Building the Green

Worldbuilding” also known as “Thinking up a totally fake place for your story to take place in” has become a fairly common aspect of fiction writing.   It’s a thing.

There was no question–I knew I would have to invent some sort of original place for my creatures and my weirdo story to inhabit.  I wanted my people (the Pangols) to be intelligent but primitive and practical perhaps to a fault.  Therefor, I reasoned, their world should be a place that would not only reflect but actually facilitate and encourage these traits. 

But what sort of place could that be…?


“This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Excerpt from the prologue to “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie”


Published in 1847, Longfellow’s most famous work tells the tale of a young girl who is searching for her lost love–but it is this prologue which left its mark on me.  I loved the simple elegance of the opening line so much that I took from it my original title (“Primeval”), but I also adored the imagery which this passage invoked.  The setting I imagined was a forest both dark and vast–lush with giant trees and alive with a sense of ancient wonder.  Truly a world with places uncountable for forgotten (and perhaps nasty) things to hide.  

The more I thought about this, the more it seemed that that was exactly the sort of place which might reflect and justify not only the primitive nature of my Pangol race, but also so much more…

So it was decided.  My world was to be a forest world.

After settling on a FOREST WORLD, I think the first-next question I considered was the SIZE of said forest.  How VAST was vast?  Should the trees in fact cover the entire planet like some ersatz Endor? 

After some back and forth on the matter, I decided no.  No they should not.  I reasoned that an unbroken forest EVERYWHERE would become dull mighty quick–not to mention limit the quality of exploring that I wanted my main character (essentially the first explorer in a long line of non-explorers) to do.

To put things in plainest terms–the Forest is the world of the Pangols just as a single backyard can be the world for an ant.  In my mind, whether or not the trees truly go on forever is sort of irrelevant to a race of simple hunters with no wanderlust and no desire to conquer.  For them, to explore and to discover the true limits to their Forest would be a waste of time that would be better spent earning the sort of glory that only comes with the felling of some mighty insectine beast.

That said, this Forest is definitely not small.

FINAL NOTE: I decided early on that the Pangols would not necessarily slap names on every single thing around them.  As mentioned, their needs are purely practical.  There is one Forest and one River, so the proper names for those things are simply what they are.  In contrast the Silver Mountains to the west and the Ebon Mountains to the east needed labels that would differentiate one from the other.  Even so, (as I’m sure you can attest to now) reading “the Forest” over and over can become tiresome.  So I decided that (proper names aside) a colloquialism or two wouldn’t hurt things any.  This is why many times throughout my book the Forest is referred to more simply as “the green”.

~SVS

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One thought on “Building the Green”

  1. I gotta say, it’s tough, but rewarding. Love that quote, too. The poetry of it just reaches inside the deep places where I long to see it for myself. The explorer wants this place to exist for real…I guess that’s what we’re trying to do here, huh?

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