Just for fun, I wanted to write a blog post about Hurst – my world. About how it came to be, how it evolved, how it took over every corner of my mind and demanded to be made real.
So that is what I will attempt to do here; try to explain the steps I went through that took Hurst from a vague idea to the cornerstone of everything I write. I don’t know if it will be in any way useful for other writers who find themselves in a position to create a universe out of nothing, but at least it could be a window into how one person did it. Oh, and this will probably be long. You will not be judged for skimming
Ah, where to begin?
One day, last year in high school during International English class, a friend of mine showed me a drawing she’d made of two women. Now, this friend (Valravna) was great at drawing characters, and they were always intriguing, but something about these two women made a spark in my head. Just like that I knew who they were and that I had to tell their story. Said story is still on my list of future projects, so I won’t get into spoiler-type details, but essentially what I knew was that one of the women was the main character and the other was the antagonist, and I knew they were magic.
The MC was a witch, and she had special powers unique to her which she used to make a living, selling her services at a marketplace. I could see the space she worked in clearly; one of those tents with wood poles and thick fabric that you see in historical movies and the occasional fair. Here was my first problem; I wanted it to be a marketplace like that, with a sort of medieval feel, except I knew the characters wouldn’t fit into that kind of time period.
So I thought, why not a magical marketplace that is hidden for those who don’t know about it?
I loved it! Except where would the hidden market be? Then I thought, maybe it’s actually a whole hidden town around it where the people who work in the market live. But then where is the town? What’s beyond it?
I think you can see where this is going. I kept pushing the borders of this market place, and explored further and further until I had reached every far corner of a world I didn’t even know I was capable of imagining. It was beautiful, it was plentiful, there was so much potential, so many things to learn, and I wanted to learn it all!
And just like that, I was building a world. A world of five “territories” of different climates and landscapes, but where the borders were only geographical as there was no real divide between the citizens of this world. It belonged to all of them. It was their home, and they didn’t need to fight each other for it, but instead they vowed to live in peace to protect their precious secret world.
It became obvious that I could never pick and choose what fantasy-related beings might exist in this fantastical place, so I welcomed all of them! Mythology, fairy-tales, legends; it didn’t matter where they came from. There would be a safe space for them in my world. Because this world was created exactly for that; to be a safe space for these kinds of people and creatures (and here I decided on the collective term “Magicals” for anything not human) who were being hunted or hated in the world of humans, and who just wanted to live freely as themselves somewhere that was all theirs.
When I knew the basic concept – there is a magical world on Earth shielded from humans – I got to start digging into the fun stuff, get some dirt under my nails. Places, cities, maps, laws, history, origin, society; everything had to be worked out. I can’t know what most people struggle a lot with when it comes to the details of world building, but one thing I’ve always had problems with is names. Being faced with having to name A) a world, B) five territories, and C) every city in those five territories, I went a little bit nuts.
If it wasn’t for the brilliant invention of name generators like this one, this whole world might just be a lost idea I gave up on because naming everything was too hard. It’s one thing to independently come up with names for the big territories, but Hurst has at least 30 cities, which I know doesn’t sound like much but it feels that way when you have to name them all. It can take me weeks to name my MCs, for crying out loud.
Once I finally had names for all my cities, there was the oh-so-fun and weeks-long process of mapping them out. Because you can’t have a world without a map! And you should know, my artistic abilities do not go beyond the written word. I cannot draw, and I definitely cannot draw maps! It took a lot of hand-drawn scribbles, and finally the help of some friends who know how to use technological tools, to get the map of Hurst to its current level.
Here is the extremely short version of the evolution of the Map of Hurst:
Names of places, check. Maps of the places, check. On my list of priorities, the next important thing I had to work out was the origin story. It felt wrong to keep working on a world without knowing the details of how it came to be. Now, there’s a chance I might write a short story about the origin of Hurst some day if anyone wants more details, but in the short version is this;
A powerful warlock saw that Magicals were unhappy living among humans. They were outnumbered by humans, and therefore many had to hide themselves or risk being hunted and shunned. This warlock wanted to create a place where Magicals could escape and be themselves, be in peace with others like them.
With his powers unequal to anyone before him, he created the first portal, and on the other side of it he created a garden, which was supposed to be the sanctuary Magicals could come to when they needed it.
Then things kind of went nuts as Magicals flocked to it. Let’s just say, demand was high, and that garden didn’t remain a garden for very long. With help of other strong witches and warlocks, he expanded the garden into a world that was no longer just a sanctuary; it was a home.
And that’s exactly how I felt about Hurst, too – I felt like I had created a home, not just for my characters, but for me. It was somewhere I could go inside my head when this world just wasn’t doing it for me and I needed something more. I still do this pretty much every day. If anyone sees me on the metro, eyes closed and a small smile on my face, I’m probably just listening to music and floating around Deeplake with the sea monsters.
The fleshing out:
It wasn’t long before I realized that every idea I ever had fit better into Hurst than they ever had wherever I originally tried to place them. Once I realized this – that this world wasn’t just for that one story, but for all of them – everything just seemed to fall into place. I have so many stories with many different rules; vampires, witches, spirits, so many stories where I knew the rules for them individually, but now that they took place in the same world, I got to weave everything together, and that is how I got the societal structure and legal system of Hurst.
I learned how Hurst was governed, how laws were enforced, why there has always been peace except for once, which resulted in an entire species being banished to the far corners of the Red Hills. I found out what types of trade is particular to which cities and areas, how people travel and communicate, how they go back and forth to the human world… Which is something you will learn a lot more about in Spiralling, once it’s done and out!
That felt like the last piece of the puzzle; taking all my stories and putting them together in one place. That’s what finally made it my world, and one I wasn’t willing to give up – which is why all my stories in one way or another takes place in Hurst. Some might argue that by doing this I’m limiting myself, but I disagree. There are no limits to what I can do in Hurst, and I never want there to be any, which is why I will keep exploring them and pushing them every time I write.
Okay, I am sure this post is somewhat flawed and that there is so much I should have included or talked more about, and the moment I post it I will probably think of a thousand things I wanted to mention, but how about this?
World building is a HUGE subject. If there is anything you would have liked me to elaborate on, or some aspect of world building that I didn’t mention that you think I should have, throw me a comment and I’ll see if I can’t try something like this again sometime, hopefully better each time 🙂
I hope someone, somewhere got something out of this long, jumbled post, but one thing I know is that I had a great time writing it. So I guess that makes it worth it!
On another note, I randomly decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo in July, during which I will be going back to the beginning of Spiralling and see if I can’t get this third draft going! That should be interesting. Never done one of the camps before! If you have, and there are any tips you’d like to share, they will be more than welcome!
That’s all I have in me today. If you made it this far, I congratulate and thank you!
A wonderful weekend to all, and never forget to believe in your ideas – even a tiny, seemingly insignificant idea might one day turn into something huge.