Worldbuilding: Architecture, Music, and Art!

Discussion in 'Tips and Tricks' started by Lauriam, May 2, 2018.


What Worldbuilding Category would you like me to talk about next?

Poll closed May 16, 2018.
  1. Environment

    0 vote(s)
  2. Magic Systems

    0 vote(s)
  3. Races

    0 vote(s)
  4. Religion and Mythology

  5. Politics

  6. Language and Names

  7. Diversity

    0 vote(s)
  8. Economy, Export, and Trade

    0 vote(s)
  9. Science, Technology, and Medicine

    0 vote(s)
  10. History

    0 vote(s)
  1. Lauriam I hope I didn't keep you waiting...

    Jun 4, 2009
    Nonbinary she/he/it?
    Alright everyone, for the first installment in Worldbuilding, you voted for Architecture, Music, and Art. There are many aspects to these categories, and many questions to ask yourself when creating your own fantasy (or sci-fi) world from scratch. So, let’s dive right in, starting with architecture!

    Architecture has been a fascinating and honestly enriching experience for me, and I’ve learned so much while doing research for it, let me tell you. XD There are so many things to be aware of and take into account, and even though you won't necessarily be rattling off random facts about architecture in the middle of your book, it’s amazing how much flavor and detail goes into your world just from a basic understanding of the architecture within it.

    Now, the first and most important thing to take into account when building architecture is the environment. Environment is critical when it comes to architecture; after all, the basic point in having a building is to protect against the elements. The buildings in your world have to make sense for the environment in which they're built. I already briefly touched on this in the Worldbuilding general guide, but I’ll go into it a bit more, using, as example, the work I’ve been doing on the architecture in my own world.

    The environment in my series is diverse, and so must the architecture be. In the majority of the world, they face harsh winters, some areas more so than others. So the buildings common in these areas must be able to withstand heavy snows, strong winds, severe cold, and water damage. In addition, the area is mountainous, and riddled with seismic activity, so the buildings have to be designed with things such as earthquakes and landslides in mind. Now, I’m not saying the buildings have to be able to withstand a 7.0 quake or anything, but strong foundations, good framework, adequate support, these are all things that a society faced with frequent earthquakes would work to overcome.

    The environment of the area also contributes to building materials, so pay attention to this. If you’ve got a village in the woods, odds are the majority of buildings will be made of wood. This is especially important if your world is set in an age where building materials were harder to transport over long distances, or if the owners of the buildings are in a lower class, unable to afford having materials delivered from other areas. Which brings me to my next point: Class separation.

    This step in the process is highly dependant on the work you’ve put into the class separation in your world, so it’s a good idea to have a clear vision of how you want your world to be divided. (We’ll talk more about class separation in the ‘Diversity’ course.) If the divide between upper and lower classes is a focal point in your work, architecture is an excellent way to show this divide. Make the buildings of the wealthy grand and impressive, with expensive materials, and aesthetically pleasing fads and designs, while the struggling lower class are living in cramped, simple houses made of cheap, readily-available materials gathered from nearby.

    If you’re having trouble visualizing some of these things, it might help to sketch it out so you can get a better idea of how the buildings might look. As an example, I’ve included a sketch of my own architecture, designed for the middle-class of a race of people living in a snowy, forested mountain area.

    Crescent - Star-Elves middle class architecture.png

    Now, obviously, not every house in this category will look like this, but I think it’s helpful to know what the basic elements are for the norm.

    When it comes to designing military strongholds, fortifications, or castles, it’s important to ask yourself these questions: 1. What is the size and strength of the military in this nation? 2. What sort of enemies are they trying to fortify themselves against? 3. What is the current level of technology and the understanding of construction in your world?

    1. The size and strength of the military is going to be a determining factor when it comes to building the castles and fortifications in your world. Large militaries will need barracks, outposts, strongholds, bases, and more. If you’ve got a strong military presence in your world, try showing this by including watchtowers or heavily fortified structures in the populated areas your characters find themselves in. (We’ll talk more about military in the ‘Politics’ course.)

