Where do I even start?

If you're new to these arts, this is the place to ask "stupid" questions and get directions!
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OTʜᴇB
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Where do I even start?

Post by OTʜᴇB » Wed 13 Jul 2016, 23:00

I'm becoming interested in creating a conworld. I have some vague ideas about various things but I honestly don't even know where to start. I have however, broken down most of my ignorance into some (lots of) questions:

What do I do first?
Should I invent history? Or start at "the beginning" and evolve the world, creating the history in that way?
Can I get away without putting in any religion and still retain something realistic enough?
How do I approach making a conlang that would have developed and so is "natural"? As all of my languages are very not natural.
Does someone want to help me?
Should I invent a universe? Galaxy? Solar system? Planet? Or just a map's worth of... stuff?
Is it ok to go with a medieval fantasy LotR-esque world? Or will it be frowned upon as "mainstream" or "bog-standard"?
How should I keep my work organised?
What developments in a language are considered "natural"?
What developments in a culture are considered "natural"?
How do I culture?
How do I not get depressed when I can't just go and live in my conworld because it's so much better than this one?
How many civilisations is "enough"?
...Help?

I could think of 100 more questions and expect 1000 more once I start figuring stuff out, but this should be something decent to start with.

Thanks for any help.
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Ebon
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Re: Where do I even start?

Post by Ebon » Wed 13 Jul 2016, 23:09

Personally I like starting with a map because I need to know "where" stuff is, if that makes any sense- like, I have trouble starting if I can't place where I'm doing it. Don't know if that works for you, too, though. I suspect this is one of those things where you need to find what works best for you personally.

As for what you want to or should do, well... whatever you like, really. If you like Tolkienesque worlds, make one. Maybe some people won't like it for being so "standard" but I don't think that matters. Just do what you want- classic Medieval fantasy world, intergalactic weirdness, whatever floats your boat.

I like TiddlyWiki for organising. This is a nice list of questions you can use to get you started.
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Re: Where do I even start?

Post by shimobaatar » Thu 14 Jul 2016, 00:21

OTheB wrote: Should I invent history? Or start at "the beginning" and evolve the world, creating the history in that way?
I'd start at the beginning and work forward. I'm not sure how else you would invent history, actually.
OTheB wrote: Can I get away without putting in any religion and still retain something realistic enough?
I would be inclined to think not, but if you want to try it, go right ahead.
OTheB wrote: How do I approach making a conlang that would have developed and so is "natural"? As all of my languages are very not natural.
That depends on what you mean by "natural".
OTheB wrote:Should I invent a universe? Galaxy? Solar system? Planet? Or just a map's worth of... stuff?
That's up to you.
OTheB wrote: Is it ok to go with a medieval fantasy LotR-esque world? Or will it be frowned upon as "mainstream" or "bog-standard"?
That's perfectly OK. I don't know what "bog-standard" means, but don't listen to people who frown upon things they find "mainstream".
OTheB wrote: How should I keep my work organised?
Whatever way works best for you.
OTheB wrote: What developments in a language are considered "natural"?
What developments in a culture are considered "natural"?
Study real languages and cultures to find out, I suppose. There are plenty of features that have come to be in actual languages and cultures.
OTheB wrote:How do I not get depressed when I can't just go and live in my conworld because it's so much better than this one?
Perhaps avoid making it so much better than the real world? That sounds like it would be unrealistic, anyway, and you seem to be aiming for realism.
OTheB wrote: How many civilisations is "enough"?
However many you want.
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elemtilas
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Re: Where do I even start?

Post by elemtilas » Thu 14 Jul 2016, 00:30

OTheB wrote:I'm becoming interested in creating a conworld. I have some vague ideas about various things but I honestly don't even know where to start. I have however, broken down most of my ignorance into some (lots of) questions:
Loads of good questions! For a whole world, chances are you're going to start out small -- a single idea or motif -- and let it explode from there.
What do I do first?
First, DON'T WORRY! It is quite natural to realise you have a world stuck in your head. On the one hand this condition is incurable, but on the other hand, why would you want it to be?

Second, start writing about it. There is no order you have to do things in; no rules for you to follow.

Ebon suggested starting with maps. That's always a good start. You kind of start out knowing where the middle kingdom is and where be all those peskity dragons. And don't forget the buxom mermaids cavorting with the whales out in the oceans!

You can kind of do all of these things at once; mix and match. Make a map today, plot out a few countries. Make a kinglist for one of them tomorrow. Sketch a historical timeline of that republic over in the corner. Write a short story about a girl that finds a mummified girl in a cave, takes the curious bracelet she's wearing and goes on to transform half the world with her misdeeds and how they get put right. Draw pictures of various peoples, their clothing, their vehicles. Make a recipe for some of their favorite foods. Write a philosophical tract or a sacred text.

Eventually you'll find that you've got a lot of "stuff". All of this stuff will help with your invented language -- culture informs language after all; and the language will help you discover more stuff as well. You'll find it easier to write ever deeper stories and make connexions between stuff here and people there.

Organisational note: a private wiki or some kind of interlaced file system is a must. Tiddlywiki has been mentioned; I use Notebook (a private wiki); there are others you could use. For The World, there are almost 700 articles on a wide variety of topics there. Eventually you'll also have longer works related to your otherworld as well -- longer stories, travelogues, prayer books, history, etc. Those I just make into book format and keep in a word processor. I've got about ten books of varying lengths (anywhere from say 100 to 700 pages) and an assortment of miscellaneous text files. I've got a file cabinet filled with ancient notes, pictures, music, maps, artifacts and other bits of this and that. Point is, when you're starting out, planning some way of storing it all in a tidy fashion is important.

