Building the World of Styxaz 

Last week, I posted a beginner’s guide to world building. I decide to practice what I preach. I have had this story idea rolling around my brain for a while, so I went with that. I started building the world of Styxaz!


The red planet. That’s what the humans call it. To the inhabitants that live there, it is simply known as home. The planet is covered in red dirt. Most of the day is spent seeking shelter from the sweltering heat and the flesh stripping wind. It is a harsh planet, the only thing more harsh than the climate where the inhabitants. 

Most of the inhabitants live in the main settlement of Styxaz. It is a sprawling city filled with life, despite the harsh desert climate. The city is full of towering buildings, none taller than the shielding towers. The shielding towers protect the city from being discovered by the human’s and their constant prying.

The city was founded before humans had even started walking the Earth. The inhabitants elected a ruler who was charged with protecting the city. The Ruler came from the Zealots sect. She started leading the inhabitants down the path towards conquering Earth. It is a matriarchal system and the Zealots did not want to give up their status as Ruler. They clung to the role harder then they clung to the belief that the Chosen One was coming.
The inhabitants of the city were an odd race. Their skin was a mottled mix of blues and greens. They looked humanoid other than their elongated limbs. Each arm ended in six long fingers. They were completely hairless with large black eyes.
The inhabitants of Styxaz divide themselves into two separate sects. The larger sect goes by the name of Zealots. They are a radical group that believes a Chosen One will be born. The Chosen One will lead them into battle against the humans.they believe that humans are primitive savages who do not deserve such a lush planet.
The other sect goes by the name Squatters. They believe in peace. They do not wish to conquer, merely to expand and form relationships with other planets. The Squatters set themselves apart from the Zealots but their black headbands or handashi.
The inhabitants spend most of their time preparing for the upcoming invasion. When they are not preparing, they are cultivating the desert ground. They have no monetary system. If they grow anything in excess it is donated to the Ruler who distributes it among those in need. They lived in perfect harmony. The only thing they disagreed on was how to deal with the humans.

(Art by Ian McQue)

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A beginner’s guide to world building

This week, I took the plunge and published one of my short stories on Amazon. Words cannot express how cool it is to see your name on a book. I have been writing for most of my life. In fifth grade, I wrote a short story about a dog that got lost and my teacher bought it for five dollars. It is an amazing feeling to share what you love with those around you.

I wanted to start a new short story this week since I finished off The Horsemen, but instead, I took some time to work on editing and world building for my young adult novel. I had never heard of world building until someone mentioned it in a writing group on facebook. The more I looked into what world building was, the more I realized my novel was severely lacking.

I scoured Facebook and pinterest for helpful tips on world building. I ended up compiling a list of what I thought were some of the most important aspects. 

  1. Have a map
  • I have been working on my novel since I was in the 9th grade (I graduated in 2007). During that time, a lot of names have changed. I needed a map just to make sure that everything lined up!

      2. A list of rulers

  • Even if my characters did not visit a certain city, it is nice knowing who’s in charge there. They might visit it later.

      3. Economy

  • A large portion of my book centered around war and poverty. I needed to figure out who was suffering and who was thriving.

      4. History

  • If you spend time writing about the history of your land, it will influence how you write. It may or may not make it into the book, but it’s good for your personal knowledge. 

       5. Religion

  • Knowing about the religious beliefs or lack thereof can help you get a grasp on certain character’s motives. I feel like this goes well with the history of the land.

I am far from good at world building, but I can already tell a difference. I’m hoping to add the the list and watch my world grow! Let me know if you have a favorite aspect of world building that I missed!

Jessica

P.s. I finally bit the bullet and published my short story. Check it out! ⤵

The Horsemen (part 5)

The park seemed to guide them deeper into the trees, urging them forward. The small group walked forward, determined to reach the Indians. They were each consumed by their own thoughts and doubts. Famine walked on with a grim determination. He was going to get answers one way or another. His heart thumped in his chest as they entered the grove. The Indian Elders were seated on the soft mossy ground, like they were expecting company. Adahy stood off to the side, his arms crossed over his bare chest.

Famine approached the Indians, waiting for some kind of signal. The elderly woman motioned for them to sit. War opened his mouth to start demanding answers, but closed it with a click when Death gave a slight nod.

