Damien Black

You might be forgiven for thinking that fantasy authors get to make everything up. In actual fact, that is only true to some extent, and if you are going to create a parallel universe with similarities to a real historical period, it pays to do your research! In this article I suggest ten ways you can make your world-building and storytelling stand out from all the others.





There’s nothing quite like immersing yourself in a world with a background, like George RR Martin’s Westeros or JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. So start by creating a few myths and legends, things that happened in your characters’ world that they look back to. I found it helped me enormously to draw up a timeline, in my case spanning five thousand years since a cataclysmic event called the Breaking of the World. It’s fully interactive, so I’m still updating it with fictional historical events as I go along, and many of these will have a bearing on the plot and characters of the Broken Stone Chronicle. Tolkien’s appendices in LOTR is a good place to start if you’re looking for inspiration.
WSR ebook cover


Who doesn’t love a bit of drama about rich and powerful houses duking it out to see who wins the game of thrones? It certainly worked for George RR Martin. What I did was to design genealogies for all the most influential houses in the Broken Stone Chronicle: the House of Ingwin that rules in Northalde, the House of Ambelin in Pangonia, and the House of Markward in Dulsinor for example. I’m still adding to these as I go along, and I include courtiers and retainers too – this will give you a plethora of support characters to draw on at will, adding richness and variety to your scene-setting when you come to write those tense court stand-offs.


This is often a touchy subject with fantasy fans, as many are atheists. However, if you are writing about a world where magic exists, there will inevitably be superstition. So do your research. I chose to base the religious beliefs of the Broken Stone Chronicle on a mixture of Judeo-Christian lore and Norse mythology, with a smattering of Hinduism for good measure. What you decide to channel is up to you. Just bear in mind that even when inventing your own pantheon of deities, you will inevitably be influenced by the beliefs and practices of your own world, so keep an open mind!


Watching documentaries and movies about real-life wars helped me to write my own battle scenes. The good old internet is also a huge help – there is a plethora of articles out there about siege warfare and the like. Because if you are going to write in a quasi-medieval world, you need to be prepared for readers who will have read that period and really know their stuff. I studied the Crusades and found this really enriched my understanding of medieval warfare, with its vanguards, sappers, trebuchets, belfries and Greek fire. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Get researching and you soon will!


Role-playing games helped me with all of the above. Usually, you’ll find that authors of 1980s game books and RPGs really knew their stuff – often putting the so-called real fantasy authors to shame in this respect. Mine that knowledge: a lot of the old RPG lore can now be found on the internet.


In other words, keep reading and read widely. I know, sounds like a statement of the bleeding obvious right? But I’m astonished at how many traditionally published fantasy books I read without reaching for the dictionary once. Yes, you have to be careful – you don’t want to scare readers off with an abundance of words they don’t know! But nothing is more rewarding than enjoying a good read that also bolsters your vocabulary. Literate readers will appreciate this – and bear in mind that roughly two-thirds of fantasy fans are college educated. Your fans are no fools – don’t treat them as such.


Don’t be afraid to use other genres to help you in this respect. Remember how powerful Scott Lynch’s debut The Lies of Locke Lamora was for tapping into crime fiction? I used a bit of Sherlock Holmes in Devil’s Night Dawning, when I had the protagonists, Adelko and Horskram, figuring out who was behind the theft of the broken stone and trying to have them killed before they could warn anyone. It gave my novel the feel of a thriller at times, and a nod to other genres is always a good thing in my opinion: especially nowadays with jaded readers looking for something a bit different.


Make sure you have a fully fledged background for all your major characters. It doesn’t have to be down to the Nth degree, like what their favorite color is (although you can do this if you like!), but something about key events that happened during their formative years and earlier life. In my case I intersected this with my timeline (see tip 1): Horskram was involved in a calamitous event called the Purge twenty years before the story begins, and this has an enormous impact on his decision-making and attitude during the saga. It isn’t immediately apparent, but it becomes more so as the story progresses: again, this level of detail will enrich your story, making it more believable and engaging.

