No matter how I approached the story, I couldn't get a handhold on it. It was like glass; mocking, sarcastic glass. The story that had seemed so promising just yesterday was rapidly drifting away from me, and I wasn't even sure why. I'd spent hours and hours sitting at the keyboard trying to get some supporting characters on paper. They wouldn't come out of their shadows. I fiddled around with some setting concepts, but nothing really felt right. It was all too generic. About the only productive thing I accomplished in two or three days of "planning" were some really impressive trick shots in Peggle Nights. Productive...
Then, in my real life, I had one of those pathetic, deus ex machina, "and then suddenly the problem was solved" plot twists that we writers are supposed to avoid like the plague. The solution to my problem popped fully formed, like a Greek god, right into my head. The characters wouldn't form up because I didn't have anywhere to put them - I needed my setting first. The settings I'd been trying on weren't satisfying to me because I already had a better one in mind. The story was going to take place, was meant to take place, couldn't take place anywhere else but
This was a world I'd created for my attempted NaNovel last year. (It's a good thing I took these pictures of it, actually, because when we moved this past February I forgot to take it down from the wall in the old apartment. It might well still sit there, confusing the lovely Chinese couple who probably live there now.) Last year's story was a very different animal from this year's papery beast, of course, but they both fit perfectly in the same world. Perfectly.
Last year's novel was set in Ergess. Nominally a constitutional monarchy, Ergess is actually ruled by a very politically active, polytheistic "state religion". A very expansionist state religion. This is in stark contrast to Olam.
My story does deal with an always feared and generally shunned religious order of assassins (they do thievery, spying and a number of other nasty things as well, but they are really famous for the assassinating). What better place to plop down their main temple than a city-state where the only truly important questions are "How much?" and "When can you deliver?" It is a perfect fit.
I am going to have to change Olam from a large country to a smaller (and more easily defended) city-state. I am also going to have to move it from where it is now, staring across the river at the
Now that I think about it, though, I may want to make some cultural adjustments to the
What actually does make this world perfect for my story is that it is a world that I've already built. The heavy lifting is already done. Realizing this gave me some very useful insight into myself as a writer. In particular, I learned two things:
- I am the kind of writer that needs to have a whole world built before he can get to know his characters or flesh out a plot.
- I am lazy.
(If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, go to www.nanowrimo.org/ and find out)