As it currently stands, I have written 15,000 words of a high fantasy novel, and a plot is somewhere on the horizon.
One of the main appeals of Fantasy and Sci-fi stories is the fact that many of them take place in original, fleshed-out worlds and environments. There’s no doubt about it being one of the main draws. I would be much less interested in the world of Star Wars or A Song of Ice and Fire if I didn’t know the exact anatomy of the sarlaac, or knew the exact political and sexual orientation of a minor character who will never be mentioned again. It’s all part of the charm that has caused me to fall in love with these series.
People wrote this.
So yes, a well-developed universe is one of the funnest things to read about in a fantasy series, and believe me, it’s one of the funnest things to come up with for a fantasy series. But despite that: Oh holy hell is it a pain to write.
Thing is, if a fantasy universe is detailed out (and I like them detailed), with religions, cultures, political systems all at the very least touched on, that leaves a metric fuckton of information to get out.
Why thank you, shirt.
And as fun as all that information can be to come up with, getting it out there without providing your reader with nothing but a vast information dump which is never going to stick. The exposition and background to the story must be brought out naturally. Let’s take a look at this example, from the first chapter of A Game Of Thrones:
They set forth at daybreak to see a man beheaded, twenty in all, and Bran rode among them, nervous with excitement. This was the first time he had been deemed old enough to go with his lord father and his brother’s to see the king’s justice done. It was the ninth year of summer, and the seventh of Bran’s life.
The man had been taken outside a small holdfast in the hills. Robb thought he was a wildling, his sword sworn to Mance Rayder, the King-beyond-the-Wall. It made Bran’s skin prickle to think of it. He remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves.
Okay, so from that we can see that this passage does a pretty good job at getting information out to the reader in a natural way. From just those two paragraphs, the reader learns a little of some of the major characters within the series (Bran, his lord father Eddard), the cultural standards of the universe (taking a seven year old to see a beheading), a little bit of political background (The Wildlings, the King-beyond-the-Wall) and even one of the main “Quirks” of the series, that being the seasons can last for years, and all of this is told through a fairly natural framing device, the Point-of-view of a seven year old boy. Of course, it doesn’t explain anything (the reader will be confused as to what “The Wall” is, but it leaves room for further information to be elaborated on.
Now, brace yourselves, and let’s take a look at a passage from the first draft of ym novel’s Prologue chapter.
Abner shifted in his chair. He could barely make out a thing in the dimly lit chambers of High Inquisitor Ezra, but dammit, he could feel those eyes, observing his every movement. Every man was a guilty one to the High Inquisitor, and Abner was no different. It didn’t help that he was born into a crooked home, and lived a life of crime in his early years. It was then that he had earned his nickname, Abner Arm-breaker, for reasons known to most. Even now, he kept the same impressive upper body strength which made him so feared, something which proved very helpful when he made his turn to the more lawful way of life. He remembered how badly he wanted to change his own lot in life, and the lives of others, and to clean up the city he would always call his home. In his eyes, he had accomplished the first two of those objectives. And now this man could take that all away from me.
The narcissist within me would love to say that “this is perfect” and “I’m awesome” and “Where’s my tv show deal, HBO?” but the objective critic within me recognizes that this passage is plenty flawed. Sure, the framing device is fine, being the Point-of-view of a specific character, all information on page is that which is known to that specific character. Despite this, it doesn’t feel natural in the way the information is being put across, either giving an unnecessary information dump or being far too vague. There is basically no explanation as to what exactly the “High Inquisitor” is, but it didn’t feel natural to explain it on the page, as there is no reason for the point of view character to relay information that is perfectly well known to him and many other characters within the universe, regardless of how little the reader knows. It’s a terrifying double-edged sword, where one way or another, I find myself sacrificing some kind of integrity within the text unless I get the balance absolutely right.
So yeah, Universe building is fun to do, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most difficult parts of the fantasy writing process. That, and creating interesting, sympathetic characters. Which reminds me… Stay tuned for Volume 2: ALL MY CHARACTERS ARE ASSHOLES.
I decided to make a Bioshock themed Monopoly. It’s a work in progress but I think I have the board pretty much done. I am also looking for some critiques.
There have been two great epic-scale adventures of the post War era: The fall of the Soviet empire and the Apollo program. Neither of them has gotten a great movie yet.
The Apollo program was the only truly uncharted adventure of our time. Where anything at all could have happened. Since then all we’ve had is manufactured thrills. And fought each other.
For those of us who weren’t born in 1969, today was the one day in your life that will always be in the history books. Armstrong was, one must say, the most famous person on the planet. 1000 years from now Barak Obama and Mitt Romney, Brad Pitt, the Kardashians, Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, Beyonce and Britney and every single person with a Twitter account no matter how many followers will have been forgotten, but still every school child will know Neil Armstrong’s name along with Columbus, Galileo and one or two others.
And he maintained it without Tweeting, blogging, podcasting, starting a fragrance line or starring in a reality show. He did a handful of interviews over the 40 years since Apollo, and that is it. No building his brand or thinking of other ways he could exploit his accomplishment. He did something absolutely unimaginable, at total risk before the eyes of the world, broke through our sense of the limitations of mankind, then he went to Ohio and taught math. What he did was left to stand on its own, without layer upon layer of grossness piled on top of it.
Someday, we may see another of his kind. But we’re not probably not anytime soon.
I have not watched any of the Olympics. Not a single event. Not even the opening ceremony. Instead, I have taken to re-watching Arrested Development. Suffice it to say, I have no regrets. However, seeing as I don’t know the results to any of the events, I have taken it upon myself to make up my own.
- It was revealed that Michael Phelps was secretly a Cylon, explaining how he was able to win so m
- The diving competition ended in disaster when it turned out that one of the budget cuts taken by the Olympic committee was removing the pool of any water.
- In a surprise turning, Boris Johnson won the gold medal in Table Tennis. Boris, believing this granted him authority over the sport itself, demanded that table tennis be reverted to it’s original name, ‘Wiff-Waff’. Confused, the committee had no choice but to cave in to his demands.
- The Gold Medal for the gymnastics went to the guy in the audience who did the greatest job of hiding his erection.
- Usain Bolt managed to set another world record in the 100m dash, this time travelling at such a speed that once he crossed the finish line, he vanished in a flash of light. He returned several seconds later a much older man, carrying with him from the future a pair of Nike self-tying shoes, a hoverboard, and a Grays Sports Almanac which unfortunately for all the gamblers in the audience, turned out to only cover events from 1950-2000, making it virtually useless. Bolt was booed out of the arena as a result.
- In the relay race, the North Korean team, realizing they were no longer in North Korea, just kept running. And they never looked back.
The Legend goes that if you say Gabe Newell’s name three times, he doesn’t appear.