Crafting the Unseen
I’ve been asked recently about my Unseen Chronicles, a series of books debuting as fantasy/dark fantasy in the style of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Oz series. Mostly about the origins of the concept and the world itself. I didn’t realize how complex these books may seem to someone coming into them like newborn fauns stumbling over the brush but here we are…and I’m going to try to explain some things as best as I can. The thing about being a writer is that sometimes you get knee deep in your own head canons and you forget everything that needs to be said. The books do explain a lot but there’s some history into their development that is pretty cool, I think
Step One: Get a goddamn clue
The problem with the Unseen is its density. It took me eight years to build a world that fit, and for four of those years I procrastinated heavily. I’m a bit for a mythology and folklore nerd so I knew that I wanted to build a world that fit what I wanted to do. Which was, in essence, to create an alternative parallel world that had some of the same features as our world but with key differences, I needed to research everything that had to be done. Creatures, gods, immortals, etc all had to be balanced. I had to create reasons that made sense for everything. For example, why in book one there are so few female magical beings (at first), and it stems down to the patriarchal society dominating the matriarchal for certain things, stifling it deliberately out of fear. When crafting a series of this magnitude, things can’t just be willy-nilly.
So here’s what I did:
- I made up individual histories for each character. Many of these histories are written down on paper while many are also up in my head. I dread if I ever suffer a memory lapse. Everyone from Meg Thorne to The Queen Of the Urchins gets a backstory, even if it is only a page outline or so.
- Every character serves a purpose, even if it isn’t obvious at first. The purpose has to drive the story forward or it has no reason to be there. I’ve amalgamated entire families into one character in order to make something work without overloading the story with side characters.
- The setting has to fit the bill. So, in this case, I drafted up a world that is designed to challenge the protagonist at every step. I based my city on several real world cities, such as Cork City in Ireland, Edinburgh in Scotland, and London Ontario. These are hodgepodges and eclectic settings for various reasons, such as architecture and history.
- Decide on who is telling the story. In the case of these books, it is written in the Meg Thorne limited third person perspective (at first), because through her we learn about the world. I like using this device for extensive fantasy worlds. It creates an affinity in the reader as well in such a large expansive world.
The one thing I did not do was anticipate that the story A Twisted Faire is actually a prequel. I had given it no thought, just treated it as a separate story. But by the time I got to the third book, it became clear it belonged. Oops. Stuff like that can happen between books I suppose, though it was my first experience with it.
Step Two: Be Brave
This is a big one and…hard to admit. Part of my hesitation was being told ‘this will never be good’ and ‘its too fresh a plot line to run with’. So I shelved the story for four years. I let it sit and fester and plague me. I worked on my histories and didn’t write Meg Thorne’s story at all though she begged me to write her. Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic talks about how some ideas will wander away from you when you don’t play with them. I was very lucky that the Unseen did not LET me walk away from it. It stuck in the back of my head as I played with it and let it bubble around in my brain.
The problem was that people had set in my brain that this story just couldn’t be written. But I wanted to write it. So I took a complex plot and broke it into smaller, bite-sized fragments, centering it around a young woman in her late twenties who is just as special as her outlook on life. By letting myself play in the world a little more before writing it, I knew who certain characters were and how they’d interact. (though I admit, when I first wrote Bran HuMun and Meg Thorne together, even I didn’t see that coming).
There’s no problem with letting an idea sit and brew for a while. It can make it much richer.
But there is a problem in letting other people keep you from writing what you know is going to be fun to write.
I’ll write a couple posts on the Unseen and what it’s taught me. It’s just fun to get some thoughts out in the open 🙂 . If you’d like to see a specific post about a certain topic, just let me know!