Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sheer Creation

Writing is the closest we humans can get to experiencing an act that we usually associate with God. That is, sheer creation. It is certainly the most enjoyable part of writing for me, and is one reason why I’m particularly drawn to fantasy. No genre allows, nay demands, so much creation.

You may create characters and events in historical fiction, but the world itself is precisely successful to the degree that it evokes a world that really existed. You don’t “create” 1870 London, for example. You recreate it. You don’t, in horror, create the haunted malls and the lonely highways as much as you “adapt” them from actual experiences you yourself have had. In science fiction, the sun is the real sun, Mars is the real Mars. Of course, there is creation all through any type of fiction, but with real-world based fiction there are limits, for example, to what can you do with plants and animals.

I don’t mean to imply that there are no limits in fantasy. The fantasy world has to make sense and has to evoke a sense of realism, but the limits are broader. I’m reminded of what Morpheus said to Neo in The Matrix. It was something like: “Some of these rules can be bent. Others can be broken.” Well, you can bend and break more rules in fantasy than in any other genre, and that sheer imaginative act feels so powerful. At least to me.

I remember how much absolute joy I felt in writing Swords of Talera, and a lot of it was the first creation of the world itself. Even before I started writing “Swords,” I started creating the world, and I kept all that information in what I called, perhaps a bit melodramatically, my Taleran Encyclopedia. I’ll end this post with a few entries from that file.

Kahurra: a plant that may produce a kind of natural steroid. It is used by gladiators and often by assassins. It increases strength and aggressiveness but sometimes creates violent, uncontrollable rages.

Tris: Also called candle-bugs. Small, light giving insects. They live in many underground places, such as sewers. They are smaller than a lightning bug but their light is pretty much constant, only occasionally dimming or brightening slightly. They are also flightless and move in large masses. They give off a turquoise light.

Moons: Talera has four large moons. They do not wax or wane but always present their full face and the same face to the planet’s surface. They are, in order of appearance:

1. Nimeru – The smallest. It’s name means “The Dreamer.” It rises at dusk. It has a delicate blue color. In some cultures, Nimeru is the goddess of love, and in others the god or goddess of poetry.

2. Sieona – A little larger, and turquoise in color. It’s name means “The Storm Queen,” and many legends are told about its power to evoke storms. It rises at what would be about 10:00 on Earth.

3. Tisiminna – Golden in color, and larger still. The name means “The Beauty.” There are two smaller orbs that circle Tisiminna and these are sometimes called the “lovers” or the “courtiers.” There are whole story cycles about the relationship between the “beauty” and her “courtiers.” It rises at midnight.

4. Rath – The largest of the four moons, and red in color. Like Mars, it is often associated with war and battle and is called “The Warrior.” It rises at about 2:00 earth time.

Man, I love creating moons. How about you, what kind of creation do you love?

PS, don't forget that there are still a few more days, until April 6, to enter my contest


Christopher Mills said...

I've got something similar that I've developed for my PERILS ON PLANET X project. As the planet is called "Xylos," I call it my "Xyclopedia."

Corny, I know.

david mcmahon said...

Now THAT is what I call creativity!

Loved your comment about fishing line for kites, too.

Travis Cody said...

I love to do encyclopedias for the fantasy I write. The entries can help keep me grounded in the story and prevent tangents that will only have to be edited out later.

And sometimes an encyclopedia entry will spark a good story idea.

ivan said...

Great expository writing.

I am myself a huge fan of the old French horror writers, especially
Guy de Maupassant.

He had to have taken some Kahurra--or something like it-- to produce a short masterpiece like The Horla (The Horrors There).

Had me reaching for my own favourite drug after I finished that fiery story. Eek.

ivan said...

Great expsitory writing.

I am myself a huge fan of the old French horror writers, especially
Guy de Maupassant.

He had to have taken some Kahurra--or something like it-- to produce a short masterpiece like The Horla (The Horrors There).

Had me reaching for my own favourite drug after I finished that fiery story. Eek.

SzélsőFa said...

I like your creativity around here, Charles.
Unfortunately, I have not created similar things. Oh, wait - I created a map for my WIP. That helped me navigate the main character.
I tend to stick to reality, but I always admire those who create a whole new world.

the walking man said...

I try to create a reality that is reality not perceived or seen by others in the poetry.

In the stories just a story that could be, surrounded by the realty that is.


Ello - Ellen Oh said...

That's pretty cool! I need to work on some more world building parts of my current WIP but since I am basing it off existing mythology I don't know that I can create too much. But I have to say I am having a hard time coming up with good names. Yours are cool!

Miladysa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Gramlich said...

