Passing 50,000 words is the halfway mark in the current writing project, a milestone that gives me the imperative to get cracking.
Worldbuilding sits behind fantasy writing – creating credible, logical environments for the characters’ journeys. Jaysin has come from the Harbin dragonwarrior world, lived for three years in the Machutzkan city, and now ventures into the Kermakkian Empire. The three societies have different languages, culture, beliefs, practices. I have made the Machutzkan and Kermakkian languages similarly aligned in that Machutzka is a city of refugees from the Kermakkian Empire whose language has become a working dialect over time.
As a once-avid D&D player, the language barriers broken by the implementation of a Common language in the game sometimes irritated me, although in DM roles I made certain language barriers were commonplace. Where a common language does transfer across cultures – as in the case of English in this world – it is almost always by necessity for commerce/trade. For the world I am creating in The Last Wizard saga, I am also creating potentially up to six languages (if I include dragon) and that means not only generating sound combinations and words but also grammar – “Not easy it is” (said in Yoda-ese) – as we know is true for the differences between Romance languages and Germanic languages and so on. Jaysin, adept and intelligent, can learn languages with reasonable ease, but he learns also that language has dialects and nuances that a mere memorisation of words and phrases and grammar does not capture in everyday communication, and that can lead to misunderstandings.
A long time ago, when I first read Feist’s Magician, before I ever read Tolkien’s books, the cultural gaps created between two worlds revealed to me that I need to be aware of the same gaps when I write.
Yesterday and today, for example, I had to work back through the manuscript to establish a religious practice in the Kermakkian Empire that Jaysin slowly comes to recognise as he searched for his brother. The Kermakkian population, totally misogynistic in religious practices, are Men of the Faith, following One True God – He Who Cannot be Named – and they perform a prayer ritual twice a day at sunrise and sunset. Once a ‘week’, the men spend a day in prayer, called Shebaal, and that is the only day women and children can be on the streets and in the markets. That’s a quick example of building culture in a society for the story. There’s a lot more going on.
To keep track of the cultural build, I keep notes. Some notes are developed before writing, but many are built as the story demands. Political structures I often build before I begin because they dictate possibilities. Trade and commercial infrastructure, travel and transport all have to be noted and accounted for as the tale builds.
The snapshots with this blog are quick examples of notes and sketches I complete as I build the world and the story. Sadly, much of the information seldom makes it into the final novel, or is created to ensure a paragraph or character comment is not contradicted at another point. But it is essential, nevertheless.
So, the above is a little ramble about what goes on in the background of writing a fantasy story.
A quick update this week…
Bridging chapters – it’s a term I use for chapters that connect one set of important events to the next. For example, a character may have been captured and imprisoned in a chapter on the way to completing an important mission. In order to connect the imprisonment with a return to the mission, a bridging chapter – the escape – is necessary.
This past week has been devoted to completing a bridging chapter in Jaysin’s Song. In trying to reach his brother, Chasse, who it seems has been captured by the Kermakkians, Jaysin is also caught and sold into slavery. In order to find his brother, first he has to escape.
Bridging chapters often introduce new minor characters who provide ‘help’ to the main character. These characters can have once-off appearances in the story, or may later reappear because of the relationship they briefly establish with the main character. Bridging chapters also provide opportunities to have the central character reflect on why he/she is doing what he/she is doing. The trap with bridging chapters is they can become mundane if they keep the reader too far from the main plot or the main character is too ‘trapped’ in their situation.
This particular chapter presented several challenges. The first was how to enable Jaysin to free his hands in order to escape. The second was how to enable Jaysin to escape a town overrun by the enemy. The third was how to deal with certain injuries Jaysin receives in trying to escape. Creating the moments in such a way as to allow logic to be present is always satisfying when they come together believably (within a fantasy context at least). I think I’ve managed that.
Completing this bridging chapter brings the project to 45,000 words, and moves events back onto the main plotline.
On a different note, this week provided two inspiring moments for me. One was finding four of my novels sitting at the front of a second-hand book shop – nice promotion. The second were two emails; a complimentary one from a country student who has just finished reading Caught in the Headlights – the second from a reader of the Amber Quatrology who wanted to share how much she enjoyed the series. In recent years, I’ve seen myself as a ‘forgotten writer’ because it’s been so long since I published in mainstream, so the occasional fan mail reminds me that what I’ve written has entertained or touched people. That is the nicest feeling. It’s been a good week.
Writing is my passion. Ideas, opinions, beliefs, experiences expressed through language - through words and images - pervade and create my life. Writing is my voice, my soul, my self. My dream is one day writing will sustain my life...