Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by the debut fantasy author Korbin Voss.
Korbin Voss is the author of Revenant, which is the first book in The Terror of Trenon Trilogy.
Korbin Voss has spent his whole life dedicating himself to the art and craft of writing. With years of freelancing under his belt, he's proud to say that he made the switch to full time ghostwriter for 3 years before getting tired of hearing just the voices in his head. Now, he works full time at the feet of one of the premier marketing geniuses in the world while crafting his own stories and taking them to the world. You can follow his insights and information at his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KorbinVossWriting/
Information about Revenant:
The last good man in Trennon has been murdered in cold blood, his body left on horrific display and plummeting the city into terror as the killer remains at large. With the City Watch too corrupt to trust, Henry and Squire are hired by the City Council to hunt down the killer as quickly as possible and bring him to justice.
The only problem: the killer is already dead.
With the dead rising to take revenge upon the city, Henry begins the game of cat and mouse through the streets of Trennon, hunting a killer who has a vendetta against Henry and will not stop until Henry’s world is in ruins, even if that means the entire city must bleed. The hunt is on and Henry must face the demons of his past or risk those demons destroying everything.
Revenant is the first book in the Terror of Trennon Trilogy.
GUEST POST: 5 Tips to Craft Your Own Race by Korbin Voss
You know what I got sick of as a writer? I got sick of trying to find a way to make Dwarves interesting.
I know, some people might think that’s blasphemous, but I’m going to really push the envelope for you here.
I don’t think you can make Dwarves new and unique for me without me giving a heavy sigh and consciously giving you a pass to try and thrill me. And, I hate to say it. Most people are letting me down.
There just came a time where I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t chip away at that block trying to make Dwarves unique and interesting without it feeling like I’m doing a cop out for my fantasy story by shoving in Dwarves for the sake of feeling like I needed Dwarves. They used to be a staple, after all. You couldn’t swing a dead cat in the Fantasy section without taken out a legion of Dwarves tucked away in those musty pages.
Here’s why it was so hard for me.
Everyone has tried to make Dwarves cool. Twisting tropes, turning it on its head, giving it their own spin, trying to freshen them up, etc. It’s just exhausting at this point to try and make Dwarves my own, especially after I have conducted a witch hunt inside the pages of my manuscript to find anything derivative. I got rid of that bounty hunter who was clearly inspired by Boba Fett. That sucker went up in flames. So why was I giving Dwarves a pass? I felt forced to used them and I had no fresh ideas on it.
You know what I have fresh ideas about?
Haven’t heard of them? Then you must be hanging out in the right part of town. You’ll see them every now and again, shy folk. They keep to the allies and gutters. We call them Sparrows, because of the beaked masks they wear and how quickly they take off running when Humans come thumping around. They’re short, smaller than most children. They hang out in dumps, burned out ruins, and places they can scavenge and steal trash. Iron hoops from barrels, nails, leather and old canvas. They take off on their strange legs, double knees, creepy. They’re covered head to toe, though—and few people have ever seen under their masks. They think Humans are filthy, disease and plague-ridden monsters, so they keep themselves covered in sealed leather and stuff herbs and poultices in the beaks of those masks they breathe through. They’re pests mostly, but they’ll do some trading, communicating through gestures and movements the best they can. The like to live in old ruins, in the deep and dark caves that they can build their homes without worrying about Humans burning them down. They keep to themselves and are strange.
They don’t work metal. They don’t have beards. They don’t speak in Scottish accents. They don’t have a penchant for horned helmets and Viking paraphernalia. The only thing they have in common with Dwarves, is that they’re short.
But, the Ratarni are everywhere in my novels. They’re not a major part. They’re in the background right now, waiting for a moment of relevance for the plot, but they’re there.
But, the Ratarni have taken shape in my mind over time and they serve a role that I need in my world. So, what did I learn coming up with the Ratarni and the other strange Races that lurk in the dark and secret places in my world?
Well, here’s the tips I can give you.
Tip #1: Learn to Deconstruct
So, hunting down anything that is derivative in your story is an art in and of itself, but when it comes to Racial Development, it’s vital. If you love Elves, but you’re tired of seeing Elves and you feel that they’re too Tolkien-esque or whatever, then there’s something to do about it.
Are your Elves stale? Are you just not that “in love with them” that you should be?
Your task is simple. Deconstruct what you love about them.
Do you love that they’re magical? That they’re immortal? Do you love that most of them are beautiful? Do you love that they can take Captain America in an arm wrestling match? Do you still have a crush on Orlando Bloom?
Find out what it is that you love about them. You need to be able to define what captivates you about a race and why you feel drawn to them in the first place. Once you have this element, this foundational core to what you want, then it’s time to start building off of that.
