This post is about 600 words.
Seven years ago, I was shoveling my driveway for the third time in twenty-four hours. A blizzard was sweeping across the upper Midwest, making up for the lack of snow we’d had that season. I was happy for its arrival. The snow, not the blizzard.
My preferred method of winter transport. They smell bad on the outside.
I have a routine when clearing the driveway: first define the edges, then push the snow outwards from the middle. That day, it struck me as analogous to how I wrote fantasy fiction, which was different than the way I wrote everything else. I thought I needed to approach fantasy by rigidly defining all aspects of the world before filling in the storyline. I felt I needed to know the limitations of my realm, which really seems counter-intuitive for a story designed to exist completely outside our own reality. Here’s a quick list of the things I wanted to create first:
Races, political history, creation myths, alphabet and language, folklore, weapons, armor, architecture, landscapes and geography, clothing and fashion, fighting styles, music and poetry, racism, and heroic legends
That’s a monumental amount of detail to develop before the main character begins the Hero’s Journey. Even though some story ideas blossomed from this world-creation, I struggled getting to the serious writing before I’d defined every aspect of my new world. Until I’d found the edges.
“In my rewrite, this shop is on another street!”
That’s the real reason I never got far in my original fantasy novel. But man, oh man, I really enjoyed defining those things, which is part of the trap, right? It’s exhilarating to play god in your own little world, even if the devil is in the details. I might have put down 100,000 words on paper, but more than half were notes and definitions and guidelines and rules, rules, rules.
Consequently, I abandoned that epic fantasy novel, despite having created several maps, dozens of characters, and components of everything else on my aforementioned list. It was the right decision. It was too big for me and was going to get in the way of the rest of my life.
I knew I would eventually return to this world when I was ready. Continue reading