Hòw do you culture? One of the best ways is to read about other cultures. Look at pictures of people living in other cultures. Go to ethnic restaurants & watch ethnic videos on Youtube. Find something you like and adapt that to a culture in your otherworld. Do this over and over again, and after some months you'll have a decent sketch, and after some years or decades you might have a good grasp on a whole culture! A world is a pretty big place. There is almost certainly to be more cultures in it than you can possibly imagine or flesh out to any reasonably adequate degree in one lifetime.

One way to find out about aspects of your invented culture is to ask yourself questions. Go here and start answering the questions!
Should I invent history? Or start at "the beginning" and evolve the world, creating the history in that way?
Can I get away without putting in any religion and still retain something realistic enough?
How do I approach making a conlang that would have developed and so is "natural"? As all of my languages are very not natural.
Does someone want to help me?
Should I invent a universe? Galaxy? Solar system? Planet? Or just a map's worth of... stuff?
Is it ok to go with a medieval fantasy LotR-esque world? Or will it be frowned upon as "mainstream" or "bog-standard"?
How should I keep my work organised?
What developments in a language are considered "natural"?
What developments in a culture are considered "natural"?
How do I culture?
How do I not get depressed when I can't just go and live in my conworld because it's so much better than this one?
How many civilisations is "enough"?
...Help?

I could think of 100 more questions and expect 1000 more once I start figuring stuff out, but this should be something decent to start with.

Thanks for any help.
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If we stuff the whole chicken back into the egg, will all our problems go away? --- Wandalf of Angera
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Re: Where do I even start?

Post by OTʜᴇB » Thu 14 Jul 2016, 13:54

elemtilas wrote: Go here and start answering the questions!
That site looks extremely useful. Thanks for that [xD].
shimobaatar wrote: That depends on what you mean by "natural".
Natural as in would be plausible as something that developed over time and wasn't just invented. I see people talking about sound changes and developments in language all over the forums and I just chose sounds I like and make up some grammar that I think works nicely. How do I approach creating a naturalistic family of languages as a pose to a lone language with no relation to anything and no logical development?
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Keenir
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Re: Where do I even start?

Post by Keenir » Thu 14 Jul 2016, 17:13

OTheB wrote:
shimobaatar wrote: That depends on what you mean by "natural".
Natural as in would be plausible as something that developed over time and wasn't just invented. I see people talking about sound changes and developments in language all over the forums and I just chose sounds I like and make up some grammar that I think works nicely. How do I approach creating a naturalistic family of languages as a pose to a lone language with no relation to anything and no logical development?
start with a lone language first, and then you can build from there.

a conlanger might invent French, but if they also want to invent Romanian and Portugese, they'd have to first at least sketch out how French and Latin are related.
At work on Apaan: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=4799
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Re: Where do I even start?

Post by OTʜᴇB » Thu 14 Jul 2016, 17:35

Keenir wrote:
OTheB wrote:
shimobaatar wrote: That depends on what you mean by "natural".
Natural as in would be plausible as something that developed over time and wasn't just invented. I see people talking about sound changes and developments in language all over the forums and I just chose sounds I like and make up some grammar that I think works nicely. How do I approach creating a naturalistic family of languages as a pose to a lone language with no relation to anything and no logical development?
start with a lone language first, and then you can build from there.

a conlanger might invent French, but if they also want to invent Romanian and Portugese, they'd have to first at least sketch out how French and Latin are related.
That would make sense, but are there any things I should keep in mind when inventing this "starting" language? Or can I just make it the same way I'd make any other language?
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BTW I use Arch
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Re: Where do I even start?

Post by shimobaatar » Thu 14 Jul 2016, 18:01

OTheB wrote:
Keenir wrote:
OTheB wrote:
shimobaatar wrote: That depends on what you mean by "natural".
Natural as in would be plausible as something that developed over time and wasn't just invented. I see people talking about sound changes and developments in language all over the forums and I just chose sounds I like and make up some grammar that I think works nicely. How do I approach creating a naturalistic family of languages as a pose to a lone language with no relation to anything and no logical development?
start with a lone language first, and then you can build from there.

a conlanger might invent French, but if they also want to invent Romanian and Portugese, they'd have to first at least sketch out how French and Latin are related.
That would make sense, but are there any things I should keep in mind when inventing this "starting" language? Or can I just make it the same way I'd make any other language?
When I make my "starting languages", I make languages that you'd probably consider unrealistic, since they're very regular and not derived from anything. You can put in some irregularities if you want, though.
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Re: Where do I even start?

Post by OTʜᴇB » Thu 14 Jul 2016, 18:02

shimobaatar wrote:
OTheB wrote:
Keenir wrote:
OTheB wrote:
shimobaatar wrote: That depends on what you mean by "natural".
Natural as in would be plausible as something that developed over time and wasn't just invented. I see people talking about sound changes and developments in language all over the forums and I just chose sounds I like and make up some grammar that I think works nicely. How do I approach creating a naturalistic family of languages as a pose to a lone language with no relation to anything and no logical development?
start with a lone language first, and then you can build from there.

a conlanger might invent French, but if they also want to invent Romanian and Portugese, they'd have to first at least sketch out how French and Latin are related.
That would make sense, but are there any things I should keep in mind when inventing this "starting" language? Or can I just make it the same way I'd make any other language?
When I make my "starting languages", I make languages that you'd probably consider unrealistic, since they're very regular and not derived from anything. You can put in some irregularities if you want, though.
Ok that helps. Every language I've made or started to make has been extremely unrealistic.
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BTW I use Arch
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