But, in order to get to the warm, gooey center, you need to effectively deconstruct. There are a lot of people that spin their wheels here and get exhausted by the prospect of doing this, but keep at it. It’s not something that needs to be done in one sitting. As everyone building a world knows, this takes time.
And, in time, you’ll have your core element.
Tip #2: Begin Exploring Your Ideas
Cool is an extremely and obviously subjective term. Do you think unicorns are awesome and want to have a race of humans that have horns coming out of their heads? Some of them straight, some curved, some sharp, or some blunt? Do you think that’s awesome
Then do it! Create a race of unicorn men.
If you have that foundational, core element of something that you want, such as: a race that possesses magic, then it’s time to start building. Explore the idea. Start asking questions. What kind of magic do you want? What is your world’s magic system? What are the implications of innate magic? What would their social hierarchy be? What would their evolutionary development be if they had magical advancements? Do they have evolutionary development? Or did they spring into being by an overly creative and generous God?
I don’t know. You have to tell us.
Start a document on your computer that is essentially a historical and zoological study about these people where you can dump all of the information that you come up and that you can organize, shift, and alter at whatever whim you have in the future. Let the race develop and explore everything that you’re drawn to.
Tip #3: Biology Matters
Here’s one of my problems with Dwarves. Dwarves in 80% of Fantasy culture, live underground, yet have the appearance of something that is evolutionarily designed for harsh, winter environments. If something lived underground, would it be pale, hairless, and thin, designed for an inhospitable, damp, and low-energy ecosystem? So where do these hairy stout people come from.
Despite all of that, Dwarves get a pass. They were conjured up by the Norse cultures and passed down for generations where they infected Fantasy like a cancer. Good for them! That’s a cultural phenomenon that has literally endured a thousand years.
With your races, you’re not getting that kind of a pass. Biology is important. If you are going to have a forest dwelling creature who has innate magic that allows them to commune with nature and harness the power of the woods and lets them speak with animals, that’s going to drastically change how they are built and how they have evolved. Again, assuming these beings have risen with Humans over your world’s developments.
If the Gods made them or something, then that’s a different story we’ll talk about later.
But, if you’re saying this rich and vibrant world you have is populated with multiple humanoids, they’re going to be different. Beings that live in a Mordor like environment, thriving and climbing to the top of the food chain, they’re not going to look like people. Honestly, they’re probably not going to look like Orcs much either.
Take the time to really develop and dive deep into this. Because biology will really help nail down their physical appearance and give you a closer idea of how they live in the world that you’re building.
Tip #4: Culture is Key
Race means absolutely nothing, okay.
But think about our own world for a moment. We have literally one race, as far as Fantasy is concerned, but it varies drastically based on where we live and what we do. The variety and flavor of your races, who will be drastically different from one another is going to be made colorful, vibrant, and unique by the cultures you give them.
If your creatures live in the woods with innate magic that allows them to commune with the forest and animals, while being able to do whatever they want with forest magic, how is their culture going to look? What are the odds that they hack down trees to build houses? What are the odds that they have hunters if they can hear Bambi screaming when they kill him?
How would their culture change? How would they develop? Would they develop? If they had magic and were that limited with what they could do with animals and trees? What would their clothes look like? Would they have homes built out of stone? What kind of heroes would they have? What would their gods look like?
Now, if they were brought into existence magically by the existence of the Gods, how would that affect an entire race? Would they mirror Human culture? Would your Gods give the guidance on what kind of clothes to wear or homes to build?
These are all questions that help make your world rounded and robust. These layers that you have to help make your story breathe, to make it feel real.
Tip #5: Tell NO ONE!
But, with all that information that you’ve gather.
Don’t tell a single soul!
Why? Because rarely does the biological and cultural history and development of your races actually have anything to do with your story. It will just kill your pacing, bog down your story, and especially in your first story, no one actually cares yet.
So what good is all of this world building?
Because when I make a Ratarni character, I already have an enormous dimension of their personality and character defined by what they look like, cultural impacts, and often those questions answer things like: Are they upper or lower class? What do they believe in? How does their culture relate to others? And there’s a million more.
Defining your characters, armies, nations, and others will be vastly smoother and simpler if you put in the time to define these facts about your race. But, not only does it make it easier for you, it provides depth and scope for your future projects, especially if you’re going to write a series.
You’ll find that your world endures and thrives long after you take your hands off of it, waiting for you to return at any moment should you have the desire.
So, take these tips and put them to good use. Use your powers for good, or for evil...
Whatever you want to do.
Just make sure that you USE them!
Best of luck and I’ll be right there with you!