In conjunction with my guest post over at The Caffeinated Writer on March 4 (thanks, I really enjoyed writing it!), I thought I’d share some more in depth worldbuilding ideas and resources here on my own page. For those who may not know, I have spent close to twenty years now building the Lupa people, their homeworld Xcheamo, and the nature of some of their lives on Earth, and am knowledgeable on this subject.
The number one thing I can tell you about world building is that it can be a very long process. You may think you know something, and then a character will go “What are you doing? That’s not how it works, this is what we do.”
Have you seen or read how some authors, for instance Alice Walker, talks about their characters as if they are real? I do that, too. After they’re with you a while, it gets to be that way. There’s a point where you stop making all the decisions, and the story or characters tell you what’s going on. But I digress.
I have to admit that there were times in early years where I dreaded making decisions, or wouldn’t know what to do. I didn’t know which things were more important. However, as I came to know the Lupa as a people, and especially some key characters, that changed a lot. When you know a people really well, it becomes much easier. You know what they will usually think about something, and the things they’ll see in a certain situation. Instead of pondering how to make things be, they tell you what fits with their world view, and how they got to it.
Here, we’ll look at a specific instance of world building, and then some further resources. Please be aware the illustration deals with a mature topic; if this offends you, you have been warned (trust me, there is a reason!).
A Practical Illustration of Worldbuilding from the Ground Up
As a Christian I have often struggled with how and when sex should be portrayed in stories. Not as in whether it should be addressed–topics should be addressed especially when they’re difficult. But I knew that as a species, the Lupa don’t have quite the same view. Their instincts and hormones are much stronger than Humans, and there are time that they are literally not able to control them. Here, I’m specifically using this topic because I had a hard time with and it illustrates well how this particular aspect was built and integrated into Lupa society.
The beginning of Lupa history had been set up to include a point where the species nearly died out due to the harsh nature of their world. This built a certain DNA set that most Lupa after this carry. Among many other defining features of their species this included traits that produced strong children. People who have more sex are likely to have more children, with a greater change of survival.
The Lupa ended up with a high sex drive. It’s referred to as “mating season,” experienced by all women of child-bearing age. I’ll spare the details here, but it’s a yearly 2-week span where women are pretty much forced into a state of nymphomania by their hormones. Their pheromones during this time are extremely powerful and will affect any male in range. There is neither very little choice nor control in the matter.
Remember when we talked about setting limits over at The Caffeinated Writer? I used it here: instead of making mating season a series of carefree orgies, it’s something with much more depth and complication. How would you feel if your body basically took you hostage once a year and made you do things? Not very nice. So that was one of the parts I controlled, although logically, with this setup.
How Do Lupa Deal with It?
So, what would the Lupa come up with in dealing with this? They are a very practical species, so you go away to an isolated area for the duration. They have places specifically designed for this. If you are mated and want a child, your mate will come see you for sexy fun times and hopefully you’ll end up pregnant.
The other unique thing they have done regarding this specific part of their lives is similar to “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Everyone understands that it’s not personal or controllable, and so Lupa will simply ignore, pretend, or deal with the consequences without trying to make a big deal about it.
How Does this Affect Morality?
There are 2 main thoughts among Lupa about what is appropriate as far as sex is concerned. They understand that they can’t always control such urges, especially during certain times, and so most Lupa view the tumultuous hormone changes connected with puberty to be a time when people explore sex for the first time, and begin to understand their own sexuality, either on their own or with a partner. It’s seen as mostly harmless and part of having a good understanding of oneself. There is, however, a minority group that feels this isn’t necessary–at least with a partner–and prefer to leave that aspect until they are mated. One should still understand oneself, and most of the debate is centered around partners.
This is not to be confused with finding a mate and preparing to bond (Lupa bond their souls together as mates). This process, and any sex involved with it, is taken very seriously and treated quite differently than what happens during puberty.
How Does this Affect Society?
