Can it be more fantastic?
- 17. May 2018
There are many ways to choose from if you want to create a world. In the world per se for example, its continents and countries or with the magic, in the creation story or with the society and races. Especially the latter is a nice example of how different the term fantasy can be understood. And especially how this leads to fantasy not always being fantasy. But back to the beginning.
If you imagine a completely new world, for example for a novel in the fantasy genre or a role-playing tabletop game, most people want to be creative and create new elements. The connection between fantasy and creativity lies at least in the power of imagination needed to create such a world. However, looking at the fantasy literature, one quickly realizes that especially peoples and races need little imagination. Elves, dwarves, humans and orcs are among the most traditional representatives of this genre and not only since Tolkien. Even the biggest representatives of Pen and Paper role-playing games use such elements. Even extraordinary systems such as Engel still use creatures that would not necessarily be called creative opus. Do we denote classical fantasy literature as uncreative? No, certainly not.
The use of traditional races and peoples in the fantasy genre has two good reasons. The first is probably the origin of these races. Elves, dwarfs and humans are classic elements of fairy tales that find their home in Germany. Even Tolkien’s works are now part of the classical literature and are surrounded by a certain mysticism of past days. But that’s certainly not the motivation behind classic fantasy authors. As mentioned before, imagination lies between fantasy and creativity. When an author tells of an elf who uses his bow to defend himself against an orc, every reader has an image in his head and at most asks himself the question: “How crushed is this elf now?”. Now let’s imagine an author who writes of a Ruah who uses her phylactery to strike down a Mære. Do you have a clear cut image in your mind? Not really unless you have read Die vergessenen Chroniken – Nothing stays Forgotten beforehand. To bring Elves, Dwarfs, Orcs and similar races into play and rely on it has a crucial advantage: the reader can empathize on the spot. Almost a luxury that neither authors nor readers often become aware of.
While writing the system Die vergessenen Chroniken – Nothing stays Forgotten a problem we have come up against many times was that we could not simply assume that the reader naturally knows what a Ruah, an Ailure, a Lumbré and the like are. It is therefore helpful to work with clear, visually descriptive adjectives. Typically, one then thinks of Ailure as “the feline dealer”. Repeating this frequently, readers get used to the new vocabulary without realizing it. But then again, it is more difficult for Okandara, which don’t belong to a specific species. Nevertheless, they have clear characteristics. For example, their morbid paleness, their root-like grain on the skin, their deep black eyes and hoarse voices.
Where do you get names for such creatures? Again, it is easier for animal species, you can borrow the name from Latin for Ailures. But what do you call a ghostly race that comes into existence from the world beyond, instead of the other way around? The Rudah, one of two types of the afterlife in Die vergessenen Chroniken – Nothing stays Forgotten, could be the inspiration here. After all, one can always ask, “Who in the world gave this race the name first, what language do they speak, and what did they associate with this race when making the first contact?” In this case, the Rudah fit very well, because it was known to the people of Verej’ka that the ghostly beings spring from it and thus called them, after a sound shift, just ‘Ruah’. This is how you can proceed if you not only want to write authentically, but also create details for the world. Keep asking yourself the question “Why?” and answer these. This enhances the world and makes it conclusive. It is not enough to ask, “Why are the Ruahs like that?”, but to question oneself as the author “Why am I doing this and that?”. The answer to this should not just be: ‘Because I like it’.
The culture of a race can also be created a similar way. “Where does the race come from? What are its ethnic characteristics, what does it eat, where does it live and what needs does it have?”. You have to clarify all these questions yourself if you want to gain authenticity in writing. However, you do not have to put all this into your texts, because if readers can figure this out on their own, you give them a chance to get an “Aha!” – Experience.