Excitement of World-Crafting
By Anthony Casperson
One of my favorite parts of storytelling is crafting the world. I get excited about figuring out how the world of the story should work. “The mountains go over there. Here’s an ocean. Rivers flow out of here. Oh, and a forest.”
I get excited about the fantasy elements. These elves live in this forest in giant trees and eschew the use of metal. The dwarves have glowing eyes to help them in the mines, but the glow dims if they’ve been in sunlight for an extended length of time.
And the placement of cities within is also fun. This city goes here near this river. A port city should be here near the natural harbor. This desert has a small settlement near an oasis. Should there be a floating city? And where should it usually reside?
So, it’s no surprise when I get excited in crafting a world for a story. Recently, I found myself in that very place. Trying to further define the world for the D&D game that I started with some friends, I was working on one city that the adventurers are likely to travel to soon.
Originally named Oripool, I placed it near a lake because of the name. Naming the lake came next. “Ogrestop Lake, that sounds cool. But then there need to be ogres nearby.” Mountains ascending close to the lake provided their home. “Well, then, I should name the rivers that flow from the mountains to Ogrestop Lake something that sounds ogre-y.”
Thinking about the city that has to deal with these ogres, I had to figure out defenses. They’d have to have strong walls that maybe are magically strengthened because ogres are strong. “What other defenses should they have?” I looked up ogres in the Monster Manual and saw that there is a type of ogre called an Oni, that’s basically a magical ogre. And Onis have the power to cast invisibility and gaseous form on themselves. So they would be able to easily enter the city without some sort of magical defense. Something that could show a crafty Oni as it attempts to enter, like a faerie fire spell.
Then I looked at the name of the city and thought, “If they deal with Onis a lot, then maybe I could extend a leg down on the ‘r’ of Oripool and make it Onipool.” And from there, I’ve continued to shape the city, its inhabitants, and its culture.
In my place of excitement, a thought popped in my head, a question really. “I wonder if God was just as excited when he created the world, the universe, and everything contained within?” When God spoke the universe into existence, when he crafted everything out of nothing, was there a similar level of excitement? When the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity (who would later become known as Jesus [see John 1:1-3, 14]), created all things that have ever existed, was there a smile on his loving face?
Did God think about what type of metal to use for the core of certain planets so that their gravity had a specific strength of pull? When he placed planets in their solar systems, was his decision of how far away they were from their sun made for an artful reason? Did he take the ice-covered tectonic plates of a frozen planet and mold them like a sculptor with clay to make the frosty mountains refract the rays from its red giant star for a shimmering display of beauty?
When shaping the creatures of this planet, was there an excitement of the possibilities? “These will live in trees. And these little guys will live underground. Oh, and these swimming guys will have bioluminous parts so that they can see in the deep oceans where they dwell.”
When the Word molded Adam from the dust of the earth, did his hands shake with excitement? Were the details of human anatomy shaped with joy? The DNA viewed and chosen pair by pair. When the one who would become enfleshed in the likeness of this man before him looked at the form of dust, did he tenderly hold his prized creation in a loving embrace? When the Breath (Spirit) of God entered the lungs of the man, did he flutter with excitement like he did over the waters in Gen 1:2? Human muscles rippling like waves over the waters, as man took his first breath.
Was there joy in the heart of God in his creation? I believe there was. When we look at the story of creation, we see the phrase “God saw that it was good” repeated over and over again. But the phrase doesn’t carry the weight of the Hebrew. From day to day, as the Creator wielded his artful mastery, adding more detail to his masterpiece, he stood back and saw the beauty of his creation. He was overcome with joy. Then, after humanity was brought into existence, the masterpiece complete, God saw that it was very good. He was pleased with great joy at this world that he crafted.
Staring at this sheet of paper with an incomplete, poorly-drawn map of a town I created, I caught a glimpse of God. In an effort to perform a mere shadow of what God did millennia ago, I stood in awe of his great joy. Joy that rested not only in the creation of the universe, but that was directed at me specifically. I worshiped God right there as he shared his creative joy with me.
The things that excite us are able to help us see the beauty and power and grace of God. He can speak to us through the things that we enjoy. He’s created this world to point us to him. Whatever you enjoy, listen for the word of God, let it fall upon you like a gentle breeze, and catch a glimpse of God in your excitement.