The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch by Rebekah Loper
1- Where did the idea for this book come from, other than the alphabet and the challenge?
I love worldbuilding. When I was looking for ways to learn how to worldbuild as a young writer, I was always disappointed by the lack of true worldbuilding workbooks, so this was born out of that desire.
2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
Never stop looking for inspiration - it's always there. Even if you don't have time to write it, always keep looking for that magic 'what if'.
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
I've been telling stories for nearly as long as I can remember, but what really ignited my passion was the release of the Lord of the Rings movies when I was in high school. I realized the types of stories I loved to make up were ones people enjoyed, and through the LOTR fandom, I was able to connect with several other writers - many of us who are still friends and still write.
4- What was the reason you took part in the A to Z Challenge the year that your book was "given life"?
I honestly have no idea anymore. I think I had seen several other people attempt the A to Z Challenge, and I think I'd even attempted it before (but not completed it). And then I just had a random thought about if I could find enough topics on worldbuilding to complete the alphabet. I didn't let myself sign up until I had a topic for every letter, and I had pre-written the first week of posts.
5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?
My Twitter handle is @Rebekah_Loper but I'll be honest - Twitter is my least favorite social media, so I'm not super active there. As for shoutouts... @lauraeweymouth @jmbauhaus and @natzers
6- Do you have any other books coming out soon? What other books do you have available?
I will have a fantasy short story in an anthology this spring, but release date has not been settled yet.
7- Please provide something from your book that is EXCLUSIVE to this tour:
X is for Xenial
Concerning the Hospitality of Guests
The word ‘xenial’ has to do with hospitality. Specifically, it can pertain to the type of hospitality shown to strangers and guests. Since travel is an integral part of many speculative fiction plots, hospitality is an important thing to consider in your worldbuilding. We will look at both day-to-day hospitality and hospitality shown to guests and travelers.
There are many different ways people say hello or goodbye, as well as potential cultural reasons why they don’t say either of those things. It can be complicated or simple, and perhaps it ties in with other cultural occurrences. There may also be additional greetings included, such as during a holiday season (Merry Christmas!)
Depending on how your society is set up, there may be common mandatory courtesies for those of different rank. Think of whether royalty must be addressed in a certain manner, and if people are required to bow or curtsy. If someone is seen as having descended directly from a divine being, perhaps culture demands that people fully prostrate themselves in their presence.
There may be those who are not acknowledged publicly at all – like servants, peasants, or beggars. There are multitudes of reasons a society might see certain people as inferior, sadly.
Attitudes and language in general can be more or less formal, and may depend on how well people know each other, the capacity they are interacting in at that moment, societal rank, or gender.
When devising protocol and courtesies between ranking individuals and their equals or subjects, keep in mind that many things will be shaped to lessen the fear of the risk of assassination. Words and phrases that are perfectly acceptable in common company may be perceived as threatening when in the presence of ranking individuals.
Treatment of Guests
A guest can be a familiar friend, in which case they will not require much formality, but there still may be certain things that are offered because of custom.
Casual greetings can be a simple ‘hi’ or even greeting someone by name. But universal hospitality may be inviting someone to sit down and asking if they’d like a drink, regardless of whether they are a close friend or a new acquaintance.
Travelers, especially strangers, will receive a different kind of hospitality, and that can vary. If a town has been repeatedly pillaged or taken advantage of, they won’t be very friendly to strangers anymore. But some places might pride themselves on their hospitality, and will go all out to impress a guest.
In an agrarian society, or any place that uses livestock as their main form of transportation, it would be more than reasonable for a stranger to be offered feed, water, and a place in the stable for their animal. A drink, meal, and perhaps even a bath (or foot washing) are things that would be offered to nearly everyone, no matter what their rank.
However, if a monarch were to suddenly show up at the front door, it may even be an occasion to slaughter an animal for dinner, even if it was being saved for some other occasion. Not every guest is going to receive that kind of hospitality.