One thing mating season does is allow everyone to have some understanding of what it’s like not to be in control of themselves. While women clearly bear the brunt side of this, men also find themselves similarly controlled by their hormones in response. The fact that Lupa experience the joining of souls with their mates, as well as seeing what it does to their perfectly normal friends once a year, has developed a kind of understanding among them as a people.
While to outsiders may seem like a time of blissful pleasure, they all know it’s actually a time of intense dissatisfaction and torture for those who endure it. It’s not easy or fun to experience, and outside the moments of bliss one has if one is lucky enough to have sex, most women only remember how badly they wanted something they couldn’t have, and the horror of having no control. Many Lupa don’t get into conversations about this aspect of life once they’re adults; everyone understands those two words and what goes with it, and no explanations are necessary. In the rare case a non-Lupa joins with a Lupa pack or family, initiating discussions about mating season are often seen as a source of embarrassment, and extremely awkward. It’s usually not until the person sees or experiences it for themselves that they really understand.
The other thing this does in Lupa society is remind everyone of how strongly their instincts affect them, and that sometimes it is not their fault when those instincts take over. They have developed tolerance for their strong instincts, and in some cases come to embrace them, such as fighting. I’ve yet to meet a Lupa who doesn’t enjoy a good fight. It’s made them learn where to very clearly draw the line between a good fight and a serious political or societal war. The first is always a good thing, and the later is highly avoided. Their laws are very clear on what is acceptable and what is not. (Most of their laws pertain to fighting and registering offenses settled by fighting.)
Is it okay to simply say “They’re not Human?”
My answer to this is yes. Cases in point come from Star Trek. Some of the central components people know about species like the Vulcans or Klingons are seemingly impossible for Humans. Many Vulcans were taught to suppress all emotion, and they were successful at it. People still love Vulcans. The Klingons built their culture on fighting and challenges, and enjoy hitting and biting each other as part of courtship. People still love Klingons.
While not everything is a “They’re not Human” situation, there are times when we should allow ourselves to use it. The license I’ve given for the Lupa and their instincts is one of the two places I primarily use it for them. It lends interest and also conflict, which are great for storytelling, but also allows me to logically follow from background to species character to how they live and deal with things. Lupa are not Human. They have different sensibilities and are built differently, both genetically and spiritually, and that’s often just cool.
There are a lot of great resources online for worldbuilding. One thing I found especially helpful was checking out the wiki sites for different fandoms. Many of the pages one can find demonstrate different aspects of important information most want on a planet, city, item, or character. I’ve used the Lupa at an online roleplay site with a wiki, and the page I came up with for Xcheamo is here. Filling out different sections from other world/planet pages was extremely helpful. I’ve also used the Harry Potter wiki a lot, and their character pages are very well set up.
A great character resource I use a lot are online dollmakers, such as Doll Divine or Azalea’s Dolls, who have a lot of beautiful custom built dollmakers. Building looks and a wardrobe for your characters forces you to choose what they’d pick of what’s available, and more importantly, why. Zaira almost never wears a skirt, and certainly never makeup. Miara will wear anything except straight black or white, has a leaning towards 1980s styles, and likes bright, fun makeup. Eiry’s favorite historical period is Regency. It’s a great way to get to know your characters, plus you have a stock of outfits for when you need to describe what they’re wearing. Online clothing catalogs are also helpful.
Google image search is also a great resource when you’re looking for something specific, products your people make, or landscapes that might be useful.
Be conscious of what’s around you. If you see something while out shopping, a stranger near you with an interesting face, or cool jacket, take a picture or write it down. Jot down interesting names you see or hear for use later. If you see a great spooky house, try and get a picture. Don’t be afraid to record things that interest you.
Read. One very important thing to do if you want to write is read. Be knowledgeable about stories and writing by reading others’ work, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. See what might work for you. If you’re interested in writing in a genre you haven’t before, get some books of that type and see what they’re like. Understand that visual entertainment is different, and has different rules. What works in each is going to be different.
I hope that you’ve found the walk-through illustration and resources helpful, and if you know of any great resources, please let me know, I’d love to see them. Questions are also welcome!