In the beginning, the Dream was fragmented. It existed as detached locales floating amidst the phantasmal mists of imagination. In the earliest days of our writing, Narcisse and I spun wild character driven tales. Vibrant, complex characters that lived fantastic lives filled with a dizzying array of obstacles and challenges. Their world was as spontaneous as their journey.
Obviously locations were needed, the scene must be set! At first it might be a snow-bound cabin high in the mountains, or a fabulous apartment with a rather unsettling bathroom. As time passed, our collection of invented locales amassed. For once a place was created it existed from that point onward. Continuity is critical after all!
Drawn from our imagination exotic settings were born with fabulous names such as Villa Acantha, Vilecrest and Calliphokos. These early landscapes were vivid backgrounds for the story and characters. We lovingly described columns and facades, flowers and fragrances, silverware and tapestries until we knew them as well as our own homes. We knew what vintages were in the Villa’s wine cellar, what stone was used to create the garden’s fountain and the prevalent weather!
However, as detailed as the places were, Narcisse and I were primarily focused upon our characters and their exploits. As a result, we never really considered the bigger ‘where’ of it all. We had created a bunch of incredible sets and detailed soundstages but had no world to connect them into a cohesive whole.
Then one magic night, Ravensrook materialized like a bolt of pure creative lightning. That magnificent tower spontaneously erupted into our story, gripping our imagination with such dark majesty that we literally stopped writing about Khajj and Dhatura. Instead, Narcisse and I eagerly took to exploring Ravensrook’s ominous halls. Ravensrook, the iconic home of the formidable Daemon Lord Khalibane! From the outset, it demanded details beyond the immediate. It started with the shadowed Ebon Throne, crafted of shadow and obsidian. From there we swiftly began to build – the Obsidian Gateway, the Resplendent Cloister, the Stairwell of Crowns, the Whispering Caverns and more.
Mesmerized, Narcisse and I journeyed outside that mighty tower to explore the grounds. We discovered the extraordinary Gardens of Aggathle, whose paths are paved in the delicate, crushed white bones of the Shadowking’s enemies. We imagined the sanity-bending Axxim’s Labyrinth and the intimidating Spire of Silence. Before long, we had surveyed the entire grounds and surrounding region. There is so much more to share about Ravensrook that I will stop here, divulging all in a separate post. For now, it is enough to know that the world began there. Ravensrook is the spindle upon which the universe spins.
Once we imagined Ravensrook, questions flowed faster than water from a fire hose, questions that demanded answers. What was the name of the region around Ravensrook? What lands lay upon Ravensrook’s borders? Who were the Lords of those lands? What was their relationship to each other? What was the relationship of the mortal world and the Dream? What was the mortal world called anyway? Every question lead to another and so on. It was one helluva brainstorm – Category 6!
Being the detailed oriented (obsessive) writers that we are, Narcisse and I developed answers for every question. Yet with each answer came more questions, bigger questions. Ha, what a ride that was! I cannot recall a more creatively fertile cycle than when we began world building.
When the subject of religions arose we knew we had to devote ourselves to world creation as a project unto itself. We had all these marvelous parts but no plan, a jigsaw puzzle without a picture to guide us. This was where our lifetimes of role playing games really served us well.
We knew world building from having created campaigns. Never content to simply run a generic fantasy setting, we built realistic worlds with logical (if fantastic) ecologies, geographies, societies and more. Researching such diverse topics such as Greek Mythology and feudal agrarian culture provided us with a wealth of raw inspiration to draw upon. Not to neglect our absolute and undying love of books and movies. My favorite book, “The Hobbit” is as much a travelogue as it is an adventure tale. Add to the mix our mutual love of history, art, architecture and cultures. We had all the ingredients to cook up the world and mythos of our dreams. And we did.
There is a great deal of negotiation and compromise that occurs when one collaborates with another in any creative process. Narcisse and I certainly have had our rare moments where sparks have flashed and thunder has rolled. But never during the creation of our Universe!
We were like kids in a candy store, sharing every cool idea with “ZOMG!” enthusiasm. I will not hesitate to state that this was easily one of the best periods of our partnership (out of many!). We were consumed by world building and happily so.
Imagine two children eagerly building a tower of Lego bricks, laughing while they inspire and are inspired by each other’s contributions. That was us – that IS us! Narcisse and I spent hours developing ideas, creating a cosmology, religions, the world of Laremlis in the material dimension, Éveillé, and the Seven Realms of the Ephemeral Dream. Every idea led to another, every element added had to make sense in the context of everything else. We required our ideas to be something much more than ‘cool’ – they had to make sense. They had to click neatly into every other idea. One false note ruins a symphony.
Narcisse and I share many tendencies. With regard to world building it is a passion (obsession?) for ensuring that anything we create is legitimate. No cheating allowed. If we have a magical tradition, we have to understand its mechanics. None of that “its works cuz its magic!” nonsense for us! Now, we may not tell YOU every last detail of how it works, but WE know!
We built and we built and we built until our tower soared into the proverbial heavens. Feeling quite proud of ourselves, we stepped back to survey our work. Shit! It wasn’t quite right; something about it didn’t feel real. There was much we liked, a lot that we loved, but it just wasn’t ‘it’.
So we tore it apart. We saved the pieces worth saving, discarded those that weren’t and rebuilt the rest. We ruthlessly removed ideas that we liked but in retrospect just didn’t work well. As an aside, this tendency has turned out to be a common theme of our collaboration, two steps forward, one back, but always progressing, always creating something we love! But I digress.
Then we really went mad. With the creation of our Universe, we had places. We needed people! Our characters all have histories, but we took it to a new level. Narcisse and I began to create the history of our world. Originally, I was supposed to just write about House Sunblood. Trace backwards from Dhatura to the first Sunblood. Easy right, should have been no more than maybe a few hundred words, a thousand at most? Yeah right! By the time I was done I not only had written the history of House Sunblood, but of the entire Seh’nahiel race extending all the way back to their primitive roots! Of course why stop there? How did it ALL begin? And thus Yss, the world tree was created (a respectful analog to Yggdrasil).
Narcisse and I have a timeline of history that extends to the very creation of our universe that extends to the present story – and beyond.
We know how current politics are affected by ancient deeds, why a particular Lord hates another, how magic works, the hierarchy of royalty – both daemonic and Seh’nahiel. We know why the daemons need the mortals and why the mortals need the Dream. Most important of all, we know the hows and whys of pretty much everything in Yss. Best of all, it WORKS! There is a logic and purpose for everything, including the illogical and purposeless.
We began building rooms and houses and in the end, we wound up with our current universe. From our wonderfully demented creativity we have invented and defined things that may never come directly into play during the trilogy. Yet they do have their influence on our story nonetheless.
Having such a solid foundation has made all the difference in writing our tale. Our characters live in a real world.