    Verse and song are often under-represented in fantasy nowadays, and to my mind, this is a great pity. Medieval peoples celebrated their history in poetry and song and throwing a few lyrics in here and there will help enrich your milieu. Would A Song Of Ice And Fire be quite the same without The Tale of the Bear and the Maiden Fair? You can be quite clever about how you do this: I worked in some verses that were crucial to the plot of Devil’s Night Dawning when the heroes encounter Fays who gift them with a prophecy spoken in rhyming couplets. At other times I’ve simply done it to build atmosphere; again it’s really up to you, but I think when used sparingly poetry can really augment your saga.
    Devil's Night Dawning
    Well, you’ve got a bundle of ideas to pursue here, so what are you waiting for? Get out there and start looking up your favorite historical periods, personages, poets, and authors… And if you gravitate towards these, you should have so much fun you won’t even notice you’re researching!


For as long as he can remember, Damien Black has been blessed and cursed with a hallucinogenic imagination. His sleep is disturbed by strange dreams that he struggles to remember upon waking, glimpses of worlds where superstitions are reality and prayers might actually work.

The only cure he knows for this malady is writing. Over the years, these scribbling’s have evolved into horror-strewn tales of fantasy fiction.


Author: loganivy

FIRST THINGS FIRST Simply put I am here because I love books... I am extremely passionate about stories especially those steeped in mythical folklore, ancient myths, and legends and suffused with the magic of unique realms and supernatural worlds. I believe there is an alternate universe where magic, mysticism, and wonder still exist, a world where no reality is impossible. Discovering ourselves is an ongoing journey. From reading the next logical step was writing. I am the author of ‘The Breach’, an upcoming supernatural fantasy.For when I write about these worlds I become a part of them and learn more about myself each day. A PEEK INTO MY SOUL I am a realist but at the same time also a dreamer. To me, reading is a window into the hearts of others . Writing is the window to my imagination drawing from my glimpses of the world around me. The beauty of writing lies in the mind’s eye – what we see, the way we interpret it and finally how we translate it to paper. HOW I VIEW MY CHARACTERS To me, every character is multi-dimensional. There is no mere black or white perspective to a character. If a person is strong, we have to delve into what contributed to making them that way? Similarly, what are the fears, likes and loves of a character. That is what makes each one of them unique. It makes them what they are. No character should be just a filler in a story. If a character is evil, why is he or she that way? If a male character is not the central focus of a story, if he is okay with the girl in his life taking center stage I don’t see him as weak. I think he is a great guy and the kind that any girl would be lucky to have in their lives. Looking for the prince who rescues you from the dragon or the lecherous villain should be passé. Real men may not have muscles but they have good hearts. I write about such princes, the guys who are also okay with the girl playing hero in their life, being rescued by them too. I love reading and writing about girls and women with flaws because all real women are that way. Not the most beautiful, not the bravest, not the thinnest nor the richest. They find strength in their family, in their love. My girls do not compete against men; only circumstances and the challenges they throw up. The men who support them, stand by them are the ones I like to read and write about. Through this blog I hope to share more about inspirational characters and the beauty and richness a book contains. MY INSPIRATION Is it possible to cherish and to love something all your life without really analyzing it or understanding why? ‘Stories’ fired my imagination since I was a child….it started with my father, who would spend thirty minutes each night weaving supernatural tales of troubled ghosts in a bid to awe, shock and above all bond with his daughters. He never realized and neither did I that he was also weaving those little quirks into my personality that later on in life would go ahead and set me apart. During class breaks in school, I would share the same tales with the class, now adding my own embellishments, peaks, and lows so as to hold their attention and leave them shouting for more. As my dad got busier and we got a little older the stories seemed to have trickled off but not before transferring that hook for the beginning, the narration, the mystery and the spectacular end. Books and Movies became my magical time machines capable of drawing, pulling, and holding me. Friends and colleagues would decide to read books or watch movies after I brought to life with words what I read or saw on screen. Even love came to me through books when the first time I met my husband we fell in love over a discussion on ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. One day I realized what I should have known all along – Stories; they lived in my soul. I had worlds to create, people waiting to be brought to life and stories to share. So I share what I love.

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