Monday, May 11, 2015

H is for History

Getting back into the groove of posting weekly, I'm resuming the A-Z Blogging (previous entries can be found here). As this is the eighth in the series, we now come to the letter H.

I considered talking about hubris (pride) as a literary device, because I love seeing hubris used well as a driving force for change in the protagonist. As I thought about it, I started feeling called to do something different; something more in tune with my current projects.

That brings us to the title of today's post: H is for History. I wanted to take a moment and talk about the history of the setting in To Tread the Narrow Path. I've shared a timeline of the novella and its parts before, when I talked about Continuity, but today I'd like to share with you my process for crafting the back story of the novella. My reason for this is to talk about the concept of worldbuilding in general. How I came to craft this narrative and my methodology for discovering the history of my stories.

If you haven't bought the novella yet (why not?), you can always read the excerpts I've posted on this site. You can find them here, here, and here (in that order, mind you).

I've mentioned before that To Tread the Narrow Path is derived from a historical fiction short story I wrote about ten years ago. The basis of the story is set during the fall of the Japanese Imperium to the forces of the Shogunate. My main character was a loyal assassin seeking to restore the honor of his name and avenge his fallen master. When the story ended, I felt it calling out to me to continue the narrative, but I couldn't see where to take it because the events of history bound the characters and structure of the short.

Two years ago, I began a complete rewrite of the story and moved it to an other world setting. The narrative still held its ties and influences from Japanese culture and history, but took on a life of its own. I am very much a gardener type writer as opposed to the architect (although I have made some changes in my style). If you've never heard that phrase before, basically, I mean that I write as the story comes to me, I build the world as I see it. An architect, on the other hand, plans and plots. I tend to fall on the gardener side of the fence, but try to plan as much as my brain allows. This style has allowed me to discover the world of the novella through the eyes of my characters. After the events of the first section of the story, as Riean explored and grew into his own, I learned about the world. I discovered the history.

As the story grew beyond the short 7000 word seed, the history and world expanded as well. Some writers I've encountered believe that worldbuilding means that you have to plot and pinpoint every iota of detail of the history of your story. While that is great, (I'm actually using a similar style for Lighthouse on the Edge of Forever) and it works for some writers (GRRM for example), I'm trying to say that you don't have to do it for everything you write.

Sometimes worldbuilding feels overwhelming.
Sometimes, it's just nice to let the world grow as you are putting words on the page. I'm trying to let you know that it is perfectly okay to learn about your world while you are writing. You do not have to account for every speck of dust. It is perfectly okay to do that, but you do not have to. So many writers I meet feel trapped and enclosed by methods they learned. They feel that they have to be the architect or the gardener, but never both.

Well, I am here to tell you that you can have it both ways. On To Tread the Narrow Path, I have written it purely on "gardening." Letting the story unfold in my mind and letting the characters and world grow as I write. On the other hand, I have already plotted and outlined the first two book of my Lighthouse trilogy.

You can be both. You do not have to pick. Just write. However you choose to do it, just write.

#Justwriteit #writermeme

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Thanks for reading.


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