Fantasy World Building: Society and Societal Factions

The world is made up of multiple societies who feed off themselves or each other in order to survive. As I write, more and more "societies" under the one umbrella society come into play, and I find the world is suddenly more layered, that there is a lot more going on beneath the surface than I initially realised. I have something of a minimalistic approach to pre-novel world building. More groups within groups keep piercing my skull, though, and I have to take note of them before they escape my mind.

All of these societies and factions relate directly to my plot, so it was natural that they would occur to me. But why not add societies that flesh out the world from the start? What I feel is important here is that the groups add a more dynamic feel to the world, that they all interact in some way, with their own goals in mind. Almost like characters in their own right.

I began with only the countries' societies.

Duthonne: Moderately religious. Strongly oppose heretics. They believe that four of the gods are good and that the other three are evil.

Meira: Moderately religious. Lightly oppose heretics. They believe the opposite to Duthonne about the gods, and the two countries war over this.

Arlea (island): Strongly religious. Believe that all gods are good. They have traditional beliefs and are the constant where the other two countries have developed their beliefs.

Then I began to wonder: Who is in control of these countries? Not all societies are the same in this respect.

The Church: They are the seat of power in Duthonne. Seven hundred years ago the King died and their was no heir to replace him. The Church were given power and have held dominance to this day. They believe very strongly, and are far too narrow-minded as far as teaching children about the gods. Their teachings have fuelled the wars, making many people fully believe that the people of Meira are as evil as the gods they worship, and ought to be wiped out.

Those who oppose the Church are punished, the punishment being equatable to the crime. Punishments can go as far as torture and execution.

The Queen of Meira: Elegant and powerful, she loves her people and treasures their lives. She is strong in her beliefs, but she doesn't go as far as the Church when it comes to punishment. She is willing to collaborate with various groups in order to help her country.

So what else is there? I was reading a book when the next came to me, and I had to stop reading to go and take note of it.

The Order: A faction devoted to the gods. All seven of them. Each member of the Order fights with the weapon of their choice. They know when the world is in grave danger and know a number of rituals in order to prevent it from happening. These are good guys, but their means might not be in line with what other people want.

And this last group came to me the other night when I couldn't sleep.

The Underground: A faction of thieves and pickpockets in Emareus, the capital city of Meira. They know ways into the castle that even the guards don't know about. The "Thief-King" has the supreme Aura -- that of Elcalades, the Giving Father. The group is made up of men and boys, mostly poor and orphaned. The group offers them a home as children, and they grow up in the environment and learn to survive in the streets.

All these groups affect each other. They all have a purpose in mind. Teach, rule, serve, survive. The way they interact can create a very dynamic feeling, and when unlikely collaborations occur, they become all the more intriguing.

What could possibly bring the Thief-King to work with the Queen?

Why do the characters seem to think the Order is bad when it is actually good?

Who can bring down the Church, or find someone in the King's bloodline to take over the throne?

While we're journeying with our characters, things are happening on the other side of the world. Know what's going on, and you will know your world all the better.

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Shannon said...

I always find it interesting to learn about other people's worlds.

zellakate said...

Oooh, this is quite cool, Ryan! I really like the idea of the rulers being the Underground. I can't wait to read that in your story. :)

Ryan Sullivan said...

Thanks, Zella. :)

The two rulers are separate, though. There's the Queen of Meira, and the Thief-King only controls the Underground.

zellakate said...

Ah, I get it! That makes sense. :)

Sam Williams said...

I had a theory that novel/original ideas are a myth...I've seen many instances where a person would get (almost) the exact same idea as another without them ever having met...and issues like plagiarism would come up when no one actually stole anything..

The reason why I'm telling you this is because I'm a writer too and there are some points and ideas that you have stated above that I've dreamt and written about as well... (I get inspiration from dreams)... well, anyway...good luck with your "world"... it seems familiar...very familiar I've been there before

Ryan Sullivan said...

It's an unavoidable fact, but it's in the presentation of such ideas that makes the difference, and no one can see that you and I, for example, write exactly the same. That's why there are no issues of plagiarism.

You can't own an idea -- you can patent them, but there's a point where you can't patent something so basic. You can't copyright a group that would no doubt be a part of a certain society.

Think about it, you could apply these groups to pretty much any fantasy book. They're practically archetypes. It's not a competition for who's allowed to use the idea. You should focus on writing the best book you can.

Sam Williams said...


...but it's still eerie/fantastic/scary/amazing when you just managed to bump into something you never thought you'd encounter outside of your own home...

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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