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Burned all my notebooks...

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Ashor Olux, Oct 20, 2020.

  1. Ashor Olux

    Ashor Olux Acolyte

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    So I have been crafting a world, called Philo, for several years now. Yesterday I guess I got frustrated with it all. I had notes in four different notebooks. They were all scattered ideas as my concepts have evolved and shifted through many different characters and events and societal shifts. But I put them all in firepit and burned them all.

    So I guess I'm just wondering where to start now? And if anyone else has been this frustrated with their worlds or not.
     
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  2. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

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    Ouch. Trust me, you shouldn't have done that. You'll regret it later. Even if what you made sucked, you'll want to go back to it someday and see how much you've improved, or even to better your previous work.

    But, what's done is done. You can always try something new. If you're here, I'm guessing you're looking to start on a new project. Start with a simple idea. What interests you? What sort of stories do you like? Do you have a concept you want to explore? A character whose journey you want to follow?
     
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  3. Ashor Olux

    Ashor Olux Acolyte

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    Well that's the thing. I'm not really sure how I feel about destroying it all. On one level, it was great to be done with it. But on another, even as I watched it burn, I felt like I wasn't done with it. And even now, I don't think I am.

    Like I said, Philo (that was the world) went through a lot of iterations/phases/changes. But what pushed me over the edge was my newest idea. I thought that I could have this character, this hero figure/anti-hero figure, be this being who kind of unified the world. He was this kind of sinful savior type figure who went from innocent kid to soldier to warlord to peace maker to sacrifice. He was a destroyer of binaries (obliterating together life and death, war and peace, sinful and savior).

    And the reason I burned all the notebooks was because I thought I would have Ashor Olux (that was his name, hence my tag) be this kind of holy sacrifice on a tree (ala Odin/Jesus), but instead of just being pegged to a tree, he would be burnt as well. But I couldn't fit it all together. It all got too jumbled and too big. And I couldn't fit the pieces together. It felt too massive.
     
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  4. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Hopefully you feel liberated and free to go off in a new direction.
     
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  5. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I think I might get it. It sounds like you had a big chaotic mess of a world - which isn’t a problem, the world we live in can be accurately described as a “big chaotic mess” - but then you created this Ashor guy after the fact and tried to make him the central figure/keystone to this world but he didn’t fit. Like, he couldn’t unify the mess or bring order to that chaos.

    You took that as a problem with the world.
    To use a terrible analogy: you created a lock and then you made a key for it but the key didn’t fit so you threw away the lock.

    I guess I would suggest making a world specifically for Ashor since you seem enamored enough with him that you were willing to get rid of the setting for him rather than diminish his importance to it or throw him out entirely.
     
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  6. Eduardo Letavia

    Eduardo Letavia Minstrel

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    It's completely understandable that you feel that way, Ashor OluxAshor Olux . You've spent quite a bit of time exploring that world, right? Now, if you still feel that you have a story to tell from all that world building, I think this is your chance of making notes (yeah, again) but just about the things that truly stand out in your memory from all that work. Then give yourself some time far from this project, so your mind can regain a fresh look to it. And when you return to this project, think about the story you want to tell.

    So, my opinion is in the same train of thought as the one above by WooHooManWooHooMan , make the world work for your story and the characters in it, not the other way around. Most works of fantasy fiction don't really have worlds that make sense outside the scope of their stories. Of course, this doesn't mean that your world building shouldn't make sense by itself but, as you've already experienced, the world building process is time (and patience) consuming and can rot your stories inside your head. I know it because, well, I'm also stuck with a story I'm working on right now, which also has gone through quite a world building and conceptual evolution through the years, but I hope soon will come the time of its reckoning!

    PD: Next time don't burn the notes! Just lock them away for a while... They might surprise you later!
     
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  7. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Troubadour

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    I've never done anything as dramatic as burning them, but there are definitely notebooks that I have lost through moves that have...not the best info in them. But I'm also a bit of a digital hoarder so everything that I felt was really important (like maps n such) have been saved digitally. But I totally get what you're going through. My world/story/characters have changed a lot as I have grown and changed. A lot of my world buildings happens from the plot, as it creates questions that I then need to solve.

