Writerly Notions: Worldbuilding & Copying

I’ve realized why my writing often lacks a “spark”. Most of the writing sources I follow or consume (and how my mind interprets them) indicate that fantasy — culture, customs, history — are just copies of this world. And copies are just reflections. More to the point, it’s hard to believe a copy-world is real on its own terms. Which makes it hard, I’d wager, for others to believe in fantasy world that doesn’t feel real, that is only a copy.

On one hand, I want to create real imagined fantasy, advice and convention tell me I have to copy. But if that’s all I have to do, why would I write at all? (If I wanted to do historical fantasy, that would be great, but I think I lean more toward imaginary fantasy. That is, fantasy that isn’t heavily historical.)

Once I started trying to “get serious” about writing a lot of the spontaneous imagination dropped out. While research is necessity for good writing, if the initial groundwork is just trying to copy the exact replica that is (or might be) the inspiration for a fantasy culture, will that seem real?

For me, a lot of rooted worldbuilding comes from percolating off nature and creating myth (the moon is a dragon’s eye, four bats created the world). Or if not nature, than fairy tales. And if not fairy tales, than just…ideas? (flurma birds that roost on the tips of crystal trees where fluff grows, whose plumage turns blue before they migrate)

The trouble is figuring out  what this-world culture I’m inspired by and taking conscientious actions. Often with humans, I do know, but that’s in a copy-&-paste way, rather than deep roots. (Other than one or two fantasy human cultures.)


Maiden of the Mist

Day 26: Feb 26

Water sprouts, crystallizing into ice so every splash now glistens, a translucent silver petal. These ice flowers fill a field of underground springs. Constant mist glides imperiously across the rumpled earth, born by the heat below the surface and the chill which prances, neverending, in the air. Barely anything lives here, or very few things wish to live here very long. But still, those who wander past or make seasonal homes nearby swear they have seen a figure, like a maiden draped in flowing tattered robes, wandering through the mist. Ghost or guardian, no one can say. But it turns the springs into a haunted place, so less and less humans come.


I have renewed these in lieu of the Refugee Ban in the USA. Inspired by the-cassandra-project and their Every Day Challenge, I am writing every day to raise money for the Urban Justice Center. You can donate here or please spread the word. Thank you.


Day 18: Feb 18

History unfurls in knots of speciation and categorization, inspired by the myths of those who speak of each knot. It is their history, their ontology, their way of knowing and living in the world. But to one who lives outside the knots, how does one know what is the literal division of life, of species, of creatures? Or is the mysterious nexus, the uncertainty, where it is strongest in a story?


I have renewed these in lieu of the Refugee Ban in the USA. Inspired by the-cassandra-project and their Every Day Challenge, I am writing every day to raise money for the Urban Justice Center. You can donate here or please spread the word. Thank you.

The Winter Ones

Day 11: Feb 11

Snow poured from a white sky. A soft blue-gray tinge had settled over the woods as dawn crept over the world. Nestled in warm dens and cozy leaf-stuffed hollows, bears and squirrels dozed through the cold season. But other creatures, those that only came to life and liveliness during winter, cavorted through the snow. Long silver tails flashed, like distorted light, and cloaks of fine furry icicles looked, to the human eye, like swirls of snowflakes.

But they had their party and their time and that was enough.

[88 words]

I have renewed these in lieu of the Refugee Ban in the USA. Inspired by the-cassandra-project and their Every Day Challenge, I am writing every day to raise money for the Urban Justice Center. You can donate here or please spread the word. Thank you.

The Apple Island

THE SEAS WERE crooning to her. Glancing over her shoulder she saw the rocky crags and beyond them the green hills, mist still hovering over them like a delicate half-invisible shroud. She had winded her way down through the narrow nooks and passages that led directly to the sea.

Heaving a tiny sigh, she sat on the cold, dark sand; the sunbeams had yet to reach this portion of the island. She faced the westward side, gaze captured by deep indigo, slowly being swallowed by the soft shades of carnation pink and honey yellow.

Sighing again, she rested her chin on her lily-white hands. Those who saw them, proclaimed them a beautiful, enchanting sight; she was without equal in beauty everyone always said. Not that it mattered much to her.

She waited in silence, listening to the wind beating against the shore and the waves crashing on the sandy shore. A long time passed; the sky was nearly cleaned of its darkness when she finally stood up. With her back straight and her head held high, long chestnut hair dancing behind her, she gave a shrill whistle. It echoed over the nearly empty western shore, startling a flock of sand pipers.

Resisting a smile, she scanned the wild expanse before her. She gave a happy gasp when out of the waters, about a hundred yards or more away, arose a large head. His blue-black skin was covered in barnacles, his deep black eyes peered over in her direction.

Waving wildly, she dashed out into the waves until the water reached her shoulders. Her silk dress was ruined, but she didn’t care.


Continue reading

Shooting Stars

Day 193

STARS SWIRLED THROUGH the inky stillness of space. Eddies of debris – stellar pebbles and remnants of stars – formed blue, green, and red haloes around them. Twinkling, the littlest stars chased each other, pale blue-white tails shining in the darkness. The mature stars watched them, some with nostalgic amusement, others with constrained annoyance. But all agreed it was the nature of young stars to streak across the sky until they grew large enough to settled down in one place. 

One of the little stars fell too far and burned her way through woods and meadow. A kindly couple adopted her, but that is another story. 

Written: 8 April 2016

Words: 106 

Finding a Character with Story

I’m supposed to write up five sentences, two additional ones that expand on the first, five contradictory sentences, and two more that expand on those for three characters in my novel. And snowflakes, was it hard. 

I’m starting to think characters are one of my weaknesses. Not imagining their history or personality or what they look like but creating complex stories about them.

For me, writing five sentences felt more like writing facts. In contrast, the examples showed sentences that exposed charater but also sparked interest (not my interest). But the idea seemed to be to experiment and explore the possibilities of what the sentences could mean. 

Like, if I wrote: He had cyclical health in his youth, so his parents could predict when and how he would get sick. There’s not a lot I’m going to deviate from or be curious about. I know what that means. It may shift in my writing of the story. But this character’s history and who and what he is, at the moment, is pretty set in stone. 

I’ve been learning that maybe imagining the various ways events or characters could evolve is what makes stories strong. Well, that, and also the fact that I’m not very good at character stories. And hence, I’m thinking I don’t make good well rounded characters. This is definitely an aspect I’ll need to work on.

I blame this on consuming too many fairy tales, mythology, epics, and folklore. I can read personality into Red, nameless protagonists, Enkidu, Hanuman, Rostam, Antar, Zaynab, etc because of their reactions, sayings, gestures, and mannerisms. Do modern characters work the same way?

Even if they do, I can’t shake the feeling that if I had to write five sentences about Achilles in five aspects of his life (hobbies, romance, religion, job, health, what have you) they wouldn’t be done in the right way. I could think of sentences but, again, they’d be facts not sentences that may be explored for plot or character complexity.