Tag Archives: science fiction

Worldbuilding Day 16: Limits of the Speculative Element

22 Jan

Day 15 was all about resources for worldbuilding. The website gives a pretty comprehensive list of some great resources to use if you’re interested in finding more worldbuilding tools, so check it out!

Day 16 deals with the limits of your speculative element. That means establishing rules for magic, or boundaries your creatures can or cannot cross, and setting out the repercussions.

I imagine magic in this world acting like another system within the body–a second circulatory system, for instance, with “magical” veins running alongside the blood-filled ones. Magic is mostly inherited. People with two magical parents are very likely to have magic than someone with only one magical parent, but  children of magical parents are not necessarily guaranteed to have magic themselves (example: Gareth). Magic is a recessive gene, and so will sometimes crop up among children with non-magical parents who might have had magical ancestors, but this is rare.

There are different types of magic:

Human: able to affect different parts of the human body, whether healing, helping to sleep, incapacitating, dictating movements, knowing thoughts, etc.
Animal: As above, but in regards to animals.
Natural: able to enhance the powers of plants, help things grow, mold rock, open the seas, cleanse water, etc.
Spiritual: Able to communicate with spirits. Extremely rare.

Within each type, there are different levels of magic. I like to think of it like this: people have “little” veins of magic or “big” veins of magic. Those with little veins of magic might appear to have a talent for something: a natural wizard with a smaller gift might always have the winning pumpkin at the fair, for example, but unless they’re well-trained, they wouldn’t know that they were even doing magic.

People with bigger veins are the problem. Without training and control, magic can come out unbidden–it doesn’t take necessarily take concentration on the wizard’s part. People with more magic to expend tend to have bigger accidents before they can get their power under control.

A person must be in physical contact with the object being magicked in order to work magic. However, after the magic has been done, the effects can last a long time without physical contact.

Education and training can make a wizard use his/her gifts more effectively, but it can not increase their power. It is like an artistic gift; some people are born to paint, and other scan study painting and become better at painting, but they’ll likely never become as good as people who have a natural gift.

When doing magic, wizards slowly but surely deplete the magic-blood in their veins. This can happen at the same rate for people with big and small gifts. People with small gifts are typically incapable of doing things people with bigger gifts can, but smaller workings take less than bigger workings do. However, people with bigger magics are accustomed do doing bigger workings–therefore, two wizards with different levels of gifts going about their average day will usually become exhausted at the same time.

When a wizard depletes their magic, the after-effects can be headaches, exhaustion, vomiting, fainting, or death depending on how far they’ve pushed themselves. Well-trained wizards know their limits and are able to stay within reason on the average day. To recuperate, they are prescribed with sleep, bed rest, and diets high in protein. If pushed to their limits, they typically recover some ability in two to three days, but it can take a week or two before they are at full strength.


Worldbuilding Day 14: Education

21 Jan

Yes, I am skipping a day. Day 13 is about plot hooks and I’m pretty well sorted with plot; this exercise is just an attempt to enrich my descriptions and make the world seem more “real.” Anyway, Day 14 is about education–what sort of education is available in your world?


Bellan children have use of school houses that were set up in King Roderick’s father’s time. In that generation, a law was passed mandating school attendance for all children from the age of 7. This was partially to keep the population educated in reading and numbers, but also partially to keep an eye on children at a time when they might start to display magical abilities. In the country, school houses are generally one room, with one or two teachers educating students on all different levels. In larger cities, a school house will have multiple rooms, or there will be multiple school houses, and children are sorted according to age and/or educational level (someone struggling with reading would be placed with younger children, for instance).There are often more teachers in cities, often allowing for a smaller student-teacher ratio.

Students learn reading, writing, history, and arithmetic. Around age 12, as long as they are performing well in other subjects, the children’s days are split. In addition to the above subjects, boys start learning about military tactics in the morning, while girls perfect skills like sewing and cooking. In the afternoons, they are placed in an apprenticeship. Usually this apprenticeship is with their parents, but sometimes children are exchanged between parents if they seem particularly interested in something else, or parents pay others to take on their children, if they have the money. Some examples of apprenticeships include farming, mining, metalworking, shopkeeping, and military training. At age 14, most students are in their apprenticeships full time. At age 16, they are considered full workers and can continue working for their apprenticed employer or find work elsewhere.

Noble children are generally educated by private tutors, learning most of the same subjects as their untitled counterparts.



Education is a new thing in Kedron, where previous Emperors and Kings didn’t want anyone to learn anything that might make the people question their decisions. One of the first things King Farram did was institute mandatory schooling for everyone. Children begin their lessons at age 5, learning the usual things like reading, writing, history, and arithmetic. However, from a young age they are also taught magical theory, which causes many of them to come to terms with their own power before it gets too dangerous. For those who aren’t able to use magic, they are taught techniques to block magic used on themselves. In addition, both girls and boys are given weapons lessons and hand-to-hand combat lessons; this was a controversial move, but one that has caused the people of Kedron to trust their king.

