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Not sure where to go with this...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Dr Steve Brule, Feb 13, 2017.

  1. Dr Steve Brule

    Dr Steve Brule Dreamer

    Aside from the introduction, this will be my first post. I have been creating my own world/universe for many years now, crafting and tweaking it constantly. I never originally intended to want to publish, I enjoy creating for the sake of pure imagination. Now I am a bit of a nerd for history,it was my favorite subject all throughout school and I still enjoy reading historical texts and books. I'm also the kind of person who would rather go on the forgotten realms wiki and read all the articles and pages rather than the actual forgotten realms books. I don't know why, I guess it is just my preference.

    So the problem I am faced with is that I have the intention of writing my book not as a single story or tale, but as a complete history book of my universe; telling the progression of civilization and important events through various main characters in time. I relate this to the fantastic Silmarillion by Tolkien.

    I have spoken with my friends in my D&D group and they suggested to just make a plot around one character and then through interaction in the world, culture, religions etc. everything can be made known or shown to the reader. Which honestly is something I wouldn't like to do.

    What I have created so far is basically starting with the creation of all things and going through centuries and centuries of lore, which in turn leads to the creation of mankind, other races, realms, gods, and so on. With such a vast expansion of time, I feel torn picking just one place and stay there.

    I believe that I am the type that loves the setting and the world over plot and characters, which i understand is a minority opinion. This also contradicts the favored "show don't tell". Do you think that such a book would find publication or would this be a project I would have to self publish? Do you personally think this is a good idea or not, and why? I'm eager to progress my writing but can't make up my mind on this and feel like it is a huge roadblock making it harder to make progress forward.
    Alyssa likes this.
  2. More than half of my 133 paged book is mostly unnecessary backstory, including a full dictionary of a language I made up. I would probably read your book and like it a lot, but I'm not sure if other people would.
  3. Alyssa

    Alyssa Troubadour

    I suspect such a project would be extremely difficult to publish traditionally, and also difficult to sell online.

    You're equating two somewhat different things. The Silmarillion and your history of Your Universe. Superficially they'll not be that different. However, Silmarillion was published almost 20 years after LOTR. After the world had developed an emotional connection with the characters and the world they inhabited. I will probably be burnt at the stake for heresy if I say this, but without LOTR, the Silmarillion might never have been published. It's because the characters drew them into the world that they decided to learn more.

    Take the biggest lore project around. Wookiepedia, the Star Wars wiki. Very few people will go deep into the lore without having watched the movies. I can't imagine anyone looking up Marka Ragnos without first having seen Darth Vader borrowing one of Hillary Clinton's pantsuits (I'm sorry, but despite whatever else is going for her, Hillary has no sense of fashion) on the big screen.

    Readers are primarily interested in characters and conflict. They may develop secondary interests in the lore and the world but this is only brought around to reasonable levels by becoming invested in a character driven story first. In brief, it's unlikely many people will be interested in trying to learn more about a world that hasn't taken a trial by fire through its characters.

    If you want to get your book of lore published traditionally, go the Tolkien route. Choose the most interesting story and make relatable characters people will be invested in. Introduce them to your world through them, and once you have them hooked then offer them more of it. But it will be extremely difficult to publish a book of lore without some continuous character throughout that the reader is interested in, unless you've already got them hooked on the world through your character.
  4. What if you tell the story from the perspective of a divine being or some benevolent spirit watching the world unfold around them?
    Alyssa likes this.
  5. Alyssa

    Alyssa Troubadour

    A very good idea. Just make sure the divine being/benevolent spirit is tried, challenged and tested in some way. Conflict keeps the reader coming back.
  6. Dr Steve Brule

    Dr Steve Brule Dreamer

    Very good points and yes I do agree with you that the Silmarillion wouldn't have sold if not for the lotr trilogy (maybe the hobbit?)

    I also think my idea is comparable to how the Holy Bible is set up. Where the whole book is the Bible but it is comprised of individual "books" or in my case chapters, and in those it tells the story of a specific event in time around central characters and then it goes into the next book which could be anywhere from a few days to hundreds of years later, but still moving the timeline forward.