    Perhaps that's a good next step for you. I imagine that you want all this world building to go into some sort of story. Where did Ashor start his journey? What kind of person was he? What were his beliefs? What were the people like around him? Create that little corner of the world, that bit of culture and religion. As your story moves along and Ashor grows and changes, you can create more stuff to support that. He becomes a soldier, okay, what is the military like? What are the imports/exports of the country he fights for? Fights against? What war is this, and why is this happening? What's the relationship between the countries involved?

    It's really, really easy to fall into a bottomless pit of worldbuilding, where you're making more and more stuff about the world...but for what purpose? Are you just going to make a wiki and hope other people will care about it? Or do you want it to be in service of a story?I have ADHD so it's really easy for me to get distracted and figuring out really tiny details of my world instead of writing, so I've had to learn to be mindful of that and stop myself, to know what's necessary and what isn't. Knowing, say, the rough estimate of the hardness of steel vs some other material is important if someone is whacking their sword against it, but I don't need to know the exact numbers, or to math it out, or figure out what culture invented swords first. Just like how you don't need to know how your car works to take a taxi to the airport (or how the plane works for you to fly to another state). But knowing that cars go on flat surfaces is the relevant bit, maybe what it looks like inside the car if you need to describe it, like if your character is trying to look at everything in the car BUT the person they're talking to because there's some sort of drama going on between them and they can't face them.
     
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  8. Snowpoint

    Snowpoint Sage

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    I still have notebooks for middle school. (15 years) It can be neat to look back on. (my notebooks are all drawings, sketches)
     
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  9. Ashor Olux

    Ashor Olux Acolyte

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    Yes, Woohooman. (How do I tag you in a post like you did. I like that.) That's how I feel. I have Ashor, and he is supposed to bring some sense of order (though I don't know if it is complete order, or more an understanding of order and disorder as somehow one single entity) to Philo. But even as he does it, nobody understands it. Not even me. And I think that is what is most frustrating. He is doing it, he can do it. But nobody understands. I can't even understand.

    I think your point about the world as a whole as "a big chaotic mess" has made me understand something more than my story.

    Do you guys ever feel like you are crafting some fabrication of order on the real world? As if you are overlaying these fictional creations atop the madness of the real world? I think, perhaps, that's why I burned it all.

    And thank you Chase and Eduardo. Your advice is well appreciated!

    --Ashor
     
  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    I suspect that somewhere in the back of your brain you're teasing this tangle of a problem out, and I think you'll discover that you don't need those notebooks anymore. You need new notebooks.

    I suffer from pretty severe mental health issues. About 10 years ago, before I found Scribes, I had a total meltdown and tore up about 20 years' worth of work in about an hour. Binders and binders of drafts and notes and pictures and maps that were the basis of the urban fantasy world my writing team is currently working on. Later I managed to tape some things back together, but most of it was totaled.

    In the depths of committing literary seppuku I couldn't see it, but the fact of the matter was that clinging to those notes and ideas and worldbuilding was actually holding the project back. It couldn't breathe under the weight of all that paper. We rebuilt, and the story got better, richer, as we worked. I think, given some distance, that you will find yourself in a similar place. New ideas need room to grow. I'm not saying it's a good thing to routinely total a project, but if it was inhibiting you with its weight maybe it was for the best.
     
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  11. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Troubadour

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    There's two ways to look at this, I think. The world has a lot of problems: war, famine, systematic injustice. Does your world include all of those things, along with its own unique problems? In fantasy stories, you usually don't see characters dying of cancer, their families going bankrupt paying for their treatment, the indifference and cruelty of banks foreclosing on homes and making them homeless. Instead you see people fighting demons and evil wizards. The problems they face aren't the same as the ones we do, so in some ways these worlds are utopian.

    What are the themes of your story? How do those align with the problems in your world? The world of 2020 is a pretty crappy one in a lot of ways, and we don't need to show every one of those problems in our fiction.
     
  12. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I wasn’t talking about order and chaos in a metaphysical or in-universe sense. I meant like there was a lack of direction and structure to your writing process.
    And then Ashor was going to be the thing that gave your setting/story its direction but then he wasn’t up to snuff.
    That’s what I was getting at.

