My novel, The Blighted City, achieved semi-finalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 4 contest (SPFBO4). Many of its readers and reviewers praised the world-building within the novel, so I would like to share with you today a little about the process of creating Verragos, the world in which The Blighted City is set, along with the short story, Night Of The Taking, and future instalments of the Fractured Tapestry series.
I love world-building. Every strike of the hammer against the chisel is another entry on one of the various documents. Creating all the finer points of a world and its civilizations is like pretending to be a god – or, rather, any sort of artist, from painters of cathedrals to weavers of tapestries. But it’s not ego that’s the main drive here; if I had to nail it down to one factor, I’d say it’s escapism gone hyper. Every epic fantasy author was first an epic fantasy reader (perhaps with the exception of Tolkien), and one of the main things we all love about epic fantasy is the feeling of being immersed in a world that is not our own, where we find all of that world’s elements exciting. It’s about the adventure, exploration, wondering what secrets lie beneath or beyond what we know so far, and falling in love with a legion of colourful and fleshed-out characters, gorgeous or dread-inducing locales, and all the rest.
Inspired by the sheer depth of world-building by such authors as Tolkien, Feist, Weis & Hickman, and various other epic fantasy authors, I began the behemoth task by tackling the geography of Verragos. I needed a continent, so I studied Europe and imagined what it would look like if its connecting continent of Asia didn’t exist, and if tectonic shifting had taken a somewhat different route. The result was the continent of Sosarra. Roughly one third to the east from the western edge of Sosarra I placed a long mountain range running north to south, with one clear pass from west to east. Knowing, as we do, how geography plays a vital role in terms of where settlements begin and how civilisations grow, and how it can affect disputes and wars over regions and borders (usually decided by natural topography such as rivers, mountains, etc.), I looked at the pass between the mountains and wondered how the lands to either side would be affected if a city were placed there, which would effectively block the only easy route through.
That’s how Night Of The Taking first began to form in my mind. It’s set 30 years after the city of Midhallow appeared within the pass, practically overnight. How it got there, though, is something that is yet to be revealed.
Fast forward over 500 story years and 3 of the author’s years, and the action shifts to a large island off the west coast of the Sosarran mainland, roughly the size of England. This is Himaera, where The Blighted City takes place. But, before writing The Blighted City, I had to envisage and create a society, not just for Himaera, but for the whole continent, because the tribesfolk from Night Of The Taking were long dead. Vörendhwel, a small region mentioned in Night Of The Taking, evolved to become the land of Vorinsia and now covers mid-western Sosarra up to Midhallow and the impassable Yttrian Wedge mountains. In the year 693, Vorinsia is the ruling land of the Vorinsian Arkh, having swelled into the lands of Sardaya and Khalevali to the south. Although only mentioned in passing in The Blighted City, this world-building aided the overall depth of my debut novel by fully realising the societies upon the continental mainland.
As for the island of Himaera, I had a lot more creating to do. Three centuries earlier, Himaera went through a devastating uprising which rid the island of its kings and kingdoms, resulting in the rise of the Freeblades Guild who have since played a vital role in protecting the otherwise lawless society from the likes of bandits and vicious creatures. I broke Himaera into several regions and placed numerous villages and towns across the island. The story begins in the Caerheath region, but the bulk of The Blighted City is set in the southernmost region of Scapa Fell, more commonly known as the Deadlands, a vast area where no one (or almost no one) has set foot since the uprising, and for good reason.
Creating a world begins with the larger plan, but, the more focused the story, the closer the creator has to zoom in and finely chisel the smaller societies and relevant locales and histories. Still, all of what I’ve mentioned so far is only bare bones. World-building contains many more aspects than merely geographical layout, placement of settlements, and general history.
I spent about two years creating much of the minutiae of the entire world of Verragos, which includes more than just the Sosarran continent. Below is a breakdown of all the main world-building aspects I’ve worked on, each of which has its own folder or single document loaded with pages of descriptions. Any authors who are struggling to compartmentalise their world-building might find this helpful.
