Although I haven’t written here for a bit, I have been busy creating a world for the novel.
It isn’t easy.
As I’ve been coming up with the story since last October, I have naturally learned more interesting things about the world in which it takes place. Some of the details about animals are pretty strange. Other details include a marsh that grows bamboo-like stalks that are perfect for using on a flying vehicle. But these are bits and pieces. I need to have a general understanding of continents and mountains, rivers and lakes, deserts and swamps. I don’t want to just slap things down nonsensically. There needs to be proper distances between rainforests and deserts, for instance. Temperatures (and so the types of crops and weather) are different near an ocean than in the interior. Mountains are different than plains.
All very complex. And I have trouble figuring out what to plant in my yard, let alone in a whole world.
I also wanted to pick a proper scale for the story. Back on August 25th, when I started this worldbuilding phase, I envisioned an area about the size of New Zealand (that was where they shot Lord of the Rings, after all). But New Zealand is just too small as a model of size for what I need to do. It isn’t even the right size for the Lord of the Rings either.
Take a look at this “Time & distance travelled in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings” interactive graphic from LOTRProject.com. Frodo travels about 1,800 miles in 185 days. New Zealand is from Invercargill in the south to Spirit Bay in the north a 1,279 mile trip (including a ferry). But it is only about 352 miles at its widest from New Plymouth to Gisborne. I need for the story’s world to be a little wider.
So I outlined the journey in the novel and approximated how much time I wanted to take. For example, I thought about how long I want a particular leg of the journey to last. Then all I had to do was calculate the distance using the type of traveling they were doing.
For this, I used several sources on the Internet (some listed below) to come up with this table:
Walk 3.1 mph = 19.35 minutes per mile
Walk fast 4.5 mph = 13.33 minutes per mile
Jog 5.5 mph = 11 minutes per mile
Long Run 6.5 mph = 9.2 minutes per mile
Fast Long Run 7.5 mph = 8 minutes per mile
Sprint 25 mph = 2.4 minutes per mile
Bike 16 mph = 3.75 minutes per mile
Horse* walk 4 mph = 15 minutes per mile
Horse trot 8 mph = 7.5 minutes per mile
Horse canter 14 mph = 4.3 minutes per mile
Horse gallop 25 mph = 2.4 minutes per mile (1 to 2 miles tops)
Hot air airship 15 to 20 mph = 4 to 3 minutes per mile
For now, I’m calculating Conner’s flying vehicle (I’m temporarily calling it a skiff) with this speed variation:
16 mph = 3.75 minutes per mile (cruising speed — can be sustained for long distances)
30 mph = 2 minutes per mile (fast travel)
40 mph = 1.5 minutes per mile (chasing)
50 mph = 1.2 minutes per mile (short bursts)
60 mph = 1 minutes per mile (short burst)
So taking the time I want things to take, I use the above speeds, add in breaks and other interruptions, and come out with a journey of about 532 miles. This does not include one part of the book where there is a side journey of 100 or so miles.
I’ve used Google Maps, particularly the Street View, to see what areas look like and the real distances involved. “How far away is that mountain from here?” for example.
On one of my 3×5 cards I listed some of the different things I want to know more about the world I’m creating:
Kingdoms and matriarchies
Science and technology
I’ve since found a few great resources. This Squidoo page on “Fantasy Worldbuilding Resources” has an amazing amount of websites dedicated to this purpose. One of the most often referred to resources is Patricia Wrede’s Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions.
All of these resources, however, could lead to a bad case of world-building disease — where the writer spends so much time creating her fantasy world that she never actually sits down to write it. It can also give a perpetual feeling of not being ready because there are so many unknowns. But it is a good idea to get started before you are ready.
I’m almost ready to start writing before I am ready.
*Horses, like people, can vary greatly in speed, endurance, etc.
Some of the websites I used to derive my distances and times for various forms of transportation were: