Every once in a while, on days like today when I either can’t think of something to write, or I know what I want to write but it’s not coming out easily or the way I want to see it happen, I take some time to look back over things I’ve already written.
I’m usually looking for inspiration when I do this. I often find it this way, which is why I’ve revisited certain stories and characters multiple times. There’s currently no pattern to when you see the Guardians of Lora (see Kelal, Din, and others) for this reason. The same is true for the story of Rollen (as begun in The Laws), which I never really intended to make into an ongoing story but which became one nonetheless, and for the multiple slices we’ve seen of Evran’s life (Everything Has a Cost, To Bring Silence).
Sometimes if I can decide the setting for one of my fantasy stories, I come up with a story that could take place there which I haven’t told yet. This is how Rollen’s story began. It’s the first tale I ever thought of telling on Draevum, which had previously existed only as a concept. Other stories have helped me flesh that world out beyond what Rollen might encounter — Yusun and the Hunters, for example, as well as The Diamond Library I and The Inspector.
A lot of my stories come out as a result of the setting. Almost everything on Draevum — and other layers of Ecco, for that matter — began first with the setting, with the characters taking a secondary place in my mind. Looking back, and reading some of these stories, this is very obvious. Those stories began with “Where is the story?,” then moved on to “What happens there?,” with the actors in the tales being my last consideration.
It’s interesting to put that into words. It’s a thought that lends itself to introspection about my writing process. I don’t often begin thinking about the characters — I often conceive first of settings, and then move onto what situations might take place there, from which point I conceive of characters that might be in those situations. The next most often process for me is situation followed by setting followed by characters — you can see this in Shadows, Part 1 and the rest of the series — and then situation followed by characters followed by setting.
Am I doing this the wrong way? That’s what I wonder, sometimes, when I’m looking back through what I’ve written. I don’t think it’s the “wrong way,” necessarily, but it doesn’t feel like the right way. For whatever reason my imagination is often more concerned with setting and worldbuilding and situations than it is with characters, but I think that, for many reasons, the opposite tends to be true for readers. They want interesting characters.
I suppose I’m faulting myself too much. Every story about Evran came about because I conceived of the concept of the character, and I knew I wanted to write stories about him. I often wonder if I’ll ever write a full novel about him, and if I do, whether I’ll transplant him from Avyra to another world. I’m not sure why I placed him on Avyra in the first place, other than that I like the setting and I wanted to write something that occurred there. But the setting — or at least, the parts of it that set it apart — has little to no bearing on Evran’s story, so it feels like a mistake.
The stories about the group that will form on Callaie began with character concepts, as well. I’ve actually written the rough draft of a novel about them, though for various reasons I know I’m going to rewrite it before I make an attempt to get it published. It’s interesting to me, because there, I started with the characters — Leoth, Arriette, Cyrène, Baruch, Yenevau, and Narrim — and put them together, where collectively, they helped me forma story. The world came up around them purely as a place to fit them all.
I think I’ve lost track of the reason I began to write this, which was to say the following:
I’m a bit embarrassed when I read back through some of the things I have posted here, because some of them aren’t as good as I remember. Some of them are worse than I remember, when I’ve already got a memory of them being less-than-good. A lot of them have typos and other errors I didn’t catch before posting them. I guess this is balanced by the fact that sometimes I read one and I’m surprised to find that it actually feels good, but it doesn’t feel that way when I’m reading one of the stories I’m not as proud of.
Thanks for sticking with me regardless of whether the stories are actually good or not. I know there aren’t many of you, but I appreciate all of my readers.