In this episode I describe walking inside the Seventh Relic, the great skeleton that forms the foundation for Ganhook’s Compound.
I explore how to create weird but realistic habitations in your world building.
I introduce Mind Node, a tool I use to help me document Dunari.
The Strange but True tells how even the dead can influence the living.
How to design weird but relatable habitations in your world.
How to use mind mapping software to help document your world building process.
Each show will be summarised in letter form. These are the letters I would have written to my family and friends if I’d been able to do so at the time.
As the weeks rolled past, and I adapted to the sections of the fortress I was allowed to enter, I grew bored. Now I know that sounds crazy. How could you get bored in that place, you might wonder?
I’d only got a taste of Dunari. I wanted a bigger bite. And if I was going to escape, it would certainly help to know what kind of a world I needed to escape from.
Ganhook’s plan to slowly introduce me to this world involved lots and lots of study, to prepare my ‘country boy from Brogant’ backstory.
Study bored me.
Considering my drawing will still crap, the room zero window remain blurred. So, the only way to see more of Dunari was to further explore the compound. And the safest way to do that unseen was to explore the basement.
The idea appealed to me. The most interesting and important thing in the compound was the buried skeleton that formed the compound’s foundation. This skeleton was called the Seventh Relic. There were sixteen of these great skeletons in the City of Bones, and the spirit of each dead monster still dwelled in the bones.
How’s that for weird?
Bones Shadows, these spirits were called, and they protected the city from the Spirit Storms.
Shinytop told me there was a vast complex of tunnels and rooms beneath the compound. Three sets of stairs led down to these basements. As the kitchen was my unofficial studying place, and one of the basement stairs was close to the kitchen, I used these.
These stairs emptied out in a corridor. A small wooden door marked the end of it.
A three-legged ghost cat guarded this door. The cat introduced itself as Number Ten. After curiosity had driven it to try open the door, it lost a paw and bled to death.
This loose paw repeatedly tried to reattach itself to her shoulder. Number Ten kept swatting away, complaining that it was all the paw’s fault for getting her killed because it was the part of her that touched the door.
This was typical Stein Cat behaviour. When she makes a mistake, she always blames someone else. Blaming her own paw, however, with a new low, even for her.
For Number Ten, I was a welcome distraction from this endless terrible game.
When she told me that the door was actually a trap, and that she would kill anyone who tried to get through it, I was delighted. I had seen enough. I was happy to return to my boring, safe studies.
But when she told me that Ganhook had ordered her to let me through if I turned up, and her paw blocked my escape, I realised I’d no choice but proceed.
Once again, Ganhook had been a step ahead.
At least he’d left it to my own initiative to find this place. Which cheered me.
With the loose paw leading the way, we passed in through the door, and worked our way along tunnels of solid bone. Yes, you read that correctly. The tunnels passed through the inside of the Sevent Relic.
Actually, there were ordinary tunnels, too, dug through the ground. The bones of the Seventh’s skeleton only formed the backbone of a larger subterranean complex of chambers, stairs, storerooms, and whatnot.
I also sensed the Bone Shadow’s presence. It was like an energy in the air. The farther we went, that energy pooled around my feet, acting like some weird gravity that made my feet heavier and heavier.
The Bone Shadow was letting me know who was boss here. And I wasn’t going to argue.
Number Ten was a dreadful tour guide. She spent most of her time complaining about the her paw. The tour ended at a door fixed into the back of a giant eye socket.
My legs were so heavy by then, I couldn’t take another step. Which delighted me. It was one thing passing through the inside of a skeleton, it was whole other level of weird to pass inside it’s skull.
What’s in there? I asked.
‘There’s another type of brain in there now,’ Number Ten said. ‘Ganhook’s library.’
So, after my experience with the Seventh Relic, I understood a lot more Ganhook’s fortress and what was outside it.
All I had to do was look closer at where I was living.
If Room Zero was my starting point to the World of Dunari, then Ganhook’s compound was my core habitation, the safe place I could retreat to when things got rough outside.
To an extent, it still is.
Every character needs a core habitation.
To create this, think about where the most familiar place to you is right now, and think about how you can use it to create interesting habitations in your world.
Chances are, it’s your home. After all, this is where you safest, spend most of your time, and store your precious things.
