I’ve been a fantasy fan effectively for my whole life. When I finally gave in to the urge to write a novel of my own, then, it was only natural I’d choose the genre I’d read almost exclusively for decades. Nobody told me how much harder it would be than I even imagined.
Why is it hard? One word: worldbuilding.
I actually took it pretty easy on myself. My protagonist is a young woman like me (okay—maybe 10-15 years my junior), who grew up in roughly the same area of the US I did, and the story is set in a place I’ve visited myself. Further, my fantasy world is a “near Earth”—it’s almost our world, but there’s magic, and supernatural creatures.
So I don’t have to worry about creating a new landscape, a new sociopolitical structure, or an entirely new language/way of using language. That is, I only have to sprinkle in pieces that relate to the particular new elements my protagonist encounters as she comes to grips with having suddenly become a supernatural herself (a dryad, in this case).
I wrote my (extremely) rough draft using the “pantser” method (a la NaNoWriMo—plotting “by the seat of my pants”); I had an idea where it began and where it ended, and a couple of the situations/obstacles she would encounter along the way, but precious little else. Knowing there were a couple of key points in a dryad’s development that would come into the story, though twisted from the “normal” way those play out, I decided I needed first to figure out what said “normal development” was. I thus set myself the task of writing a couple of short stories (one of which you can read here on the blog) as worldbuilding exercises.
As a start, that was great. I like how the stories turned out, and they give me a better sense of how dryad culture in my world generally works. It was an excellent springboard for the climactic scene of the novel (which may or may not be recognizable as the same entity by the time I’m done). However, the further into the novel my CPs get, the more I realize I’m nowhere near done on the worldbuilding front.
“Tell me more about X!”
“I want more Y.”
“This is okay, as long as we find out more about Z as the story goes.“
Oops. You mean the six-generation matrilineal genealogy I devised for her wasn’t sufficient preparation? I need to be able to describe what a dryad does in her day-to-day life, not just at those critical moments? This vague idea I mentioned in passing needs to be fleshed out?
Guess I’d better come up with some details on X, Y, and Z—and PDQ!