Took time out today to snag fantasy author, David Berger, and get the skinny on the world building he had to do for his fantasy series, Task Force Gaea.
Challenges of world building for the Task Force Gaea seriesWorld building is like weaving a tapestry: it requires great care and attention, a myriad of multi-colored threads, and patience to make sure the pattern you want to show is detailed. Each layer of creating a fictional world comes from the basis of that world, in this case, mythological reality. Although oxymoronic, the idea of bringing a world where mythological magic coincides with mortal reality into being actually is complementary. One of the greatest challenges is where to begin.
The world in which characters live evolves throughout the stories a writer tells. Even in stories where the setting seems static, it really isn’t. Amid the mundane activities of the world’s inhabitants come the complex interactions of the people who have to live in that world. You have to consider certain societal aspects: is there a socio-political structure in place, be it utopian or dystopian, interplanetary councils, juntas, tribes, or despotic regimes; are there gender-specific dynamics in play such as matriarchal or patriarchal groups; is the world post-apocalyptic or pre-Industrial? Each of these worlds, then, requires a level of research as much as it requires a level of uniqueness. In storytelling, nothing is truly original. All worlds have been seen in the vast range of literature, whether it be Biblical text, comic books, or from novels. The overreaching setting of a novel series has to have some sort of anchor structure for it to be believable.
After socio-political aspects, you have to think about belief systems: will there be a traditional Judeo-Christian-Muslim system in place? Will there be no higher power? Will mythological systems dominate—or will there be a mixture of many? In Task Force: Gaea, I didn’t focus on the belief system of the rest of the world since that would be too complicated and page-consuming. But, the beliefs of the main characters do play a part in the world building. Dan Fairmont, the son of Apollo, tends to believe in the Olympeian pantheon, although he focuses much of his attention on Gaea and one other deity of my creation. Aleta Halston, although a scientist, does have an open mind to higher powers, although she doesn’t seem to worship overtly. Being endowed by the powers of the Greek gods, she has to have enough willingness to accept that these deities do indeed exist, even if she doesn’t pray to them. Sarah Jacobs grew up Wiccan, with a slight bent toward the Greek gods. Her openness to the idea of both male and female deities that guide her keeps her grounded, and her ring is that direct link to that power. Brandon Jeffries, a nature-lover, tends to be more abstractly spiritual, although he accepts that primordial gods like Gaea and Ouranos do exist. This part of the world becomes the inner sphere within which these characters live, so it’s not as important (right now, anyway) to know just what the rest of the planet believes. I believe that people will just fill in the blanks, making whatever assumptions they need to in order to make sense of the world.
With socio-political and the belief systems, you also have to consider the scope of the actual world itself: a planet? an asteroid? an inter-dimensional world made of gas or water? That might need to be in place before you have the other two, but there’s really no order you have to ascribe to when building the world of your novel. With fictional or fantastical worlds, you have much more control over what you want, but you do need to keep track of the things you create so you don’t contradict yourself later. With more realistic worlds, you can rely on what you know to be true as well as the research you need to do. I have tried for a little of both: a world much like our own, but with mystical forces existing concurrently. This world looks much like the everyday planet Earth, but parts of the world provide portals or gateways to areas like Hades or Mount Olympos. I actually research locations, sometimes down to street names, so perhaps a reader will have been there enough to say, “Hey, I’ve been to that corner store.” or “I know that street.” Stitching some real places into my tapestry helps reinforce the other mythological aspects.
World building takes time to do, and you should give yourself the freedom to experiment with ideas while you’re writing. The challenges you encounter may just be trying to make sense of what you’d like to have as well as what you’d need to have. Of course, the more complex the world, the more you have to be prepared to explain that to the reader somehow, especially in fantasy or science fiction.