    It's tough because this is how I want to write but I know it is not going to be a popular appeal.
  7. ^^Maybe wars or conflicts are fought over whether the being actually exists, and the being tries to help stop the bloodshed, but can only do so in discrete ways [guiding a certain person to go to a certain place, to have events unfold by fate?]
  8. Alyssa

    Alyssa Troubadour

    If you're willing, you can find a compromise. Make a family, descended from the gods. You start with the gods and their battles against primordial chaos. Their quests, victories and defeats. You pick one god (not the main one) who you focus on. You go through an age, and this god being a promiscuous Zeus like figure has managed to rape his way through half of mainland greece/Your-Universe. He has a magical super-special son/daughter who picks up the narrative baton for their specific age-defining conflict. And it goes on and on like that. With the next generation picking up the baton. Focused on the character and their place in the greater lore of your universe. Do a book on each character. Starting from the middle/most-exciting-point and working outwards to the beginning and the end of time.
  9. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

    As a High and Epic fantasy author and reader... This is a concept that I would find boring and would never willingly write. Divinity doesn't name for any conflict. At all. Without conflict, your novel dies.
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    First, write it. Don't worry about any of the rest of it for now. As you start writing, you'll also be learning about the business. Keep reading articles, joining forums, being part of the community. Eventually, you may decide your first approach really didn't work. Or, you'll stay with it, finish it. By that time, the publishing realm will have evolved again. For a large project, to decide how to publish, it's better to wait when you're closer to done than you are to begun.
    Alyssa likes this.
  11. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    It's true that The Silmarillion would not have published without LOTR. (Tolkien tried to pitch it to his publisher even while they kept telling him they wanted another Hobbit.) However, that does not mean that no readers would have been interested in it. Just not enough readers to make it worthwhile to traditional publishing.

    This is definitely going to be a niche project. And it will probably take a lot of work to market it successfully to the right kinds of readers. Definitely a self-publishing project. But if this is where your passion lies, you should pursue it. There are readers who will eat this kind of thing up. (Like me. The Sil is my favorite of Tolkien's works.)

    Instead of trying to focus on certain characters or places in your world, you could try to find a thematic or emotional thread running through your history and focus on that. Much the way the Bible is not really an objective history and focuses on the relationship between God and his people. Or the Silmarillion focuses on the story of the Silmarils.

    But I agree with skip. For now you should just focus on writing it the way you want to and then think in more depth about this kind of thing while editing.
    Alyssa likes this.
  12. SergeiMeranov

    SergeiMeranov Scribe

    I agree and join with the entirety of what Alyssa said.

    Stories are about character transition, conflict, and forward progression. What you've described is an anthology or encyclopedia. That doesn't mean it won't be well thought out, well written, or anything like that but it certainly doesn't sound like a story and before a reader is going to invest time into what is essentially a giant backstory dump, they need to first be invested in the world for which they're getting backstory. If the original Star Wars movies didn't exist and we didn't have a personal connection to the Empire, the Dark Side, the Jedi, etc. then learning the backstory of the Jedi order would be somewhat snore inducing. You mentioned the forgotten realms wiki and the Simarillion by Tolkein and I think those are apt examples, but as Alyssa pointed out we need to know the "so what" before we learn the history. Why do I care about this world at all? So you have gods and they do stuff, so what? The reader is going to need some reason to seek out your world and your history over the literally thousands of other worlds out there. Sure some of that is going to just come down to it perhaps being more well written than other worlds and backstories but that won't be enough to carry it completely. I'm a reader and writer that loves world building. I love it way more than is healthy for the progression of my stories. That being said, if someone sat me down and said, "Do you want to hear the glorious tales of the planet X?" I'd probably say no because why would I want to? I mean, maybe it'd be neat, but maybe it'd be awful. I need some tale or something to draw me in to the world first.

    In terms of drawing people in, is there a reason that you're not focusing on for example the tale of a myth as the premise for a story ala the epic of gilgamesh or Beowulf? Certainly in crafting this world of gods and nations and so forth I'm sure you've come up with something, so why not focus on that to get the reader interested and wanting to know more? For example, if your world was created by the All-Father out of nothingness and he created the planet as it was and the pantheon of Gods and then the nations of men then what started the first war? Do all nations agree on how war came about in the world? Do they all worship the same gods? Why or why not? What stories do they have about their own founding and why? Who are their heroes? How'd they get famous? Why not tell their story? The answers to those questions are the sort of thing that is a line in a history book/encyclopedia, but could turn into a full-fleshed story of its own. If your world has a nation that was founded by some ancient general in a feat of glorious conquest make a story about how he did it. Did he struggle? What did the nations he conquered write about him? I've kind of hammered this a bit, but my point is that if you truly have a fully fleshed out history then it should be brimming with stories to tell about the people that have come and gone. A good source of inspiration might be the AAR forums for Crusader Kings 1 and 2 or Europa Universalis 1-4 on the Paradox Interactive forums. They provide good examples of people taking basic "historical" facts from a historical simulation video game and turning them into entertaining stories. May help you find inspiration for your project. Forums available here.

