Mage Rage : Worldbuilding done Backwards

I never intended to build a world.

When I started writing my current story, I played it safe. I chose the stock medieval fantasy world as my backdrop. Personally, I was tired of it. I wasn’t the only one. When you do a Google search of fantasy cliches, this is nearly always top of the list as the one most people would like to see die. 
So why did I pick this setting? Honestly, it was because I had characters that I was obsessed with and I wanted to get their story written. I thought they were the most important vital part of what I planned to write. I didn’t want to waste time building an entire world for them to live in. I know many people spend months worldbuilding before they even begin writing a story. I can’t do that. I’ll never get started writing that way. I just start writing with the bare basics and see what world the live in later.

It’s all Ruddy’s fault.

Image from Pinterest

I didn’t choose Ruddy to be my main character. He chose me. I was writing a different story and I added him in as a minor bit part. I didn’t think much of him at all. But the further along I got into the story, the bigger he got. The He was supposed to be a guy who wandered in and got killed off by the villain. But he kept sneaking into scenes before he was supposed to. He kept adding to his back story. He had much more personality and wit than my original main character. I liked him better. One day, I scrapped the story I was working on and started a new story just for him.

He’s not the sort of person I’d choose as a main character. We’re nothing alike. I love to read. Ruddy’s illiterate. I’m reserved. Ruddy is loud and brash. I am a couch potato. Ruddy is a serious athlete. I am strict about grammar. Ruddy destroys the language whenever he speaks. I don’t make friends easily. Ruddy is as natural at charming people. I’m self centered. Ruddy is nit at all. That’s why I’m a little bit convinced that I didn’t invent him. He just somehow came into my mind as his own being. I’m not creative enough to to make a character like him.

He just HAD to be a fighter.

I have no interest in fighting. But Ruddy is obsessed with it. He’s a mage brawler. It’s a mix of martial arts, pro wrestling, and magic. Ruddy is a pyro fighter. That’s a mage who blast fire in your face while he kicks you in the ribs. 
  • The magic aspect is the only aspect I consciously chose. I wanted to break the cliche of mages being big brains in fragile bodies. In my world, magical ability has nothing to do with your intellect. In fact, sometimes being a mage can inhibit someone’s ability to think and concentrate. Mages have all sorts of personalities, but they tend to be thrill seekers. They struggle with impulse control and tend to act long before they think. It’s less Hogwarts and more Animal House in my world.
  • The martial arts is inspired by Capoeira,  a style of martial arts from Brazil. At some point, it was outlawed by the government. The fighters adapted it into a dance style to keep it alive. It’s legal again, but it still has a showy flair to it.
    Image found on Pinterest

  • It’s like pro wrestling because it’s more important to put on a big display for the crowd than to simply win. Fighters are encouraged to slow down the pace to allow each other show off their magic. A skilled fighter may deliberately allow a poor fighter a few good punches in so it looks more like an evenly matched fight. If you win too fast and aren’t showy enough, the crowd will boo you out of the ring. Do this too often, and you’ll disappear from the roster.
Like I said before, I have no interest in fighting. I have no personal experience in it. I don’t really even like watching it. This is another reason I’m sure Ruddy invented himself. I would never willingly choose to write about a professional fighter. But there he is.

I needed inspiration.

Ministry – Thieves and Liars

When I finished my junk draft, the word count was a bit skimpy. This is because I had four fight scenes. Because I didn’t know how to write about fighting, the entire scene was condensed into a few sentences. It read like this: “Fight scene. Ruddy knows he’s going to lose, so he tries to make the crowd laugh at how badly he’s outmatched.” And that was it. This is a story dedicated to following a professional fighter start his career, and I skipped the fight scenes. No wonder it was so easy to finish it!
I couldn’t get myself into the mood to write fight scenes. I needed some musical inspiration. Medieval music wasn’t going to cut it. It has no bite to it. I’m in my 40’s, so I picked the music I listened to when I wanted something hard and loud.Modt of this stuff comes from the late 80’s to early 90s. Here are some tracks from my original playlist.
It got me into the mood to write fight scenes, but it also completely changed my world. This music started creeping outside the ring and infected the classic medieval world. Mages already had a tendency of being impulsive and wild. This playlist just riled them up. They tore down the scenery and set up their own backdrop.

And then the world was born.

Mage District of Leefside

This world became an odd hybrid of medieval fantasy and the industrial metal scene. Gradually the two merged into this strange hybrid. I’ll talk more about it depth later, but basically, I wouldn’t say that they are more or less advanced than our own civilization. They are a bit sideways from it. They don’t have electricity because they tap into the magic essence that surrounds their world and behaves somewhat like radio waves. They’ve never had to deal with wires. This gives them more freedom to play with their technology. 
At the same time, magic isn’t easily mass produced. It all has to be created by hand. Fortunately, because mages aren’t an elite class living in ivory towers, there are enough blue collar tradesman mages around who don’t have much in the way of creativity, but they can quickly create a copy of something over and over again all day. Still, it makes higher tech items more expensive than they are for us. Rural poor people live in a more earthy, medieval world and the urban wealthy live in magical high tech luxury. 
But even the wealthiest mages can’t afford personal magically run automobiles. Even if they could afford a vehicle, there would be enough people who could afford it to create the infrastructure for them to travel. So they rely heavily on public transportation. It varies a lot depending on how wealthy the region is. Ruddy starts far out in the Styx, so he rides something inspired by the bamboo train to get to the the
 funicular station that takes him into town. It’s slower than our transportation, but much faster than horses. They can’t zip across the continent in hours, but they don’t have to muck about only traveling twenty miles a day.
There are many things I made differently just to give it a more exotic feel to it. I didn’t want them to live in a world exactly like ours but with magical power. They have their own culture history that has little to do with ours. So I looked around for unusual and obscure items and translated them into something magical. I also took people’s incorrect predictions of future technologies as inspiration. And I made a few things up on my own. I’ll tell you all about it on a post dedicated to the world itself.


  1. This is quite the interesting concept. Neo industrial medieval fantasy. Smacks of GWAR, Skinny Puppy and A Knight’s Tale. Well played, sir. Genre mashup is becoming quite a hot thing in indie music and writing. So I highly recommend more inspirational music like that. Particularly with classical mixed in.

    Isn’t it great when your character starts talking to you? My Brother Finn did that to me too.

    BTW, check out the podcasts on thecreativepenn website. She has many interviews, including one with a MMA author on writing action. Hope that helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GWAR and Skinny Puppy are indeed on my playlist. I don’t know Knight’s Tale, so I’ll check it out when I get home this weekend. Thanks for the podcast info. Being an old fart, I forget podcast is more than just NPR or other big network content.


      1. I can’t seem to edit comments. So I’ll just add: I’ve been studying why certain technologies flopped and others thrived. Turns out more often than not, lobbyists and lawmakers have more influence than the quality of the product. So speculating about alternative technologies taking off isn’t as illogical or implausible as I thought. I’ll make a post soon, but I’m on vacation now.


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