Sunday, July 29, 2018

Strategy Games and Martial Arts in SFF Worldbuilding

When I was in Denver for the RWA National Conference, my friend and writing buddy, Darynda Jones, and I took a lunch break at Ship Tavern in the Brown Palace Hotel. While there, I spotted this guy and snapped a pic. It seemed like a good omen, because I finished THE ORCHID THRONE during our mini-writing retreat there, and now (finally!) am going back to THE ARROWS OF THE HEART. This image is highly relevant to the story, for those of you who've studied the cover. 

Once I finish this blog post, I'm diving back into THE ARROWS OF THE HEART. It gave my own heart a little stab to see I haven't opened the document since March 20, 2018. That's over four months ago. A third of a year! Where has it gone??? I have no idea. 

Anyway, our topic this week at the SFF Seven is: If you had to invent a sport or game for your novels (or ever have), what would it be?

It's probably telling about me personally that I've invented several games, and a couple of martial arts systems, for my books - but never any sports. I'm so not a sports girl. If I were to invent a sport, it would probably be something forced on children where they're forced to deal with objects flying at them at speeds as fast as the scorn of their peers is scathing.

Not that I'm scarred or anything.

Despite my early clumsiness in all things Phys Ed, I later discovered Chinese martial arts - and studied with a school for over fifteen years. I drew on that practice in Tai Chi Ch'uan, Pakua Chang, Hsing-I, Shaolin Temple Boxing, and others, to build the martial system that's part of the worship of Danu in The Twelve Kingdoms, The Uncharted Realms, and even in The Chronicles of Dasnaria. (Fun fact: Jenna's dance, the ducerse, is a modification of a Pakua form that can be performed as a slow dance with saucers of water or lit candles.)

Invented martial systems are a terrific way to flesh out a world in SFF. Many draw on religious or philosophical tenets (as mine do), along with the physical training and more aggressive applications. A character devoted to a martial practice like these will have their entire worldview and choices informed by that. 

I've also invented a few strategy games, such as kiauo in THE PAGES OF THE MIND. That game serves several purposes in the story. The shape of the game board and the pieces give important clues to the culture and what they hold sacred. The game itself allows communication between two people who don't speak the same language - and they build an understanding of each other through it. Also, a strategy game gives character insight in the same way martial systems do. Strategic thinking occurs in more places than on a battlefield. 

Sports can do this, too - JK Rowling's famous sport of Quidditch being a prime example. Come to think of it, it IS a way to torture children and subject them to the scorn of their peers, isn't it? TOLD YOU.