Any Way is Possible
Some writers have great fun with literally creating lands, others skirt around preferring to deal with the persons and circumstances. As with all writing both alternatives are fine, if handled correctly. ‘Correctly’ being that for the former, the reader enjoys or is interested by the visit, for the latter that the reader doesn’t notice it too much. And there of course are varying degrees of both. For I would never claim one approach is better than the other. As for myself I work in the middle ground, this may be due to a certain impatience to get selected things done. Always looking for flexibility and trying to avoid anything which might to bog down the narrative
Setting Up A Land
Since my ‘world’ could be fixed in a sort of future of this world AND my personal current location is on the western edge of Europe there was a tendency to look to this continent as a basis for the lands and nations. There were a few obvious similarities to the current distributions of populations and shapes of the continent, but great detail was avoided. Justifying this was quite easy. There had been ‘The Ethereal Arrival’ and in consequence a number of upheavals in climate and land masses (the latter probably caused by flooding and changes in sea-levels; the records are still sketchy). Overall though I had ‘A Europe’ in mind.
I have some seen some marvellous maps portraying the lands in which fantasy books are set. I did try this on a couple of occasions, but the narrative tended result in far too many re-drawing of boundaries, there were even a few rather pronounced geological events, so the idea was dropped as not conducive to my processes. It was hoped folk could roughly envisage the overall picture from the narrative.
Peoples and Nations
Having set a background of a past Great Disruption allowed me to play fast and loose with the general population spreads as suited the narrative. Actually a positive minefield should these books ever became good sellers. Whereas places such as Tuscatalia had some sort of vaguely recognisable Italian base and some could be identified as sort of Germanic this was not always so. I fear some people of some communities and nations would be upset that they appeared to have been supplanted by others, for this I apologise, there was no slight intended. Bear with me, your turn might well come in future volumes. On this subject I would cite our own….
A journey throughout history will show that folk tend to move around a bit. Consider Burgundy, currently identified as being a central France, to the east. The folk started off somewhere in Scandinavia, were in part of Poland and moved westwards. In the turbulence ‘my’ world experienced `, once more I cite upheavals.
Since a great deal of Fantasy which is not ‘Urban’ tends to be set in eras prior to the era we would recognise as the late 17th Century, empires, kingdoms and princedoms proliferate. I decided on a ‘Europe’ wide empire. HOWEVER since I personally find all encompassing (and suspiciously efficient) cruel empires places where clichés tend to lurk, my option was for somethings little more chaotic and resembling the Holy Roman Empire. In my empire The Oakhostian the standard administrative unit is a princedom (with large smattering of city states and other favoured units). The princes themselves have to be wary of their grand dukes who are often the ones with the vicious backbone. Emperors in all shapes, sizes and levels of effectiveness have come and gone, often reliant of the ‘organs of state’ to hold the whole thing together. These backgrounds allowed for a degree of flexibility in an era where no one is totally in control, states within states conduct their own agendas, princes try to survive their own grand dukes and a young emperor who no one rates plans his own means of imposing his will. This avoids the often ghastly cliché of the ‘Emperor’s Finest’ who are either from a religious office or some proto- palace guard and if not handled properly pop up like a clutch of pantomime villains grinning (possibly twirling moustaches) and picking on usually defenceless folk, with no one thinking to pick them off in guerrilla warfare.
First I am a Christian, by choice Catholic, with beliefs on Inclusivity which would probably get me finger wagged by a bishop and this I daresay has some sorts of influence. Historically once a religion becomes subsumed within the state apparatus there can be a tendency to become moribund in fervour of faith and more concerned with inconsequential minutiae. Thus was created in my world The Ecclesiastes. Whereas religion and its apparatus is all about the place its influence is mostly by convention, its feet on the ground The Translators are a mixed bag some heroic, some benign , some mean, others quite hopeless. There are the Custodians who are a sort of Inquisition and do scare folk when they turn up; Meradat is one but is scathing of his own brethren for avoiding the foremost threats. This area was something of a platform where I could poke a bit of fun at the needless excesses of all sides of the argument (including having positive figures in the religious organisations….that does annoy some dreary and sour folk, though they’ll probably not get to read my books). And there is The Libratery, the convents, if you like, who are quite independent, what their exact agenda has not been made clear, readers will have to either guess or wait. As per usual in Human Interactions there are also schisms and heresies none of these have figured much, yet.
And of course there are those who worship The Zerstorung (Demonish….). Well those ‘believers’ are idiots for a start off. Anyone who reads Vol I & II would realise those creatures are not going to give out any prizes to the bozos who show adoration to them. The Zerstorung are simply another bunch who have taken their place in and around the world and want (or ‘wants’) it. Nor do I care how ancient they are; they take their chances against things which in a very big way go ‘bang’ (Shadow Lords and Humans being very good at producing them).
Overall, once more, a lot of fun in creating this and again being flexible and avoiding too much detail, which with a sneaky thing such as The Ethereal/Stommigheid makes matters easier. I assert World Creating should be enjoyable, if you have to write up a small encyclopaedia of your world then I would advise you plan to do at least fix or six volumes otherwise your characters will never get a word (literally) in edgeways amongst all that detail being mentioned or explained.
Hope gives you some ideas on how to go about your own creating process.