A blank map of Tolkien's Middle Earth
A blank map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth

Willkommen! Happy 4th of July! If you’re new (and I know that there are a lot of new people today) we provide three writing exercises each week. On Friday’s we provide ‘plot challenges’ that are intended to help you develop the skills surrounding plot development, character development, and world development. All of the little things that have to happen before you can sit down to actually write a story. So, for the next month or two I’m going to be focusing on providing a series of interconnected plot challenges (still one’s that you’re familiar with). These are going to be focused on helping you develop a single, hopefully expansive, fantasy world in which you can write various stories etc.So, today’s plot challenge is a pretty basic one. I’m going to give you a very general idea for a setting, and then a few basic character archetypes to work off of. Feel free to alter things as you see fit.

Your Setting: A Fantasy World. You’re first job here is to draw a basic map (I suggest starting with one continent and focusing on that) of a part of your world. Identify landscape features (i.e. mountain ranges, forests, plains, rivers, deserts, etc) and national borders. You might want to look at actual maps before drawing your own. Remember that the world is shaped the way it is for a reason. You can’t have a forest in the middle of a desert, rivers flowing away from the ocean, or mountains that shape into a perfect square. Pay attention to things like fault-lines, elevation, paths of least resistance, and how weather patterns would form. Also, now would be a good time to decide if your world has a moon, and if it does how many. Remember that the moon’s gravitational pull has a drastic affect on certain things (like tidal patterns), and the moon is the source of our lunar calendar (for instance, if there’s no moon, there are no months).

Your Archetypes:

A despotic king: This could be a ‘velvet covered iron hand’ type who tries to disguise the fact that he rules with an iron fist, or it could be a blatant tyrant. It might even be someone like Emperor Qin Shihuang of China who honestly believed that he was doing what was best for everyone.

A Necromancer Lord: I love necromancers in stories, and I especially love the idea of necromancers who aren’t insane monsters who are out to destroy the world. So, you are welcome to do whatever you want. However, for my two cents, a powerful necromancer who rules a pleasant little kingdom where the living and the undead work side by side would be a nice change of pace.

An Oligarchic Chairman: If you don’t know, an oligarchy is a type of government where the power is in the hands of a few individuals (6-10 is a good number). Generally this has been seen (positively) as rule by a counsel of the wise or negatively as a nepotistic government that is only slightly better than complete tyranny. This character is the first chair in such a counsel (feel free to come up with the other members of the counsel as well).

A Technomagi: This goes back to the story challenge (or scene challenge) I posted earlier this week (or last week… my girlfriend has a better memory). Anyway, it had a picture of giant fantasy golem things climbing up through a forest under a small fleet of airships… or something. This character is a magician who focuses on creating magical technology (like airships and city-sized mechanical golems). This could be a crazy outsider seeking to destroy a kingdom, a rebel faction, the ruler of a nation, or the general of an army from across the seas.

A Noble King: I figure we should have at least one basic, non-weird good guy in the mix. This could be a politically complex court (like France for instance), or a comparatively politically simple court (like the court of a Norse Jarl). The key here is that the king is a good man. He is moral, cares about his people, does his best to protect his nation, and encourages right action on the part of his nobles.

Alright, that should be enough to get you started. I hope you enjoy yourselves!

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