The Civil folder contains the following documents:
Groups – Various types of outlaws, religious cults, and anything else that fits in here.
Guilds – The Freeblades Guild, Taleweavers, and all other guilds.
Mancing – All of the magic arts and their sub-sets described.
Trades – A list of all trades found in the world of Verragos.
Military – The militaries of all lands, including each unit of rank.
The Places folder contains information on every single location on Verragos, including a large variety of settlements, lands, geographical areas, individual structures, and plenty more. It contains a (massive) document for the Sosarran continent, with sub-sections for every type of area, ordered alphabetically and also either geographically or by type. If you’ve got more than one continent (as I do), it’s best to keep each on a separate document.
The Miscellanea folder contains:
Currencies – Various forms of currency from all the lands.
Lexicon – A list of diacritics (accents on letters), words, phrases, and slang from various languages across Verragos.
Sosarran Playing Cards – This lists all cards found in a standard set of playing cards, their names, hierarchy, and rules for several different games.
The Inventorium – This is another huge document, including every single world-centric item or term on Verragos that doesn’t fit in any of the more specific sections. Here is a list of all sea-faring vessel types and named ships; general and individual “named” weapons, armour and apparel; materials, herbiary and comestibles; other items, terms, and non-physical locations; and historic events.
Writings, Tales and Songs – This includes religious and general texts, books and excerpts; Taleweavers tales; and names of specific songs and pieces of music.
Calendar – A complete list of the names and descriptions of the days of the week, the thirteen months of the year, the five seasons, and the four ages including in-depth details for each age.
Bestiary – Every type of Verragos-centric animal, monster, sentient race, and anything else that can, by a stretch, fall into this section.
Gods – This includes all gods from throughout the ages, their prophets, and patrons and patronesses, plus details of their history and/or lives. Also included here are celestial objects and constellations.
Individuals – This document is dizzying. It includes every character from Night Of The Taking, The Blighted City, the next novel, and a whole bunch more waiting to be included in future stories. It’s not just a list of names, it includes various character detail for each, right down to those that are only off-handedly mentioned in a story.
With so much of Verragos created before the stories, it’s my hope that my love of world-building shines through. From Midhallow to Lachyla, to all the places yet to be explored by readers, creating the world of Verragos and the Fractured Tapestry series has become a life passion and I very much look forward to sharing the next instalment with you, which takes the adventure further than before and puts Epic at centre stage.
If you have read (or will read) the short story or the novel, it’s worth considering that none of the series-specific terms are throw-away, that there’s an entry for each of them in a document on my hard drive, from the game of hop-rings to how the old gods came to be broken into the Bound and Unbound, from the meaning of the phrase “swords and horses” to details of lands, locations, races, and much more that is yet to appear in a story.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the world-building of Verragos. I’ve only skirted the surface here, but there is a truncated Encyclopedia Verragos on my website for anyone who has read the published works in the series and would like to know a little more. But, be warned: there are spoilers, so read the stories first!
The English edition of The Blighted City is available in paperback and kindle (free on KU), and there’s an audiobook in the works. The Italian edition, “La Città di Sventura”, translated by Aurora Torchia, is available on Amazon and multiple other marketplaces. There are also several more translations in progress – Portuguese, Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, German, and Dutch. Night Of The Taking is permanently free. If you read one of these and enjoy it, please give it a review on the site from which you purchased it, even if just one or two lines. Thank you, and have fun immersing yourself into the world of Verragos.
Review of Blighted City by Out of This World SFF Reviews
About the Author
Scott Kaelen writes in the genres of epic fantasy and poetry. His latest published work is the standalone novel The Blighted City, which was a semi-finalist in SPFBO 4. His current project is a second novel in the Fractured Tapestry series. Scott’s interests include etymology, prehistoric Earth, the universe, and reading and watching sci-fi, fantasy and horror. His favourite shows are Stargate, Farscape, Star Trek and Red Dwarf.