Creating a core habitation for your character, or characters, in your world is an opportunity to provide endless details of your world. Whether it’s a castle, cave, cloud palace, or whatever you can imagine, it will help you explain the weather, the threats, the neighbourhood, the location.
And so much more.
Just by putting some bars on the windows will suggest to your audience that you’re in a dangerous area.
What is at the core of your otherworldly habitation? Why does it exist in that specific place? What secrets does this habitation hold, and how can you use these secrets to add depth to your world?
Of course, these secrets don’t have to be physical secrets. They can be memories of events. Or perhaps they can be ghosts, or gateways, or hidden energies. Think about what conditions in your habitation could encourage creatures to make a home there?
For inspiration, think back to your childhood. Where did you live? How big was it? Were there parts of the house you weren’t allowed in? Mum’s office, for example. How mysterious was this place to you?
Did parts of the house scare you? Think of a stormy night. Were the parts of the house more comforting than others?
Because children are trying to make sense of the world around them, they can experience emotions on a different, more intense level than adults.
Memories of those experiences are gold for worldbuilding.
To add depth, create a historical timeline for your habitation, including who built it, when they built it, why the location was important, how it was maintained and renovated, and how it was adapted against new threats.
Middle age castles are a good source of inspiration. None were ever built randomly. No Duke ever rode along on his horse, stopped on a hillside, and said, ‘Ah . . . What a lovely view to wake up to. Why! I think I’ll build my castle here so I can enjoy the view every morning.’
Middle age castles—or any fortifications actually—were built with defence and control in mind. Yes, they all had nice views, but those views had more to with spotting approaching enemies than having morning tea on the battlements.
And middle age castles are absolutely packed full of secrets. Go visit one. Take a tour. Learn its secrets and think about how you can adapt those secrets to your core habitation.
Your characters can live in the weirdest habitations situated in the weirdest places as long as it’s believable. Make the utterly unfamiliar into the familiar by blending common everyday things your audience can relate to with the unfamiliar things your mind can conjure up.
The Seventh Relic is the skeleton of a long dead monster. It’s interior, however, was filled with staircases, rooms, doors, windows, a library, and countless everyday things. If those relatable things hadn’t been there, I’d have focussed solely on the bones, and probably fled screaming from the place.
Once you’ve decided on your core habitation, look for ways to blend the familiar with the unfamiliar. I’ve already touched on this concept in Season 1 Episode 9.
Ask yourself this: If a reader found themselves magically transported to your crazy habitation in your beautifully crazy world, what exists there for them to anchor onto and feel safe. What familiar elements of this world can you introduce there to dilute the weirdness, but still keep it original and effective.
The more you develop your habitation, the more you prime your imagination to build the world outside. This will boost your creative confidence. Originality doesn’t come from worrying about whether your audience will ‘get it’ or not.
Mix the familiar with the unfamiliar and they will.
Now I will introduce a new element to the show. I will explain some of the tools I will use to create my virtual World of Dunari back home in Ireland, as mentioned in the last episode of Season 1.
Documenting everything I experience in the World of Dunari is hectic. After all, I’m trying to document an entirely new world. And I’m not the most organised of people. To help me do this in Dunari, I use a lavun powered device called a Brain Petal. I explained the concept in the last episode.
Now that I plan to create a virtual world of Dunari on servers back in Ireland, I need something to help plan out this virtual world. Unfortunately, my brain petals are not compatible with the information platforms back home. But I’ve found an alternative. It’s called Mindnode, and it’s based on the concept of mind mapping.
Mind mapping is a simple concept. Starting with a central point—perhaps the name of your world—you create colour coded nodes connecting to the central point. Countless sub nodes can be created from each node, and you can fill each with text, pictures, links, and other information.
These mind maps are a great way to log and organise information. They also help to train your brain to understand and create associations. This, in turn, helps to develop your imagination.
Creating an entire world on one mind map might get complicated. You can create separate mind maps for each section of your world. For example, for one segment of my virtual world of Dunari, I’ve created separate mind maps for cities, counties, and countries. Within each main map, I log information related to that place.
You can create mind maps for characters, plots, weather, and just about anything else you want to include in your world.
Creating a visual map of your information is a fantastic way to brain storm without getting overwhelmed.
Mindnode is a simple tool to use. The best way to learn is to play around with it.
This tool is only available on the App Store, but if search online for mind mapping tools, you’ll find alternatives for all platforms.
The mind node website can be found at www.mindnode.com