Worldbuilding: Fitting it Together
Hello! This is my first post, but I've been wandering the boards for months now, doing a lot of reading and using some excellent tutorials.
I'm in the early stages of development for creating a world for a short fiction series that I'd like to write. I am looking to write in the style of wuxia (high-flying monks, government corruption, spectacular battles, and stories of love, honor, and revenge), but set in a world that's roughly equivalent to medieval Germanic folklore and mythology. Kind of a Brothers Grimm meets The Witcher and Crouching Tiger. Here are some key elements that I want so far:
- A vast, primeval forest that stretches from East to West. This is temporarily going to be "The Wildwood," and it is an expanse of forest that is many hundreds of miles wide and deep, and is home to a whole host of terrible monsters. Traveling deep enough into this wood, you will encounter gigantic trees that shroud the forest floor in perpetual twilight. A race of wispy, spirit-like creatures live here, and it is believed that humans first arrived on the scene from the forest's southern reaches.
- An empire forged between humans and gnomes somewhere to the east and/or north of the forest, and dominated by farm land, plains, and hill country. This empire may be as much as 500 years old. This is "civilization" in the world.
- A race of nomads live to the south of the forest amongst a huge archipelago that stretches south and west into lands unknown. According to legend, in old times these nomads were the very same race as the wispy forest dwellers, but they split long ago, and the nomads make their home in a land far to the south, a land said to have no winters.
- The Empire and the Nomads benefit from trading goods (the Empire makes fantastic steel and has many other valuable goods, and the nomads have the finest gold jewelry in existence), but they have to pass through the Wildwood to get to each other. To that end, some of the human loners in the Wildwood formed a kingdom about 60 years ago, and it is home to The Watch, a group that is equal parts caravan guard, monster slayers, and bounty hunters. The story will be about a Watcher, so this is an essential element.
Here is a rough sketch of what I'm thinking of (note: orientation is not set in stone...I could easily and happily mirror the image):
The lighter green is the forest with the darker green indicating the twilight realm, home to the wisps. The grey is obviously a mountain range, placed both to create the forest due to rainfall and to create a bottleneck: the nomads and the empire have no choice but to travel through this dangerous stretch of woods. The yellow at the top is where I would imagine plains/steppe to be created considering the temperate climate, and so obviously that's where the empire would be. The yellow down at the bottom is where I would imagine there to be a hotter climate, with the islands separating the two landmasses. The light blue border in the middle is the Watcher Kingdom, and will most likely be the setting for most of these stories. This is the classic bamboo forest of Crouching Tiger and House of Flying Daggers re-imagined through a western lens.
I want this world to have believable geography, population, and economics, but I'm having a difficult time putting all of the pieces together. I know that I want this Watcher Kingdom to stretch only a few hundred miles at its widest, and I know that I want there to be a reason not only for the bottleneck of trade, but also for the overabundance of forest. I'm not married to the idea of a mountain range, but it's the only really advantageous boundary I could think of that would justify the existence of a forest. It also makes very little difference to me whether this is all one big landmass with a big bay, or two landmasses separated by a sea. In terms of scale, the area indicated in my sketch is but a small part of the world as a whole... maybe 10%.
- Create a BIG Forest that stretches from hundreds of miles inland to the coast.
Coniferous trees keep popping into my head, but there could be plenty of deciduous trees, too.
- Create plains/farmland/highlands to the east/north of the forest.
What is represented on my sketch may only be the southern tip of a much larger territory. We are far away from the arctic circle, here.
- Create some sort of bottleneck that forces people from the plains to travel through a specific area of forest.
Would a big, creepy forest work well enough? Are mountains necessary?
- Create an archipelago that stretches from the southern reaches of the forest far to the South and West.
- There must be some other land beyond the archipelago. Preferably a hot land, but not necessarily a desert.
- Europe and the Mediterranean seems like it would be a good model, but I don't like the scale, i.e. it takes too long to get from the forests of Germany/Poland to the Grecian coast. I also don't like the change of weather over that distance. The classic Mediterranean weather should start somewhere between the forest coast and the warmer coast to the south, in the midst of the archipelago.
Any thoughts on how I can accomplish this with realism? I'm open to all kinds of pushing and pulling to make these elements fit.