Christopher, I suppose we are allowed a bit of corn since we're making the stuff up anyway. :)

David McMahon, thanks. Using the fishing rod for the kites felt like I was fishing for something bit in the sky.

Travis, yes, I sometimes have to dampen my urge to tell more and more stories about everything in the encyclopedia. The moon thing for me, for example.

Ivan, "The Horla" was a great tale. I'm a big fan of the early gothic stuff as well and have done a couple of articles on it. A lot of the early stuff can be found free online these days.

Szelsofa, maps are fun too. I love drawing maps of places in my tales.

Mark, it's great when a piece creates a sense of reality that extends beyond the words.

Miladysa said...

Children! Ha ;-D

Apologies - couldn't resist that one.

Characters... trying to imagine how they would think, feel, what happened in their lives, what their viewpoint of life is and why.

I have never created a world like Talera though and I can imagine how exciting that must be. Is it as real as this one to you or did it only come to mind when you decided to write about somewhere like it?

Chris Benjamin said...

i think my favourite writing, to read anyway, is what i guess would be called magical realism: the introduction of magic or fantastic elements into an otherwise normal, familiar reality. writers like rushdie and garcia-marquez are masters of this. tom robbins does a good job of it too, and thomas king. a few years ago i wrote a very short story like this, about an inept angel. this year i took that and expanded it into a longer short story and submitted it a couple places, still waiting to hear back. this genre allows a great deal of creativity yet remains highly identifiable for readers.

Lana Gramlich said...

Although my creativity tends to come out through painting rather than writing, I think you've got it harder. I can paint a scene & be done with it, but you have to flesh out all of the whos, hows & whys in the scene...Which you're quite adept at, btw.

Merisi said...

Love the idea of a plant like Kahurra! Would chew a leaf or two right now. ;-)

(I came over on David's suggestion.)

Tyhitia Green said...

I love your descriptions of your moons! :*) Your names of exotic creatures and plants. Cool, Charles.

I write mostly horror, and a lot of fantasy, but very little sci-fi. I see what mean creatively.

Greg said...

i write mostly horror, but i have written a few fantasy tales (and even started on a novel once), and my favorite part of them, like you said, was actually creating the world that the characters would inhabit. it's fun to do.

Charles Gramlich said...

Miladysa, Talera started to become very real to me before I started writing the Taleran series, and each time I reimmersed myself in it it became more and more concrete until I even had dreams set on Talera. Now that I haven't written about it for a while it has receded a bit and become more...mythical or historical. If that makes any sense.

Benjibopper, yes, I've done some of that. There's a real attraction to having something that is basically realistic and then warp toward fantasy. I like this about surrealistic art.

Lana, thank you sweety pie. Your art often hints at more, though, as if there are stories behind the painting.

Merisi, thanks for dropping by. I really liked your photos, especially the decayed walls and arches.

Demon hunter, I haven't written much SF either. I tend to prefer the freedom of Fantasy, or the emotion of horror.

Greg Schwartz, yes. When I go walking I love to see a bend in the trail and wonder what's beyond it. Creating a fantasy tale lets you fill the other sides of those bends with wonderous things.

Leigh Russell said...

Wow, Charles, this sounds such fun! I want to write fantasy too! But sadly, I don't think I'd have a clue where to begin. You've got me thinking, though. Something to ponder in those trapped moments at work when the only freedom is inside my head.

Monique said...

Oooooh, I love creating. Grindhirst is the one I love best. It's entirely fictitious even though it is set in British boarding school, the characters are mine. So is Middle Ditch.

Lovely post Charles. Keep them coming. My last comment was a bit lame but I just could not remember quotation I wanted to use and by whom. I was just too tired.

Lana Gramlich said...

But any stories you sense in my paintings are the stirrings of your own, active imagination, honeydumplins.

Michelle's Spell said...

That's a good question. I lvoe the idea of creating moons. I'm kind of stuck with creating tense emotional disorders that all too closely resemble my life. :)

Sarai said...

This is my favorite part of writing playing "god" (not sure what that says about me though?) I do love the world building, creating and fleshing out my own place. Very nice post!

Steve Malley said...

Ah, from the raw clay of words, inchoate ideas are shaped into fine stories... I tend to think of stories as 'found objects', myself. In that sense, I'm more archeologist than potter.

Cath said...

Hi. Came over from David's blog.

What a fascinating insight into a fantasy! You are right - there are less limits in fantasy.

Donnetta said...

I like to create little stories with a twist in the ending. I like to create characters that readers "know."

Boy, you have a terrific ability to create! Never ending imagination.


steve on the slow train said...

