Monday, June 16, 2014

Crafting a Culture: A glimpse into how the Tazu Nation was built

by J. Leigh

For those of you who've not yet read Tangled Paths, the Tazu are a race of tall, humanoid people who have scales in a multitude of colors and patterns instead of traditional skin. Oh, and they can shape-shift into dragons.

Interestingly enough, in creating their corner of the Way Walkers world, I did not start with the Tazu themselves, I stared with a moot-- a genetic throw back who couldn't shape shift into a dragon as the Tazu can. I'd already written three books for another Walkers series before this set in the Clan Lands, home to the vampric Clan, (who also make an appearance in Tangled Paths, but not as prominent) and in that setting introduced my first moot-- a human looking person, born from two Tazu but the only physical indicator of that was his draconic eyes. When I decided I wanted to move away from my Clan Lands in favor of a shorter series, I choose the idea of a moot for a main character.

What would it be like, as a moot amid Tazu? For that matter, what was it like as a human, living side-by-side with these shape-shifting creatures? What were the main differences, just in day-to-day living? Structure became an immediate issue to flesh-out, and coupled with an Architecture for Dummies book and a trip to of all places Las Vegas, NV, my obsession with draconic buildings and the crux of Jathen's personality began.

Now I had previously lived in Las Vegas for three years prior to that 2010 visit, and had already developed a love for a particular artist's glass work sculptures, one Dale Chihuly. ( Now this is the man who crafted the Bellagio's ceiling and even more for the Wynn hotel, but it was the trip in 2010 to the newly opened City Center on the strip that found me inside an art gallery dedicated solely to Dale Chihuly's glory.  I stood beneath those tall, spiky glass forms and the little sea form bowls under glass and thought, "My god, what if the Tazu could make buildings that looked like this--or at least were supplemented with it?"

And off I went.

It just worked so well. A dragon's natural tendency to be ostentatious and their love for shiny things, all crafted not with just gemstones as might be expected, but with glass. Beautiful, colorful, flowing glass. Granted, there were a lot of practical issues I had to address, like stairways and size accommodations for humans that didn't quite gel with my more wild glass-built ideas, but I was still able to bring a lot of the beauty I'd found in Las Vegas to life inside the Tazu Nation.  And what's more, my main character Jathen, the moot who couldn't fly through all the beautiful colors, he fell in love with all this wild architecture, too. I'd never had a character with the mind of an engineer and an artist, and it was refreshing and new, and wholly Jathen.

The path of Tazu Nation architecture also lead me down the road of architecture throughout the continent, starting with the places Jathen visited on his journey. Now I won't go into deep details, but all this plotting and planning and considering the possibilities of using magic to make buildings helped to also shape certain plot-points of Tangled Paths as well.


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