in the presence of ranking individuals.
Treatment of Guests
A guest can be a familiar friend, in which case they will not require much formality, but there still may be certain things that are offered because of custom. Casual greetings can be a simple ‘hi’ or even greeting someone by name. But universal hospitality may be inviting someone to sit down and asking if they’d like a drink, regardless of whether they are a close friend or a new acquaintance.
Travelers, especially strangers, will receive a different kind of hospitality, and that can vary. If a town has been repeatedly pillaged or taken advantage of, they won’t be very friendly to strangers anymore. But some places might pride themselves on their hospitality, and will go all out to impress a guest.
In an agrarian society, or any place that uses livestock as their main form of transportation, it would be more than reasonable for a stranger to be offered feed, water, and a place in the stable for their animal. A drink, meal, and perhaps even a bath (or foot washing) are things that would be offered to nearly everyone, no matter what their rank.
However, if a monarch were to suddenly show up at the front door, it may even be an occasion to slaughter an animal for dinner, even if it was being saved for some other occasion. Not every guest is going to receive that kind of hospitality.
A family member who just showed up out of the blue, though, may not warrant very much special hospitality. It just depends. Hospitality and common courtesies are elements that can enhance a plot and the interactions between characters, as many different nuances and intentions can be made clear between what is offered, and what is not.
Another matter to consider is if and when guests can be turned away. It might be that certain guests may never be turned away – such as a monarch, though it would courteous of a gracious monarch to find lodging or sustenance elsewhere if there has been a death in the home recently.
Sickness will almost always be a reason to turn away guests. An illness potentially being contagious is nothing to ever mess around with, especially if medical care is not incredibly advanced.
The main thing to consider is whether one can turn away a guest for any reason, without giving a reason, or if they must have a concrete reason to do so.
Look up etiquette of different historical eras and different cultures – there’s some unique customs out there that can be great story inspiration. Etiquette will also vary by social and economic status. There are certain customs some might find difficult to part with, even if they have experienced a change in social status. There is also the fact that the rich can afford more niceties.
Also available at rebekahloper.com
Interview with Rebekah Loper
Why did you start blogging?
To create a platform for my writing and connect with an audience.
Any other books coming out soon?
I will have a fantasy short story in an anthology this spring, but release date has not been settled yet.
Brief tip on writing:
Never stop looking for inspiration – it’s always there. Even if you don’t have time to write it, always keep looking for that magic ‘what if’.
Where did the idea for this book come from, other than the alphabet and the challenge?
I love worldbuilding. When I was looking for ways to learn how to worldbuild as a young writer, I was always disappointed by the lack of true worldbuilding workbooks, so this was born out of that desire.
How do you see this book in terms of your future writing?
A foundation. I do plan to publish fiction (soon!), but as I watched the publishing industry, I knew I was veering more towards indie publishing than traditional. I needed something I could put out there to start generating income while I worked on my fiction craft, since editing and cover creation are not cheap. However, I feel that I may have also set a very high bar for myself in terms of what readers may expect of my own worldbuilding now, and it’s just a little intimidating!
What writing goal do you hope to accomplish this year?
Draft a second volume of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding on creating magic systems. Establish a true writing habit for my fiction, which I’ve let be overrun by ‘real life’ the past several years. Finish revising at least one of my set-aside novels.
As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?
A fascinating summary, followed closely by a stunning book cover!
Where to find Rebekah Loper
… and finally
What would you like the readers of this post to answer or remark on in the blog comments?
What about worldbuilding most inspires or hinders you, either as a reader or writer?