“I have gathered the remaining horsemen, but we need guidance before we start our journey,” Famine finally asked the silent circle.

“You are to bring balance back to the world. You have all been blessed with a gift and you must learn how to use that gift for good,” one of the elders replied.

“But how will we know what to do? We don’t want to kill everyone who gets in our way. I still don’t even understand why you chose me,” Famine could feel his frustration growing.

“We did not choose any of you. You are who you were born to be. Your path does not have to be that of death and destruction. You can decide how to bring about the balance. You can attempt to use reason as you see fit,” a second elder spoke.

Death felt his brother shift and prayed that he would hold his tongue. He closed his eyes and sighed as War spoke.

“You speak in useless riddles. Can you not just tell us where to go and who to defeat? We have already restored balance to our city before we were dragged to your park.”

“You hold much bitterness in your heart, but you know what you must do. You have already succeeded in your city, now you must succeed elsewhere. You must use your power for good, do not seek out the war. You must end the war,” the woman finally answered.

War stared at the woman as understanding dawned on him. They needed to end the gangs, but the gangs needed to have the opportunity to choose their own fate. They could not force anyone to do anything, but they could not allow innocents to suffer. He felt his anger ebb away as he accepted his own fate.

Death felt the change in his brother. The anger that usually emanated from him faded away. He was glad that his brother could accept his fate, but he doubted that he would ever be okay with his role.

“You need not fear you role,” Death and Pestilence turned towards the second elder. “Just because your gift is to take life does not mean that you have to take them. You can decide what to do with your gift. You can use it to heal or to judge. The responsibility is on your shoulders.”

Pestilence gave a faint smile as she imagined using her gift to heal instead of helping people end their lives. Death returned her smile, still unsure how he could use his gift.

“So, we just model each city we pass through after the twin’s city? Killing anyone who stands in our way,” Famine asked in shock.

“The route you take to achieve balance is up to you. We can not tell you what to do. Our time is coming to an end. We are short for this world, it is up to you,” the first elder said in hushed tones.

Before Famine could ask anything else, the Indians stood and left the clearing as one. He still had questions, but he knew one thing for sure. There were no more answers for them in the grove. He looked at his companions and was glad to see that at least they looked more sure of their quest. Bringing balance back would be a long process, but he knew that with them, it would not be impossible.

The Horsemen (part 4)

The next morning, Famine and the rest of the group prepared to leave. War and Death gathered the people they trusted the most and explained to them that they would be gone for a while. The people were of course nervous, but after a lengthy talk, they agreed to run the city. Famine watched in amazement as the two brothers addressed the city. The people there truly loved them. He could not imagine such a civilized place existed in this day and age.

Pestilence was back to her stony silence. She sat back and observed. Due to the brothers’ rule of the city, there was little sickness and no one crying for death. It was a place she would love to come back to. Her heart sank as she remembered that they would be leaving. She knew that their mission to bring balance was important, but she was not looking forward to helping end so many lives. Her eyes met with Death and she knew he would miss this city as well.

War, on the other hand, was anxious to get moving. The night that his brother had found him in that alley, he had sought out the thugs. He had no desire to join them, they were scum. He wanted to make them pay for destroying the city he loved. He wanted to bring the thugs to justice. He did not understand how people could just toss aside their morals overnight.

Once they rule of the city was set up, they began the long walk back to the park where Famine had encountered the Indians. They wanted to make good progress before they were forced to stop for the night.

“It would not be wise to camp to close to our city. There are usually bandits hanging around and looking for ways to sneak into the city. I can sometimes sense when they are close, but not if they are hiding their intentions,” Death explained as they marched.

They agreed to walk as far as they could before stopping. Famine needed to talk to the Indians anyways. Questions buzzed through his mind like bees swarming flowers. He needed answers before he started trying to restore balance.

Despite the added company, most of the day passed in silence. Famine tried to get conversations started with the twins, but War was not much of a talker and Death did not feel much like talking either. Eventually, Famine gave up all pretense of small talk and focused on maintaining their neck breaking pace. He worried about how Pestilence would hold up, but she seemed stronger than ever.

They walked until the light faded to the point that they were stumbling over rocks. The twins gathered wood and built a small fire. Pestilence once again fell asleep as soon as she laid down. The twins cooked some meat, the spices burning Famine’s nose. He expected his stomach to growl in protest, but every since his change, he had yet to be hungry.