    To answer your string of questions about imposing art on reality: no. I think the real world is equal parts order and chaos, good and bad and I’m pretty ok with that. In fact, that’s how I like it.
    I think when people start asking themselves those questions, what they really seem to be saying, I think, is that they feel their lives lack order or direction or beauty or what have you and they believe that making art will impose that stuff onto their lives. Which is pretty legit.
    Or they’re just pretentious and think that “attempting to impose order on the chaos of reality” makes them feel like their work is more grand and meaningful than it really is. I think it’s healthier to see artistic endeavors as a self-expressive and self-bettering process.
     
  13. Ashor Olux

    Ashor Olux Acolyte

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    Thanks for sharing AE Lowan. It's good to know that others have done something similar. Misery loves company! And I think you are right about the destruction creating some more room for creation. That's what I meant earlier when I said that I felt ambivalent about it: like it was good to destroy it, but I know at the same time that it's not actually gone.

    I think I see what you mean Woohooman. If I'm understanding, you see art as a playful, self-conscious kind of imposing meaning upon reality. And some use that as a form of self-expression and self-betterment. And others use it narcissistically (what a word--took me three attempts to type that) as a naive attempt to order the world outside of their control?

    And Chase, to answer your question, the problem of this world is that the Prophets (the ruling class) believes that the Sangmaldra (a race beings that live across the sea and who have been mythicized into vampires though they are just humans) will return to Philo to enslave everyone. They arrived 100 years prior, but were driven out when the Therians (a group of people who live on the margins of Philo) came to the Philorians' aid. These people, too, have been "mythicized" in a sense, and the Prophets now (90+ years later) believe them to be shapeshifting animal-beings, and the key to protecting themselves form the coming Sangmaldrian invasion. Ashor is just a common kid who lives in Philo (he's not a Prophet) who gets caught up in a series of events which lead to a massacre of some of the Prophets by another group of Prophets, an uprising by the Therians (who are being enslaved and trained to defend the Philorians from the Sangmaldra), and the impending invasion of the Sangmaldra. He eventually is enlisted as a soldier (as the Therians are no longer a viable fighting force against the Sangmaldra), at which point, he begins to understand himself as a unifying savior figure by the Prophets who got massacred earlier on (they were massacred because they were seeking a peaceful resolution to the fear and paranoia of the Sandmaldrian invasion). Ashor is clandestinely groomed by some Prophets, and eventually he becomes the leader of this Philorian army, and as such, becomes a brutal warlord, which grates against his natural disposition. In time, as they march on Sangmaldra itself, he comes to realize that he is the savior figure prophecied earlier on, and he abandons his position as warlord, which, in turn, results in him being handed over to the Sangmaldra by his own soldiers, at which point, he is suspended from the Oblivion Tree (the Sangmaldrian point of worship), and has a bag placed over his head and is executed.

    Big breath. It actually seems to make a bit more sense than I thought it did before.

    So, with that conflict laid out, one of the major themes is that we (like Ashor) are often pulled along by forces beyond our control (social, political, cultural forces) and we attempt to give meaning to our own lives despite the fact that we often can note even control them. And this, then, gets back to Woohooman's ideas about what it means to impose order upon the world. Can Ashor do it? Can I do it? Can anyone do it? Is this story just my piss-poor attempt at imposing some sense of reality on... Philo? Or my own world? I think this is where I am confused.
     
  14. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I don’t know if “playful” is the word I’d use but art can be playful, I guess. Other than that, it seems like you’re reading me clearly.

    Anyways, it’s not like you only get to write one book in your entire life and that book must be your opus. Just write what you want to write and don’t stress about it too much. If it turns-out to not be as grand or as meaningful as you’d like, there’s always your next book.
     
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  15. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    Just this week I was listening to a Writing Excuses podcast episode on trunk novels (Writing Excuses 4.33: Trunk Novels) which relates to this.

    One of the things that struck a cord with me about them was that sometimes trunk novels are best left forgotten. As a writer (and worldbuilder) we grow and learn and improve. Something you have written 5 or 10 years ago will be a lot worse than something you create today. That is assuming you were a beginner 10 years ago of course. If you're Stephen King, then maybe not (though he's probably still learning, though just not at as fast a pace). They gave an example of a writer who published a novel and then later on released his trunk novels. And the reviews all remarked on the fact that he seemed to be getting worse as a writer, not better.

