It’s been a while since I did a Let’s Make, one of the many series that fell to the wayside when I stopped posting every day. Still, I love this series, so I thought I’d sacrifice one of the more recent, bloggier posts for another installment.
And, this time, I thought I’d solidify something I’ve been slowly gathering details for in my day-to-day: a fantasy shop.
See, the weird thing about “shops” in fantasy is that they’re often . . . samey? Basic? Maybe “convenient” is the right word, but what I’m getting at is that they’re usually thrown together based on simple standards (not so much tropes, but basic, established ideas of what fantasy shops are, how they work, what they sell). DM’s running D&D games might try to give shopkeepers a bit of charm, but fantasy, in general, makes the average shop a little simple. A little too perfectly named.
A shop in a town known for its thieves, for example, might be called “The Rusty Lockpick.”
In a seafaring town, the shop might be “The Bronze Spyglass.”
And, sure, both of those would be charming, acceptable names.
But, today, I want to offer a different approach: how about a shop built by someone who wasn’t cute about naming it?
How about just a no frills, mess of a store on the side street of a fantasy city?
Yeah. . . Yeah, let’s make that!
Step 1 — Choose a Name
A little backwards this time, but choosing the name of this shop first will help sell it as a hastily chosen name, or perhaps one that’s lost its meaning.
What I’m looking for is something charming — of course — but also something simple, memorable, and easy to say. Basically, I’m looking for a nickname for this shop, because I’m getting the feeling this rundown little place has been in business for generations.
Off the top of my head, I’m going with “Lucky’s”.
Step 2 — Figure Out the Proprietor
So, of course, I don’t want to go crazy giving a ton of backstory for a side character who won’t be a main part of Rainwater, but I do want to give the proprietor of Lucky’s a believable, charming personality, with just enough backstory to build off of. Because, as I’ve learned the hard way, if I don’t give my characters room to grow in my stories — if I hammer everything down in an outline — my details will be ridged when it’s time to write.
So, instead, I’ll jump into whatever smaller details come to mind.
- The proprietor’s name isn’t “Lucky.” My initial thought is to make Lucky his grandfather, but I love the idea that Lucky was a mascot — maybe a dog? Maybe the proprietor’s grandfather’s dog, who used to be his companion on adventures?
- Not sure yet what the proprietor’s actual name is, so let’s just go with a placeholder: Rosco.
- If you walk in, see Rosco, and say, “So you must be Lucky,” he is guaranteed to gouge you for whatever you want, no matter how small.
- I can’t fight the idea that Rosco has an eye patch. It seems incredibly typical somehow, but when I try to think of a notable shopkeeper with an eye patch, I come up blank.
Actually, I think the stereotype for a proprietor in fantasy is literally “barrel-chested.” Inn keepers, smiths — whoever they are, whether they’re jovial or gruff, they’re always “barrel-chested” men.
So, I think I’m alright on the eye patch.
- Rosco lost his eye in . . . okay. I just brainstormed it for 10 minutes and found a bunch of possible ways he lost it. However . . . I’m also getting the strong, aimless curiosity I always get when I don’t know enough about a story/world to hammer down details with confidence.
I’ll decide on his eye later.
Although, I always love the idea of characters having countless stories for how they got scars/nicknames/etc., so everyone in Errsai has a story for how Rosco lost his eye.
Rosco himself has several favorites.
Step 3 — Decide on the Merchandise
What does this store sell? General goods? Potions? Considering real world possibilities (my favorite thing to do in this situation), is this a pawn shop? A purveyor of refurbished swords and armor? There are countless possibilities, so don’t get stuck on the standards for fantasy shops: Items, Armor, Weapons, and Magic.
Lucky’s is pretty obviously a low-end thrift shop for cheap, second-hand goods. Naturally, it offers everything — at least everything that can be made cheaply and imperfectly. Finding those things, from flawed daggers to frayed novels, is undoubtedly Rosco’s calling.
Step 4 — Decide on the Look
What does this shop look like, inside and out? How is its merchandise arrayed? Does it have dominant colors — a clear aesthetic maintained by its owner? What’s the overall vibe of the place?
Lucky’s looks like any good antique shop — a densely packed nightmare of stimuli. Of course, the difference is that Lucky’s is lined with broken things you don’t actually want — things that you’d only buy at the worst of times, in the direst of needs. Lighting comes primarily from grimy windows, the lights inside of the shop too obscured by Rosco’s bent and breaking merchandise.
Step 5 — How Does It Make Money?
I guess Lucky’s actually pulls in enough of an income to survive in a fantasy city?
Actually, no — scratch that. I love the idea that Rosco found a loophole that keeps Lucky’s open forever; some kind of legal motion that locked it in government-funded perpetuity. Something starting with a petition to have it made into a historical landmark, which spiraled way out of control.
The point is, this junk heap is government-funded, somehow. And I love it.
Of course, I think Rosco still needs to make enough money to eat, so there’s a backroom lined with lock boxes, all available for rent — to people Rosco likes. Because that . . . is just the right amount of “shady.”
Step 6 — Add Some Regulars
No establishment is complete without regulars. Here are the first few ideas that come to mind:
- A tall man with a deep voice stands outside, hawking Rosco’s wares. He does this rarely and is even more rarely paid.
- When there is hawking, a much younger woman leans on the front of the shop, accompanying the large man’s cries with flute music. She seems to be a descendant of the shop’s original owner, begrudgingly attached to it.
- Two old men visit Lucky’s almost every day, setting up whatever ramshackle table is available, playing whatever old, broken games Lucky happens to have.
- Once a week, Mr. Olimpaie comes from Rainwater Archaic to browse for enchantments. He has never bought a single thing.
And, with that, Lucky’s is as finished as I dare to make it in the worldbuilding phase. I was going to add a “Give It Some History” step, but that actually worked itself out over the course of the build.
Anyway, thanks for joining me for this short bit of brainstorming! I hope you enjoyed!
To all of my regulars, thank you guys, once again, for reading. I’m not able to post every day, like I want to, but the site is still slowly building up a following, and that’s incredible. In the last few months, I’ve almost doubled my number of followers, and that support actually keeps me going. I’m not exaggerating — if not for you guys, it would be so hard to stay positive on the totally blind scale of writer self-doubt. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
But also, of course, thank you if this is your first time visiting. My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was published last year in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out–which means posting here every week, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting updates by email – a new post from me delivered right to your inbox – then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.
But, either way, thank you again just for stopping by. And, as always, write well.