    2. The kinds of enemies your nations are facing will determine the design of your castles and strongholds: after all, defending against enemies is kiiiiind of the whole point of a castle. XD In medieval history, castles were adorned with many fortifications we recognize today - though we might not have ever thought about why they were there. Crenels and merlons, hoardings, machicolations, murder holes, these are all common parts of a castle, and they’re all made for a very specific purpose: defending against attacking forces… from the ground. But when you’re making new worlds, especially in fantasy, you have to ask yourself “How would these people defend themselves against magic/dragons/other mystical forces?” In my own work, the kingdom has been at war with dragons for nearly a century. And so I’ve had to sit down and work out a new way of building battlements - because machicolations are worthless against a dragon, and ‘higher ground’ is not an advantage when your enemies can fly.

    3. Construction advances with the understanding of science and technology. There were no steel skyscrapers in medieval times and nowadays, castles are built for fun and not for military. This is obvious. So when you set out to design your cities, it’s important to ask yourself what the current level of understanding is, and build (heh heh, geddit?) from there. Have your people discovered multi-level housing yet? Are they still in round, thatch-roofed huts? Or is this a futuristic society where your cities are suspended miles in the air or in a dome on the ocean floor? Choose your level of technology before you begin setting up your architecture, because consistency is key - even in a world of magic. (Coincidentally, this topic will be covered in one of two MORE topics I had forgotten to add to my original guide, so be on the lookout for ‘Science, Technology, and Medicine’ if you’re interested in this one.) XD

    If you’re writing about a medieval world and you need to research some of the things I’ve been talking about here, I highly recommend the Youtuber ‘Shadiversity,’ who provides fascinating, entertaining, and well-researched videos about castles - and armor and swords and anything else medieval really. XD Watching his videos have taught me so much about castles and medieval construction in general, and have really helped me a lot in my own worldbuilding and architecture design.

    Now, moving onto the next category in today’s topic: Music!

    The music in a world is going to be especially hard to translate into the written word… but I’m certainly trying my very best to get it right. I kind of have to… music and magic go hand-in-hand in my magic system. (I’ll talk more about this in the ‘Magic System’ course.) Since music plays such a strong role in my work, I’ve been giving some focus to the kinds of music commonly played in the cultures found in the world. I find that the easiest way to do this is to choose pre-existing, real world music styles to match each nation, and then listening to those styles while planning or writing sections set in said nations. One of my countries, for example, is influenced musically by Irish and Scottish folk music, while another is decidedly Balkan and Romanian, one is Norse, and yet another is influenced by Asian style music. By deciding from the start what kind of music is most common in each area and then listening to that music while writing, I’m creating a mood for the setting, and hopefully, when I start getting into the actual writing part of things, I’ll be able to translate it easily to the written word.

    In addition to choosing a sound for your worlds, consider making up some instruments. Now, it’s very important to try and maintain some realism if you’re going this route: your “not-Earth” fantasy world might never have made a piano, but you need to have a basic understanding of how real life instruments work if you want to make believable fictional instruments for your fake one. Fantasy works require enough suspension of disbelief as it is, you don’t want to push your luck and ask your readers to believe in Dr. Seuss Floofloovers and Tartookas. Sci-fi stories can sort of get away with this one, if you’ve got enough pseudo-science jargon on your side, but for the rest of us, at least try to stick to brass/string/wind based instruments that actually… make sense. XD Make something that someone could make in real life if they wanted to. XD

    Now for art! Again, this is something you’re not likely to talk much about in your novel, but it still helps to know about it as the author, in case you want to feature it along the line. When setting out the art style of your worlds, you should consider the following things: Religious influence, cultural influence, art as an expression of rebellion or counterculture, and famous painters of the age.