A family member who just showed up out of the blue, though, may not warrant very much special hospitality. It just depends. Hospitality and common courtesies are elements that can enhance a plot and the interactions between characters, as many different nuances and intentions can be made clear between what is offered, and what is not.
Another matter to consider is if and when guests can be turned away. It might be that certain guests may never be turned away – such as a monarch, though it would courteous of a gracious monarch to find lodging or sustenance elsewhere if there has been a death in the home recently.
Sickness will almost always be a reason to turn away guests. An illness potentially being contagious is nothing to ever mess around with, especially if medical care is not incredibly advanced.
The main thing to consider is whether one can turn away a guest for any reason, without giving a reason, or if they must have a concrete reason to do so.
Look up etiquette of different historical eras and different cultures – there’s some unique customs out there that can be great story inspiration. Etiquette will also vary by social and economic status. There are certain customs some might find difficult to part with, even if they have experienced a change in social status. There is also the fact that the rich can afford more niceties.
8- What most motivates you to read a new book?
A fascinating summary, followed closely by a stunning book cover!
9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!
Author name: Rachel Hartman @_rachelhartman
Love because: AMAZING worldbuilding and a protagonist who's not afraid to be herself, even when it's scary.
10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
I have a couple, I think, both I know through NaNoWriMo. Both have told me that they loved my worldbuilding workbook, and have recommended it to multiple people. I've heard from multiple sources that I manage to make worldbuilding interesting, and the workbook thought-provoking and non-encyclopedia-ish.
11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
I hope that it will make the reader more confident in their craft, because worldbuilding is vital to understanding the culture of your characters when telling a fantasy or scifi story.
12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
I honestly don't follow a lot of #bookstagram people, but the first one that comes to mind is @dreams_in_blue
13- Why did you start blogging?
To create a platform for my writing and connect with an audience.
14- What sets your book apart from other reference books on creating settings and worldbuilding?
The length of the book (well over 200 pages in paperback - and it's an 8 1/2" x 11" so it's not small and about half of that is worldbuilding exercises), the conversational tone, and how many layers it delves into. I basically wrote the book I wish had existed when I first started worldbuilding. It was definitely influenced by my varied interests over my (not terribly long) lifetime - I've had bouts of fascination with costume history and design, cooking and baking, agriculture, and well... I read encyclopedias for fun when I was a kid. These days I'm also an urban farmer, and all of that together has helped me to put layers and nuance into my worldbuilding because everything is so interconnected. Since much fantasy takes place in pre-industrial societies, I really wanted to make people think about how natural resources and innovation help to create societies and cultures, and culture is what creates characters. It's all tied up together, and I'd not found any worldbuilding sources (at the time I wrote the original A-Z posts, and then the book) that really delved into that aspect of it.
15- diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?
It's older and really niche, but a blogger I followed for a long time wrote a really good mystery/thriller where the protagonist dealt with an eating disorder, and it was part of the plot, not just a character trait. I've never dealt with an eating disorder, but know several people who have, but the book really helped me to see the different ways it could impact someone's life. The book is In Her Shadow by August McLaughlin.
16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?
I don't read nearly as many blogs (or as often) as I used to, but Anna Tan (blog.annatsp.com) is definitely one I make a point to visit often.
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
My book is SUPER niche. Like... niche of niche. Because it's only a small subset of all writers out there who worldbuild. I also wanted something that I could have out there and making passive income to start funding other expenses (either attending writing conferences, or self-pubbing other books) while I continued to write.
18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?
It helps readers to become more aware of what they do and don't like in a story, as well as helping authors to potentially pinpoint issues in their own writing that they might want to improve on in the future.
19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
What about worldbuilding most inspires or hinders you, either as a reader or writer?
20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
In THE A-ZS OF WORLDBUILDING, that ‘what if’ process is broken down into 26 themed chapters, covering topics ranging from architecture to zoology. Each chapter includes a corresponding set of guided exercises to help you find the ‘what if’ questions relevant to your story’s world.
Fair warning, though: worldbuilding is addictive. Once you get started, you might never put your pen down again.
The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch by Rebekah Loper