Monday, April 27, 2015

Guest Post by WiDo Author Scott Keen: Building the Fantasy World of Your Story

I'm joined today by Scott Keen, currently on a WOW blog tour for his novel SCAR OF THE DOWNERS, a YA fantasy which I can't wait to read!  Below, Scott shares how he created his fantasy world. Make sure you check out his sketches!

About Scar of the Downers:
Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.

Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.

Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master's store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings while scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master's house and is sentenced to death.

To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before--escape from the city of Ungstah. 

Building the Fantasy World of Your Story
By Scott Keen

My novel, Scar of the Downers, takes place in a land known as the Northern Reaches. I remember when I first started writing the book, I had drawn a rough map (a very, very rough map).  But it was the beginning of something larger. The foundation of a house is usually in the dirt, and the same goes with writing, and in this case, world building.

Since my novel was an adventure-based story, the first thing I had to create was a map. I had to know where my characters were going. So, I sketched one out in about five minutes. As I wrote the story and created new characters, I had to build their home into my world. Little by little I added to the world, creating backstories about parts of the land, giving them their own histories.

One example of this concerns Wester Village, the first scene in Scar of the Downers. Andevin and Fordon are sitting in a tavern in the middle of this village that is surrounded by a wall. In creating the world and writing the book, I drew up a short history of how and why the people of Wester Village built the wall around it. Though it didn’t make it into the final draft of the story, it is there, forming a more realistic and fuller world.

Not only do you have to build histories for the lands and cities, you must also build them for the races that inhabit your world. In Scar of the Downers, there is a race of people called the Dendron that live amongst the trees. They have a story of their origins that they have passed on from one generation to another. It is their history. This is a short write-up of the Dendron’s genesis:

            Ages ago, a wizard, who often liked to wander through the nearby forest, was treading along his well-worn path. Normally, he would bring his staff with him when he traveled, but since he was so close to home he decided to leave it there. What he didn’t know was that a beast had come down from the nearby mountains and was searching for prey.
            It had tracked the wizard on his walk where it attacked him, knocking him down. But with his staff at home, he had nothing with which to defend himself. The wizard picked up the closest thing to him, which happened to be a stick, and with it, he defended himself.
            Grateful for his life, the wizard examined the stick and was thankful for its strength. He then asked the stick what it desired.
            The stick replied, “Life.”
            Returning the stick back to the tree would only guarantee that it would break again. But who would graft it on again? No! That would not do. For saving his life, the wizard promised the stick life by giving him branches that would not be cut off and a life that would not end with the seasons.
            The stick asked the wizard, “How can you do that for I am only a branch?”
            The wizard replied, “I will give you breath. Blood shall flow through your body and a voice shall come from your mouth. The forests will be your home, and where you die a tree shall grow. You blood will be its water, your body its roots.”

From this, a race was born. None of this happened, however, overnight. It took me years to build upon the foundation that I had sketched out. As ideas came to me, I included them into my map and world. And, as I write books two and three of the series, I'm developing things even more, as these side characters move from the periphery to the forefront.

Knowing how your races and land were born is paramount if you want to create a world. It gives stories their depth and their believability.

About the Author: 

Scott Keen grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn't want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing--he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools. He blogs at

Visit Scott online at:

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