On Epics & Worldbuilding
Updated: Mar 1, 2020
World-building. What does that mean? Well, we could start with the Oxford English Dictionary definition, I suppose;
World Building. Noun (uncountable) The construction of a world, especially a convincing fictional world for literature etc. Origin world + building
Quite simple really, right? Right? Wrong. World building is truly not simple and will be the most difficult part of your work as a writer. Note the key word in the definition fictional is a given, of course so that's not the key word. So what is? Convincing, that's the key word. You want to a create a world that your own characters believe in and belong to, one which shapes both them and the story so that your readers will believe it too. For this to work, you need to sort of beleive in it too, I suppose…Consider what I think are essential elements to make sure you pay great attention to;
Language. You don't have to go Klingon, Dothraki or High Valeryian and actually construct a language entirely a-la-Tolkien but you need to consider it as an important factor. Consider such things as; A: Slang, regionalisms and dialect. How does your character speak. What words does he or she use that other characters don't. What words are unique to them and which are unique to the world as a whole B: Curse and insult worlds; believe it or not these have an impact. Curses are often culturally influenced therefore will reveal a lot of details about the either the culture using them or the culture they are being used towards. C: Differences to our speech; of course you are likely yo be writing in English for the most part but you want to find little ways and add differences here and there to make it at least look like another language is being spoken. How would accents differ and how you might represent them?
I first ran into this side of the world-building art when composing my alternate world of the Hegemony. In this world, Alexander the Great did not die in 323 B.C. but went on to first conquer the know world as far as Nepal, to the Valley of Silence, what would become Base Camp 1 in our time.
Inside of the mountain known locally as Sagamartha or Chomolungma or 'great mother mountain' he found the true great mother by whom both he and ten thousand, three hundred of his soldiers were reborn into the Kal-Shodar. As they arrived and built camp it was Lupernikes, the Spartan General, who made observations about what I called the argot of the army.
Alexander's army now had Persians, Greeks, Sogdianans and many proto-Chinese or Oriental tribespeople within it's ranks and camp followers, among others. It was inconceivable to think that there would be the time and the titanic organisation needed to teach all of these peoples Greek or Koine, the standard Greek the army used (back then each Greek City State had it's own version of Greek and the Koine was named 'travelling Greek' or Standard Greek, combining all the dialects of Greek into something everyone could use and understand) back then.
So they did what the army had been doing up to that point, they developed an argot or pidgin, as the various languages and dialects mixed, they flowed together and bits of one combined with parts of another to begin the process of creating a new language, which was formalised a short time after Hegemony was achieved in Hegemonic Standard Greek or Standard for short. As they travelled, the argot developed and Neshaa speaks to Kalliades and others about it and uses it. Kal-Shodar itself is a combination of Persian, some old Asiatic and even old Hindi and Sanskrit meaning 'Enlightened Ones' or 'Remade Ones'. Dracograth is also a combination of Persian, Attic and Early Germanic languages to mean something like 'Dragon Guard'.
Using these linguistic excercises didn't end there either. I wanted to include Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and Dr. Stephen Hawking in the story, among others but I thought, how would the language have changed had Latin not become the major influencer on speech of the day? Had Rome not risen and created it's Empire, how different would the world be? I decided that most of Western World we know today would be quite different.
Alexander believed in his version of Hegemony, the culture and manner of those who joined was added to the whole and parts we adopted in order to enruch the whole. This habit of his, taught to him by Aristotle some historians say, got him into trouble with the army in real history. In my alternate history, the big change happened before that rot set in. Instead there was another major problem but we'll get to that later.