Classes are typically held in one room school houses in the country, while cities have large buildings dedicated to learning, serving all ages and abilities. As their magic develops, those with magic take extra lessons with someone who specializes in their type. Those with magic are also required to take several additional years of study. Many choose to do this in the capital, where King Farram maintains a school within his own palace. Students pay for their lessons and accommodation here by working in the palace. Anyone who can’t practice magic typically joins up with their family business or the military.

Many of the noble children are still educated by private tutors, but the royal children went through the large city school, just as other people living in Ahala did.

Worldbuilding Day 12: What If?

20 Jan

I found today’s exercise a little difficult. It challenges you to ask what if? about your speculative element–that is, magic, technology, whatever is a little “different” about your novel than in the real world. In asking what if, you should be able to pinpoint what your speculative element changes about your world. The example given is aliens with chip implants, so that they could get something like an internet feed to their brains. This changes things like people wouldn’t have to carry cell phones or brief cases and they could never get lost.

The struggle for me here, I guess, is pinning down the speculative elements. There are all sorts of different magics in my world–a mere talent for something is often considered lesser magical ability by some. In most societies, it’s deeply embedded in the culture. So I’ll start where it’s weird:

Bellador Declares War on Magic: Anyone who practices is forced out or killed. As a result, Bellador turns to “science.” By doing things the hard way, Bellador is slower to develop but often produces more quality products that are more accessible. For instance, with the right knowledge just about anyone can make a poultice to dress a wound; they don’t need to go to a healer.

Sarians Are All Mental-Magic: Sarians communicate by sharing images and thoughts with one another on a sort of telepathic network. As such, they don’t have their own language and are a silent people. Because of this, they are very musically inclined, preferring to fill the air with sweet sounds. Their inability to speak makes humans fearful of them.

King of Kedron Can Still Perform Magic: the King of Kedron historically used magic to suppress his people. While the current king does nothing of the sort, people are still wary of him because he used his magic to depose his father, and they worry he will turn on them.

Er… I don’t know if I did this one correctly. However, there you go, a few examples of my take on this.

Worldbuilding Day 11: Focus In

19 Jan

Yes, I know, I know, I’m so far behind! Honestly, I think what happened is I looked at this one quite late at night, shook my head, and went to sleep (why? because I did that thing where I didn’t read the directions all the way through and it looked a lot more daunting than it was, that’s why). However, to make up for my lapse in the challenge, I have been writing. And by writing, I mean writing story. And that’s quite a big change from recent weeks, so I still feel rather accomplished.

Anyway, today’s challenge is to flesh out a single category: history, economics/politics, OR language. Not all of them, like I first thought. As my story is rather political in nature, I’ll be doing economics/politics.


The Esteycor family has been ruling Kedron for many generations, largely due to their magical abilities which made it possible to corrupt the people and their advisors. When the Empire crumbled, it was thought that the Esteycor family would fall; however, a distant cousin was able to win the throne, cementing their place at the head of state.

The line is still in tact, however after King Farram deposed his father and did away with the scheming advisors who had hoped to snatch the power out from under him, he’s made progress toward instating a parliament to make legislative decisions. Parliament members represent much of the country geographically, though they are chosen by a small group of elders in each county rather than by the majority. Needless to say, this still causes problems, but has gone a long way to making the people trust and respect the King.

That said, the move has also made him a lot of enemies: namely, those lords and ladies who had something to gain by forcing legislative decisions through that favored them. As such, the political atmosphere in Kedron is heated at best and bubbling over at worst. There is a huge divide between rich and poor which Farram is attempting to heal, with very little help from his fellow nobility.


Under King Roderick’s father’s tender care, the country started seeing a huge economic boom, leading to a surge in the number of people who might be considered “middle class.” As this continued into King Roderick’s reign, he has a lot of friends amongst the people and is well-loved. However, he also has a large number of enemies due to his strict no-magic policy, which has led to families being torn apart. His government is also far more insular, and other countries are suspicious about what he’s up to–not to mention jealous about the wealth he’s accumulated.

As such, there are forces nudging at his border and forces trying to nudge out of it. To top it all, he has left his daughter relatively ignorant about the goings-on, despite not being oblivious to it himself. 

Book Review: Shattered Veil (Diatous Wars #1) by Tracy E. Banghart

16 Jan


**I received a free e-copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Aris Haan cannot accept that the love of her life has been Selected for Military and she won’t be able to see him for months, maybe years. As Atalanta’s war with Safara rages on, there are more and more causalities. That doesn’t stop Aris from wanting to sign up to be a Flyer with the military. There’s only one problem–women aren’t allowed to join up. Disguised as a man using a diatous veil, Aris seeks only to find Calix–but she finds much, much more.

I want to preface this review with a little bit of back story. I realized, after I requested it on NetGalley, that it was self-published. I sort of wrinkled my nose and downloaded it, because I tend to have some issues with self-published books–that is, I have never read a good one. Until now.

There isn’t a way to properly understand my confusion when I sat down with this book and was suddenly a third of the way through, my husband had kindly turned the light on for me because it had gotten dark outside, and my stomach was rumbling because I’d missed dinner. It was so good! Cue the scramble to figure it out–no WAY this could be self-published–but everything, from the author’s website to Goodreads to NetGalley, seemed to indicate that it was.