    Additionally, I think you're definitely looking at a self-publishing route, which is fine if you just want to see your words in print and your name of the cover. That's a perfectly reasonable and legitimate goal. If your goal is to go the traditional publishing route, and I say this having never been published so perhaps take it with a grain of salt, I would find that extremely difficult and unlikely. It also doesn't strike me as something that will be a large commercial success if that's your goal. Again, not because the writing isn't going to be good necessarily, but because readers will need a reason to want to learn more about your world.
    Alyssa likes this.
  13. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Actually, a story (or narrative) is "any report of connected events, real or imaginary, presented in a sequence". The operative part of a story is that it relates connected events. All that other stuff is just embellishment.
  14. Russ

    Russ Istar

    As you describe it, this is not something a traditional publisher would buy.

    Nor do I think there would be very much of a self-publishing market for it.

    So it is a project of your passion, or what we used to call a vanity project. Just undertake it knowing that it likely will not be a venture that makes you much, if any money, and it might also end up being read by a very small circle of people when it gets done. If that satisfies you, get to work on it.

    Personally, if you have writing skill and understand people, I think this could be done better as family saga or a series of proper novels in the same setting. And if you study history you likely have a good understanding of people which could help you write character.

    You can consider doing whatever kind of project appeals to you, you just should be honest with yourself about the work involved and where it will take you.
  15. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    You could consider publishing and marketing your material as a role-playing game (rpg) world setting. Gamers love having tons and tons of setting material for their games. They often don't want stories to go with the settings, as they will make up their own stories. They simply want the info dumps, the more the better. You could check out some existing rpg settings to see what they do. Some publishers include "game stats" for a specific rpg as part of the published setting, but others go a more generic route that allows their settings to be used with any rpg. Check out DriveThruRPG.com - The Largest RPG Download Store! for ideas. You'll see there is a thriving market for this type of material.
    Alyssa likes this.
  16. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    The way I see it working where a divine being watches, if if the reader assists that divine being and makes the choices for them, and their choices determines how fate unravels. So there would be several scenarios for each choice. Or you could do a story that questions free will against the deity guiding towards a predetermined fate. The culpability of a passive deity. The internal struggle of a deity who chooses passivity, it's purpose, it's prepared afterlife for mortals, how dead mortals interact with the deity, where it comes from and why, what is the purpose of life, or creation, the list of interesting topics is potentially very long indeed. Instead of a straight fantasy version of the Bible, which wouldn't work as the Bible exists to preach not entertain, it could be a deconstruction of a holy book format.
  17. ^that sounds quite fascinating!
  18. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I'd go a different route. I don't like reading history books, but I might read a historical novel.

    I'd suggest using two approaches. The first is a connected series of stories - they don't have to be novels, novellas or short stories could work just as well. The important thing is that each is a complete story on its own, but is connected to the others by some obvious link. That could be as was suggested a family connection - father to son to grandson etc. Or something esoteric - a talisman passed down so that it becomes the sequence of stories by holders of the talismen. Your back story / history then gives the bacground / world build you want without making it a book about a world build with no real story.

    The other thing I personally quite like in books and films etc, are asides. Little short pieces in the middle of stories that serve to illustrate just one small point. If you were going for humour you could think of something like the asides in Hitchikers, eg the babelfish, or vogon poetry. In space opera the asides put in as quotes in the Andromeda series which actually serve as flavour for the universe.

    As to publishing, I'd worry less about that at the moment and concentrate on writing the story.

    Cheers, Greg.
  19. Seph

    Seph Acolyte

    Have you ever read or heard of Sarum by Edward Rutherford? Perhaps you could tell the story of a family through time or several families that entwine over time (kind of similar to Ken Follett works).
  20. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Short stories.

    For a long while - as in decades - I had pretty much what you describe: a detailed set of worlds, not many stories, most not finished. Then I came here.

    I entered a writing challenge ('Challenges' sub-forum) in which we wrote stories based on a set of four prompts. What I did was look at the history and geography of my world, identify a situation that fit at least some of the prompts, and then write a story from there. I wrote a good two dozen stories for these challenges, the dominant one being the now defunct 'Iron Pen.'

    Last year, I resurrected 'Iron Pen' under the title 'Top Scribe.' It is back this year after a holiday hiatus.

    One thing I can tell you: regardless of how detailed you believe your worldbuilding is, there are gaps. Gaps you are unlikely to discover until you start writing. The short stories I wrote for those challenges fleshed out my world. They also gave me the skills and discipline required for longer tales.
    psychotick likes this.

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