“The Indians live in the central park. The local gang is a band of cannibals who have turned to hunting humans for food. They use dogs and they are very organized for being thugs. We will have to move through the city without being detected,” Famine explained.

“Why do we need to be careful. Between the four of us, those thugs will not stand a chance,” War grunted.

“I do not want to kill people unless we have to. Just because we are supposed to restore balance, that does not mean we are supposed to kill everyone we do not agree with,” Famine answered, shocked at his willingness to kill.

War grunted, but whether in agreement or not was unclear. Famine opened his mouth to raise some of his concerns when Death laid a hand on his arm. The look in the huge man’s eyes silenced him. War sprang to his feet and walked towards the sleeping girl. Before Famine could ask what was going on, he heard it. The sound of gravel crunching under foot. He unsheathed his dagger and rose to his feet.

An arrow whistled into their camp and buried itself in the dirt where War had been sitting seconds earlier. Famine turned and snatched a second arrow out of the air. The thugs had found their camp. It was too dark to see how many were out there, but Famine felt like it was safe to assume they were outnumbered. He turned as he heard a sharp intake of breath to his left. A crooked arrow was lodged deep in Death’s shoulder.

Death hissed at the inconvenience and yanked the arrow out. He looked at Famine with a lopsided smile as the wound closed.

“Did I forget to mention that,” he laughed at the confused look on Famine’s face.

Famine did not have time to question his companion as a thug hurtled into the fire light. They grappled around the fire for a few seconds, Famine trying not to use his blade. He meant it when he said he did not want to kill. The thug however, was not holding back. If it were not for his enhanced reflexes, the thug would have easily overpowered him. Famine tried to reason with the man before nicking him on the forearm. He watched with sadness as the man withered and died. He felt his muscles felt rejuvenated as he received the dead man’s strength.

War was no longer by the fire. He had moved further into the darkness, baited by the thugs calls. His fists flew, connecting with anything that got too close. The muscles on his arms bulged, growing stronger the longer he fought. He did not even need to see, he just relied on his sense of hearing. Soon enough, he knew they were all down. Some of them were gone, the rest would wake up and slink away during the night. He panted slightly as he walked back to the fire.

“They won’t be back,” he grunted before settling in for sleep.

“My brother relishes the fight. It makes him stronger, but once it passes, he must sleep,” Death sat down next to his brother’s sleeping form.

“Do you always heal that fast,” Famine asked.

“Yes,” Death hesitated. “I do not think I can be hurt at all. That is my curse.”

“Your curse,” Famine screwed up his face incredulously.

“I think since I cannot be hurt, I will not die. What could kill me? That means that someday, my brother will be gone and I will have to go on alone. I will be around long after balance is restored and everyone I know has moved on.”

Death stared at his brother, the secret he had kept for so long finally out in the open.

“Maybe the Indians will have answers for you too. I just hope we can make it to them without anymore fighting.”

Death stayed awake through the night, every crunch of gravel ringing in his ears. When the sun started to peek over the horizon, he woke the others and they started their grueling march again. Famine was grateful when the city he had left a few short days ago came into view. Soon enough, his hopes of making it to the park without a fight were dashed. The deep barking of dogs and the screams of their victims echoed off the crumbling buildings.

Pestilence looked around in horror as the realization hit her. She was going to have to use her powers on people who were not sick. She had never used it to kill, just to help. Tears threatened to spill down her cheeks as a pack of thugs turned their attention to the crowd of four.

War cracked his knuckles and rolled his shoulders. As soon as the thugs were within reach, he started swinging. He fought with no regard for what his companions were doing. Famine jumped to his aid, dispatching the rabid dogs with his dagger. The small girl stood back, hesitant to join the fray. She shrieked as a woman grabbed her from behind. Her hands found the woman’s face and immediately began draining her of her life. Death walked through the battle, only killing when necessary. The battle was over before the thugs even had a chance to retreat. Dogs and humans littered the sidewalk.

Word of the battle spread quickly. They could feel eyes watching them, but no one else approached them. The park came into view around lunch. Famine could hardly contain his excitement as the walked into the park.

(Do not forget to go back and read the other parts if you have missed them)

Jessica