Every once in a while, you get this one project that makes you sit back and wonder “what the hell have I gotten myself into?” What started out as a simple attempt to make up a background story for a role-playing character has turned into an epic fantasy saga. The tentative length of this saga (as my very vague outlines dictate) is seven novels, and it’s demanding to be written.
The fact that the saga wants to be seven books long is not such a big deal. The difficult part here is that it’s fantasy, and when it’s seven books long, you have to know your world. Internal consistency is key to a successful fantasy series. The first draft of the book I wrote (which falls at number four) is set in a fairly generic fantasy setting. This can’t stand. It’s difficult to have internal consistency if you don’t know almost every last detail of your world.
So… For the last few days my efforts have been focused on world-building. Geography, religions, cultures, social structures, political systems, military hierarchies, rules of magic… It’s all enough to make me wonder how I’m going to write these books and finish my pre-med, much less medical school. Telling the story to wait, as many of you are aware, is not really an option. But future medical school aside, the task of building an entire new world is a daunting one.
I’ve decided to start with building the religion of the world. Maybe I should have started with geography, and maybe I’ll go back to geography before I finish the religion. However, I figure that if I can work out the creation myth and the subsequent mythology for this pseudo-medieval world of mine, the rest of the cultural stuff should fall into place. A fine example of a successful creation myth fabricated by an author is the first section of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. Perhaps I’m trying to write my Silmarillion here. (Which, technically, would bring the saga to eight books, but who’s counting right now?)
I am lucky to have said Tolkien book on my bookshelf as an example. I’m also very fortunate to have Joseph Campbell. For those of you unfamiliar with Campbell, he’s the mythologist whose Hero’s Journey inspired George Lucas in the crafting of Star Wars. More than that, however, he has a series called The Masks of God. This series has been invaluable in helping me research mythology and discover what elements are common to creation myths. I have nothing solid right now, but the vague ideas gleaned from my reading are beginning to percolate in the back of my mind. I have a feeling it won’t be too much longer before something begins to take shape.