View Full Version : World Origins

06-20-2009, 10:35 PM
I'm curious to know how many here use some kind of origin story to help shape their world. My initial attempts at world building in the nineties never had a core origin story and I think that the lack of one had a negative impact one my world design. I'm about to embark on my first world building project in quite some time and this time I have a very specific origin story, a definite plan of how my world sprang into existence, and it's really going to help me define how my world looks. My origin story will have a very real impact on the geography and, in many aspects, the culture of my world.

Do you go so far as to come up with an origin story for any of your worlds? Is it an absolute must for you or something that would just get in the way of your world design?

06-20-2009, 11:00 PM
i have an origin story for the world i am working on... but it is still a work in progress... and somehow is much too long and complicated to write easily...

i started with the emergence of the supreme being and the fracturing of existence into a multiverse...

and then it gets a bit crazy...

but the story definitely informs the shape and flavour of the world i am mapping...


06-20-2009, 11:05 PM
I feel its necessary for me to have an origin story for any map I make. Some people can pull it off without any, but I feel I produce a better, more well rounded map when there's more to the map than just the map.

Perhaps it helps me keep my focus, attention, and motivation longer.

06-20-2009, 11:31 PM
I had a bit of an origin story at one time....I'll look if I can find what I had written down.

06-20-2009, 11:55 PM
The origin story for the world that my novel is set in is ripped from a physics textbook,...

A massive cloud of inter spacial matter, mostly hydrogen plus other elements slowly pulled in on itself based on its own gravity. 99% of this cloud pulled in and condensed into the central star, the rest of the cloud globed up into planets and asteroids, or was blown out of the system by solar wind.

06-20-2009, 11:57 PM
My world origins are somewhere between Creationism and Big Bang; I get to be god but I use the tools of science and art. I just go with my hunches because over-thinking these details ruins the fun for me. I understand the science behind these things (tectonics and vulcanism, erosion, jet streams, ice ages, magnetic poles, tidal actions, etc. etc. etc.) but I'm not about to go modeling all of these things just for the sake of hyper-accuracy. I don't know everything, of course, so I just use what I do know to make it look plausible. I draw out some continents, put mountains where I think they would be, deserts and jungles come next, then put in the rivers and lakes, and lastly put down the towns...pretty simple stuff.

I guess you could say that I'm more concerned with representing how it looks right now instead of worrying about how it got to be this way or where it's going in the future. Those things are more for the writers to put in so that they can come up with mythologies in order to make a culture more real but has little to do with how to make a world. Having a creation story is fun to write but it doesn't explain why this swamp is here or that mesa is there or why this river has so many tributaries plus you'd have to have a creation story for every culture...that's a lot of writing. No one culture has access to the whole planet so their mythologies are rather narrow -- the Greeks say nothing about how Zeus made the Grand Canyon, Mt. Fuji, or penguins. These stories cover the big picture stuff and not the minutia. To me, it also gets trite to say "Joe the Awesome Troll-Slayer died here so god put a mountain here". That mountain had to have been there before Joe.

My main goal is to have the land shape the people and they in turn shape the culture and what we know about that world. I don't think that I could do it the other way around -- start with a culture and go backward to see how the world made them that way. My sense of wonderment has nothing to do with how the world was made but instead how that world molded fantastical creatures like bugmen or lizardmen and how that world created the cultures and their myths. If only I could write about such things instead of draw...

then I'd probably wish that I could draw :)

Steel General
06-21-2009, 08:02 AM
Sometimes I have a story first, other times the story comes after.

06-21-2009, 12:33 PM
I tend to avoid things like creation myths and religion on general principle. If I had created a awesome map that no one could beat I wouldn't be happy to find out that someone had stolen it and marketed it for millions, so why should I try to create a god?

To be honest I don't think the average western Joe would care that much about yet another creation myth. However I do give my readers a starting point of some sort.

An example: Wizard A grows up in village being mentored by Wizard B. A discovers immortality. 9 million years later the story starts as Wizard A picks up an apprentice called Wizard C. Wizard C is the Hero/Heroine and over time learns about Wizard A and the World. Plot devices to bind Wizard A's power may be necessary.

The origin myth substitute is that before Wizard A people just lived in villages doing not much. It even comes with shake 'n' bake villains as Wizard C discovers Wizard A's enemies.

06-21-2009, 12:40 PM
Most of my 'verses has some sort of origin. I love history, so mapping out histories is half the fun for me. :)

Religion/mythology is often much harder, but I try to have those root in either historical procedings in that world and/or derived from prehistoric attempts to find a moral code or explain the world.

06-21-2009, 02:19 PM
But does the origin story evolve from the map? Or the map from the origin?

06-21-2009, 02:30 PM
But does the origin story evolve from the map? Or the map from the origin?

I'd say it can be either or most likely a mix of both. I start with a basic idea, and the more detail I add to a map the more history it gets (when/why was this town founded? when was this place turned into ruin? etc.).

06-21-2009, 02:47 PM
But does the origin story evolve from the map? Or the map from the origin?

I'd say that one will respond to the other. An island chain that looks like a snake may immediately remind me of japanese creation myths and become incorporated that way but at the opposite end of the spectrum it would be easy to decide that these people are some variant of romans so I should use roman myths. The map gets slotted in around this.

The main thing is to use some sort of central point and move around that. The rest should grow organically even if the idea is simple.

My idea might be "war is hell" so my map turns to desert terrain (hell is hot, so is the desert). from there I could create a myth that drives my heros onwards... say, the ancestral race that they are descended from was big on personal sacrifice, the hero will never live up to that but cannot afford to give up. Then to tie it in the word was created by a fire-god or the like.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that myths, maps and memorabilia should all join up. How you get there doesn't matter but don't be afraid to cast away a myth or map idea that may work better in some other setting.