The author’s bio at the end of the book said she’d worked toward a MA in publishing, so that’s probably got something to do with it, but I was astounded. Thank you for opening my mind to the realm of self-publishing.

Anyway, back to the book: everything, from plot to characters to setting to writing style was wonderfully executed. I’ve read quite a few “woman disguised as a man” books and this was such a fresh take on it all. Because really, how likely is it that many women would be able to get away with binding their breasts and speaking in low voices all the time? The diatous veil technology provided an answer to the challenges women face when trying to disguise themselves as men, and I loved how it was interwoven through the plot, becoming important in more ways than one.

I loved the development of Aris’ character. At first, as she’s doubting her ability to undertake this great task, you have to wonder how it’s possible too; she doesn’t seem capable. However, first drawing strength from her love of Calix (which some people might find annoying, but having been in a long distance relationship myself, totally understood where she was coming from), she then finds strength in her work and in her new found abilities. I loved watching her change and grow, and I’m hoping to read more about her in a sequel (or two or three?).

Setting was spot-on. A little bit sci-fi, a little dystopian, it had all the markings of great world-building: good dialogue, good use of slang terms, different names for everyday items, a well-constructed society, research about war excellently handled. Loved the concept of being “Selected” for a career path. It’s reminiscent of The Giver, but was just different enough. Speaking from past roleplay experience, I can tell you that sort of thing could really catch on and develop a fanbase, if enough people read this book!

The plot was engaging and fast-paced. Like I said, I couldn’t put it down! It was amazing how all of the different pieces came together so seamlessly, and there were a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.

All in all, high praise for Shattered Veil! I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good sci-fi book.

Worldbuilding Day 10: Mood and Culture

12 Jan

Today’s exercise is about the mood and culture of your story and world. There are a a few different parts to this, so click the link to find out more information. With this one, I’m going to describe the overall feeling in each Bellador and Kedron.

Bellador: happy, uplifted, protected, content, naive.
In general, the people of Bellador have never been in a better place. Their land has fully recovered from the war, the mining and metalworking businesses are booming, there is a growing middle class, their king is kind and fair, and the crops are doing well. Mostly, everyone is content and happy. However, there is one suppressed group–people who can do magic–and they would do anything to see the king ousted from his throne so that they could practice their abilities freely. In this way, most people are naive; they believe that magic is something that happens elsewhere, but never here. They have grown to believe that magic is evil and have not been educated in its benefits. Mostly, they are cut off from the rest of the world and are generally wary of outsiders. Any time magic or outsiders are mentioned or encountered, expect the mood to turn sour quickly.

Kedron: wary, tense, hopeful, tentative

The people of Kedron have been through a lot, and their memories are long. They have been under the rule of a good king for twenty years, and the country has thrived under his rule, but they remember what it was like to have a king who cared only about himself, and they worry it could happen again. They are also the only people aware of the Sarians’ arrival, which is making everyone anxious. They are also nervous about MC’s arrival, but hopeful it will bring even more good to their lives.

…not sure if this was exactly what the exercise called for, but I think it was a good thing to think about!

Worldbuilding Day 9: Languages

11 Jan

Today’s exercise is about languages. What languages to people in different parts of your world speak, and how do those languages sound? Are they based on languages from Earth? How does this affect the names of people and places?

If you are writing something that doesn’t take place in a different world, you aren’t off the hook! As my good friend at Paper, Pen, and No Plan explains, every story is in need of some language development. I mean, if it’s taking place in New York a hundred years from now, surely there are some new words that have taken on. When you think about it, “selfie” didn’t even exist like ten years ago. Languages are constantly evolving. If your story is taking place in 2013 and you think you don’t need this exercise, think again. Do some research about colloquialisms specific to your setting.

There are three different language groups on my little planet, as follows:

Kedron, Bellador, and Domanar

This language is, of course, English. Or at least represented by English. I doubt anyone is going to want to slog through a book written in a made up language they can’t understand! Having developed in different ways, though, each country has a slightly different dialect from the other, and additional accents in different regions of their countries. I always thought of Kedron as being more “American” with hard R’s; Bellador as more British; Domanar as Scottish. Names of people are typically recognizable (Gareth) or at least easily pronounceable (Aralyn or Farram), with an “English” feel to them.

I was thinking that Bellador and Domanar were invaded to become part of the Kedroni Empire years and years ago, and that initially their languages might be more like Gaelic, so some very, very old books might be written in a different language, but the people who would be able to read them would be few and far between.

Noraja and Hajar

A mix of soft and hard sounds, with syllables running together so that two syllables sounds more like one. I like to think of these two as similar, but different languages. For instance (though they don’t sound quite like this), one could be “Spanish” while the other is “Italian.” If you know Spanish you can usually get by in Italy, and vice versa.  Will likely make up words when necessary.

Ruain and Edolie

Most soft sounds, vowel-heavy. Different regions also have older, “tribal” languages that have influenced certain words. In some areas, these languages are still spoken in addition to the main language, which was developed to make it easier to trade between the two countries. Slightly different accents, like the difference between American and Canadian accents.

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