One of the obstacles I have had to work through is altering the world in which I work since things change from book 1 to book 2. That requires thinking ahead into the second book to decide what needs to stay and what can go. It’s not easy, though, since it took a while (almost 25 years) to get the first book finished, so abandoning some ideas was like losing a limb. If you’re keeping your world basically the same, then you’re just adding new layers, but when you’re restructuring, you’re re-envisioning that world. Sometimes the emotional attachment we have to the fictional, and subsequent loss thereof, is almost as painful as losing something tangible.
Overall, world building is part of the wonderful novel writing process, and it provides as much pleasure as it does headaches. The key is to have fun with it and explore this new world with the wonder and curiosity.
The Task Force Gaea series
During the age of Olympos, when a vengeful goddess shatters the Sacred Scales, both immortals and humans alike suffer. Apollo, the god of truth, goes from a glorious existence as The Shining One to a victim of Zeus’ wrath, and his journey makes him question his godhood, his role in the cosmos, and his views on humanity. Prophecy and the Fates direct his course, and he must make difficult, yet vital, choices. Millennia pass, and Dan, Aleta, Brandon, and Sarah—four reluctant modern-day heroes gifted by ancient civilizations born of the gods—bound by prophecy, have to choose whether or not to save their world when it could mean they never existed. They must master their new powers while battling against incomprehensible forces from the Underworld and repairing the Sacred Scales, destroyed long ago. With the equilibrium between Order and Chaos unhinged, and the Olympian gods struggling to exist, these four must ally themselves with the United Nations to protect an endangered world, becoming the only group who can fight against metaphysical threats to the Earth, forging Task Force: Gaea. Can mortals succeed where gods cannot go?
Buy the bookAmazon | Smashwords | BN
For Aegis, Zodiak, Aether, and Talon, operatives in the United Nations Task Force: Gaea, life should have returned to normal after they restored the cosmic balance that a reckless elder goddess shattered, but because of the intervention of the Fates, they would never remember what life was like before. With history now unfolding the way it was supposed to, paranoia plagues this new time line, and tight-fisted governments mandate control through a pervasive military presence, DNA scans, and surveillance cameras.
Inexplicable occurrences all over the world give way to a new mission for Task Force: Gaea when an ancient cloudlike evil referred to in prophecy only as The Nebulous One emerges from Tartaros, with the intention of devouring the Olympian gods. But, before she can find them, all of the gods but Apollo have disappeared.
Leaving chaos and human corpses in her wake, she oozes her way across the globe to satisfy her hunger. Apollo will not face this threat alone, and it then becomes a race: will he and Task Force: Gaea find and vanquish this primordial goddess without falling prey to her power before she finds the gods?
Aegis and his teammates, perhaps as a side effect of their encounters with The Nebulous One, have to battle personal demons in the form of potent memories that could jeopardize their mission’s success, seemingly insurmountable obstacles that could indeed mean the end of their team.
Starting in antiquity and moving to the modern day, this epic battle between good and evil leaves both immortal and mortal alike wondering whether memory can be a blessing… or a curse.
Buy the bookAmazon | Smashwords | BN
Boston born, I grew up on Long Island in New York, and have my B.A. in English with a Master's in Secondary Education. I currently teach AP English Literature, IB English, and Creative Writing in Land O' Lakes, FL. My avid appreciation for fantasy fiction came from a childhood love of Greek mythology and comic books, especially Wonder Woman. Stemming from this literary love affair, I published my first novel, Task Force: Gaea—Finding Balance, in February 2012.
In addition to my fantasy writing, I have written poetry, much of which was influenced by my travels abroad, namely to Ireland. My hibernophilia extends not only to a great love of the Emerald Isle itself, but also to the writers who hail from there, namely W. B. Yeats, and I studied this poet in a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship at the National University of Ireland in Galway in 2005.
Additionally, I have traveled to Spain, France, and England—all with trips I have led with students—and hope to show more of my students what the world beyond Florida looks like.
I'm "living the dream," as it were, and I love life—I just hope it loves me in return. I reside in Land O' Lakes, FL with my partner of 13 years, Gavi, and our two cats, Yankel and Shayna.
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