    The same thing goes for world building. If you've been doing it for years then you will have gotten a lot better. And then there is every chance that you're only being held back by something you created ages ago, which you later adapted and perhaps contradicted and so on. It can become a complete mess. And then it might just be better to start over with a clean slate.

    Also, your interests might have changed in the past few years. What you were excited about 5 years ago might be old and cliche now and you're excited about new themes and ideas. Another reason to simply forget about the past.

    There is a word of "warning" to add though.

    If you want to write novels and not just world build (only wanting to world build is perfectly fine by the way), then at some point you will simply have to stop world building and start writing. And discarding all your world building and starting over from scratch can be detrimental to that. Especially if it means you'll spend another 5 years world building and not writing.
     
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  16. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Troubadour

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    That's a philosophical question that you need to find the answer to on your own (or maybe with the help of a spirtual/theologian teacher of your choosing). There is a moment when the MC of my WIP decides that she's done with the plot, she doesn't care about this vague prophecy that is centered around her or the people who are trying to force her to fulfill it, so she runs away. But in doing so, she ends up running into the plot, things happen, and everyone belives she's done what she was fortold to do. In some ways its a relief, and in some ways its a let down, and it's all very reflective of my own beliefs on stuff like determinism/fate as well as social expectations and attachment. My spiritual beliefs and practice have helped me with some very difficult things and some of those things are precepts my characters learn or think about.

    When it comes to themes in books, there is no right or wrong answer. Not everyone is going to agree with you (I mean, look at Atlas Shrugged), and that's totally fine, you can never create a story that no one will not have a problem with in some way. But you need to figure out how prominent these themes will be in your story; even if you don't plan to, they can unintentionally show up just because of how your brain looks at and tackles problems. You don't have to have the answer, though, the theme can be "Is it possible to impose order upon the world?" but it's up to the reader to come up with an answer. Ashor can make the world into a utopia, but he might have to pay a terrible price for it. Maybe some places are great and others are terrible. Maybe the root causes or principles of magic require chaos and uncertainty to exist, so to create a world of order magic must be destroyed.

    Figuring out themes and making it consistent is best done when you're editing your story. But if you're just world building at this point, you don't need to figure it out right now. Just build the stuff you need to and write that first draft and you can figure it out later.
     
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  17. Ashor Olux

    Ashor Olux Acolyte

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    Thanks for all the input. I appreciate the feedback, especially with regard to the idea that I need to just start writing. I think that's what I need to do. I was overfocused on the world building and I was getting bogged down in details, as Chase mentioned. Creation through destruction. Perhaps that's what I needed.
     
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  18. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Yeah, fortunately for me, most of my notes are in my head, so if I burn those I don’t have anything to worry about.

    That said, in my past, I kept piles of stuff on drives that are now beyond obsolete and I haven’t opened in ages. The process of world building and writing can be a long one, and losing/destroying stuff can force a rethink that is positive, instead of the “notes are canon” bugaboo that I had when younger. Now! It’s not canon until it’s published, and I don’t do much at all with notes. But this might be why I can’t function in the real world, because the fake one dominates what remains of my functioning synapses.

    Except maps. Those are vital, but even those went through several rethinks until I spent about 2 years learning my mapping style in photoshop and reconfiguring the world. So, those are no longer up in the air.
     
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  19. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

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    I did something similar. I wrote a novel by hand (about 80,000 words) and then ripped it up and threw away all the notebooks. I never regretted it. I think the heart of the story remained with me, and some parts of the story were strong enough to find their way into the first novel I published. I don't regret losing the rest, despite the years of work I put into it. Actually, all the work just strengthened my writing, so nothing to regret.

    I don't routinely recommend chucking everything away, but sometimes it's healthy and can lead to growth. From what you've said, I think this may be true for you too.
     
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  20. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    I haven't been frustrated with my own creation but very much so with my surrounding's hysteria over what I want to write.

    If you feel like you describe then perhpas it was a good thing to break up from this creation and move on. As much as it might pain you, there's something for simply break off from your current doings and do something else.

    The balance, or so I think, is between not being a quitter but not bang your head against a wall until the head breaks, either.
     
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