Here’s the only thing I will say about the last two months: my family and I, while safe and employed, have had a stressful spring for many of the same reasons as… well, the rest of the world. For me, during this time of uncertainty, self-care was spending my leisure time not writing.
But I feel almost ready to create again, as evidenced by the return of an epic fantasy idea I had put in the percolator over a year ago. I thought for sure that it wouldn’t be ready for development for at least a few more years, but it kept pestering me all these long weeks whilst I was doing my best to keep my brainspace engaged elsewhere. So, I figured since I wasn’t quite ready to dive back into my actual WIP (I still haven’t given up on Border Towns honestly), why not indulge my worst impulse:
Okay, I’m actually really bad at worldbuilding. I find the process to be kind of tedious and my best ideas tend to come when I’m mid-draft. But… unlike most of my other project ideas, this Epic Fantasy will not make it to draft without doing a lot of heavy lifting beforehand. I know this. That’s why I left it alone in the back of my mind as a seed, hoping the ideas would flower in my subconscious on their own.
But here we are.
So, how does someone who doesn’t know how to worldbuild worldbuild?
I started with Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator. I plugged in some few parameters I felt certain I wanted and clicked new map. Then I clicked it again. And again. And again. You get the idea. After about two hours of playing with the settings and saving a few images that I liked, I generated a map that immediately spoke to me. An island off to the west of the main continent was controlled by two major nations. The borders made it look like the larger was a monster that was eating the smaller.
It fit perfectly with a conflict that would serve as one of the POV character’s arcs. I knew this map would be the perfect springboard. I took a long hard look at the map as a whole and wrote down any idea that came to me. That day was the most I’d felt creative since my state shut down in March.
A few days later, I was sitting at my desk at my day job when I realized THIS CERTAIN THING would be the perfect theme or at least a cool bit of flavor to tie my story around. Again, I pulled out my notebook and furiously scribbled notes.
Not long after that I was looking at a wikipedia page of cryptids and read about one I’d never heard of. Then A BOLT OF LIGHTNING. The lore inspired me to create an entire humanoid race based on it. And then… why not do another based on this other one? And another? Once more I made sure I preserved my ideas for posterity in my trusty notebook.
Now here’s a cold hard truth: 90% of these ideas will never get used. Either they are blatant rip offs of other media, they don’t jive with each other or the story I’m trying to tell, or they just flat out suck. But that’s okay. For every bad idea that I write down I’m allowing myself to explore an avenue of thought I hadn’t before, and though it may eventually get rejected, it might open up new lines of thinking. In this way I can generate new ideas in the same way I do when I am drafting.
This epic fantasy, which I have code named Minor Arcana, still has a long ass way to go before I’m ready to outline. I mean… probably a year or more of worldbuilding and percolating. But for the first time I’m actually enjoying this process. Without the (admittedly, entirely internal) pressure of actually getting started on the writing to weigh on me, I can take my time to develop crap ideas and not feel like a total failure about them.
That’s all from me this week. As, I’m sure, we all are, I am still adjusting to the “new normal” around here, so while I can’t promise weekly blog posts I can say that I will try.
Until next time, friends. May your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.