    Religious influence in art is mostly obvious: in the real world, many famous paintings feature symbols or figures from religion, angels, cherubs, etc. But it also has more subtle influences. For example, why so many infants are painted as creepy looking old man babies in medieval art. Seriously, look it up. XD In addition to religion, culture plays a major part of the art in the age, especially if your world is set in a time when art couldn’t be easily mass-produced. Possessing art can be a symbol of wealth or status, and people who wish to show off their wealth and status often buy art with the intention to impress, and so will set and follow certain trends and standards.

    Art as an expression of rebellion or counterculture can be an effective tool if writing dystopia or if your story is an allegory of troubled, restless times. Whether the art in question is anti-authority, has shock value, is illegal vandalism, or whatever else, you can use it to show the readers that trouble is brewing under the surface, right about to break.

    Now that I’ve officially tackled Architecture, Music, and Art, let’s throw in a bonus category: Sports and Fashion!

    Do your knights joust? Are there gladiator-style death matches in your futuristic dystopia? Are there actual gladiators fighting lions for the entertainment of the masses? How do the people in your world entertain themselves? Sports can be an amazing way to entrance your readers and really convince them that this magical world you’ve created is a magical world, and not simply ‘earth + magic,’ and can be a surprising and really fun way to frame your plot-points and introduce new mechanics into your magic systems.

    Consider the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The World Cup introduced us to Portkeys, Extension Charms, and the idea of magical institutions in other countries. It also set up the dark tone for the upcoming war, showed the Death Eaters as villains and terrorists rather than just telling us they were, and really introduced us to Barty Crouch Sr. and Winky. In addition to all this, the World Cup set up several subplots with minor characters, introduced a couple new magical races and creatures, and - my personal favorite - played around with the Statute of Secrecy. Seriously, I might just be like, weird or something, but I loved the parts of the book where Ministry workers were running around this muggle campsite trying to organize the biggest Wizarding event of the year, obliviating the poor muggle camp managers, begging the wizards to at least dress in actual pants instead of wizard-robes… I loved it. XD

    And speaking of wizard robes, fashion is a fun topic for any subject. How do the people in your world dress? Are there some styles that certain social groups would adopt that others might look down upon? What kind of accessories do people wear? The clothes people wear can say a lot about them, and can add flavor and realism to your world. You also have to be mindful of the same things you thought about regarding architecture: environment, class structure, and technology. The clothes people wear not only have to look good, but they also have to protect against the environment the characters habit. And some clothes will be more expensive or extravagant than others, so the wealthy or important will have better clothes than the lower classes, while obviously if you’re writing a fantasy world, denim and hair dye aren’t a thing. XD

    In conclusion, these categories are a really fun and truly fascinating part of world-building, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of working on mine! Just a note, though: Unless you’re writing a comic or graphic novel, most of what you come up with here won’t actually make it into your written work. It’s fine to set a scene when you enter a new area or introduce a character, but readers don’t appreciate large walls of descriptive text, and if you focus too much on the details, your work can turn out really… dry. I’ve read so many stories (both published and drafts) where the descriptions really do take over, and I swear, if I didn’t have to read the story as an editor or reviewer, I never ever finished.

    Architecture, Music, and Art can be a beautiful and creative way to take your readers on an adventure. But if you’re not careful, it can be your undoing.

    So… There! Part One of my Worldbuilding series completed! The poll is up for the next guide, and I also have a quick announcement. I’m going to be running a NaNoWriMo group for KHV this year, so in order to try and get the series finished by November, I’m going to (try to) write two guides a month until I’m done. XD So, feel free to vote for the next guide, and in two weeks, I’ll write about the topic you chose!

    If you have any questions about this course, or you want to talk about your own architecture, music, and art, go ahead and post, and I’ll see how I can help! ^.^

    (Also I’ve recently rediscovered twitter and mostly I’m tweeting about writerly things lol, so if you’re interested in following me as I get serious about being a writer and try to pen my first novel, look me up! The name’s PlushChrome. XD If I get two more followers by the end of the day, I’ll have got a hundred followers within twenty days of sending my first tweet. And like, that’s not a BIG milestone, I think… I’m not entirely sure lol. But it makes me feel good, so yeah. XD I’m on twitter now.)