In writing a novel that involves fantasy, but is mostly historical fiction, I've found I enjoy creating the fantsastical elements, while trying to recreate the world of Chicago 1968 is a lot of work. You're right about how writing the fantastical parts is a bit like playing God.

I'm curious--do you have a grammar and etymology for your Taleran language?

Charles Gramlich said...

Leigh Russell, I will be appreciating my imagination tomorrow when I'm trapped in boring meetings all day.

Monique, someday I'll have to post on the differences for me between creating characters and creating details of a world. I think the process mentally is a bit different, at least for me. Both are so enjoyable, but I need to think more about how they link up. Characters are harder, I think.

Lana, oh yeah? Well I'm imagining some things right now, if you know what I'm saying.

Michelle, I think there may be a differnce between creating objects, such as moons, and people. I definitely think it's harder to do the people and their moods. But both are enjoyable.

Sarai, I agree about the enjoyment. It's just what I call "sheer creation." There are few constraints, just the exercise of imagination.

Steve Malley, archaeologist eh? Some interesting ruins you're excavating there then.

Crazycath, thanks for visiting. Much appreciated. I like to write in all kinds of genres. Each has its ups and downs. Fantasy is one of the most enjoyable, though.

Donnetta Lee, there's something very fun about those little twisty things as well, a little warp side ways in one's expectations and views.

Steve, yes, historical fiction can be a lot of work, although there is satisfaction there as well. I have a very rude grammar and etymology for the Taleran languages, since there are more than one. But it's very basic and undedeveloped since linguistics is not a strength of mine. Not like with Tolkien for sure.

Shauna Roberts said...

I have the equivalent to your encyclopedia, but I've always called it the Bible. After reading your post, I wondered whether subconsciously I was equating myself with God when I named it that.

I try to limit the number of moons I create because of their effects on tides and seismic activity and their gravitational pull on each other when they pass. Too much math and physics for my taste. I'd rather spend my worldbuilding time on culture.

Lana Gramlich said...

Charles; Imagine that... ;)

Heather said...

It's interesting that what I like to read is often much more creative than what I like to write. What does that say about me?? Yet another great post Charles.

Bernita said...

With urban fantasy I'm of the lesser creative sort, but it is a real power jolt to create a new word for an standard term.

Farrah Rochon said...

It wasn't until I joined my critique group, which contains a couple of fantasy writers, that I realized just how much goes into creating the worlds of their novels. I am fascinated by it. Not sure I could do it myself, though. Possibly, but I'm a bit too lazy.

I do agree that the sheer act of creating (backstory for my characters, etc) is the best part of writing.

Anonymous said...

I never thought of it that way, but it's true.

AvDB said...

World-building is such an art. I think a writer really needs an encyclopedia of sorts to keep everything in order and not slip up.

Jo said...

I'm not a writer, so I'm not very creative. But I love reading fantasy, especially if it is written in the future. I always admire the creativity of writers such as you. You have such a vivid imagination.

virtual nexus said...

Cool post. Love the comment about creating moons. Suddenly thought, I love creating blogs, which is probably some kind of sublimation.

(Art son is into creating complex escheresque fantasy environments in the graphic sphere which have a story board function).

Suspect I store information more in visual rather than verbal memory when I create environments.

I must try writing some fiction. All these comments are getting under my skin...!

Monique said...

I think that creating a different world is much, much harder than creating characters Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna, I get around some of those problems, problems caused partly by my own ignorence, by having Talera being artificially constructed, and so "adjustments" have been made to accomodate some of the problems.

Lana, ;)

H.E., your writing is very creative.

Bernita, I don't really think of it as "lesser creative" but as the differing demands of the genres, and as more or less creative freedom.

Farrah, creating character backstory has some of those same "freewheeling" elements of creativity and is great fun.

Jack, yep.

Avery Debow, definitely. It's impossible to keep it all straight otherwise.

Josie, your art shows great creativity.

Julie, you should definitely try some fiction. I enjoy it very much.

Monique, I don't know. Creating a world is harder in the sense that there are more details and elements to link together, but creating characters is harder in the sense that it's more concentrated, more focused. Both are tough.

writtenwyrdd said...

Worldbuilding is incredibly fun. I use a relational database and add to the world for the huge epic fantasy cycle I've been toying with for 20-plus years. Actually, now that I think about it, it's over thirty years, closer to 35!!

I'd better get cracking on the ol' magnum opus before I die. The thing is a planned seven-volume arc, so I know I need the worlds pretty well fleshed out. I have three alien races with distinct cultures, about ten thousand years of history for backstory, and more.

Rob Windstrel Watson said...

Great post.

My fictional characters and the lives they inhabit are almost as real to me as the so called real world.

However, I have to remember that it is to me that they are real and not others.

I was playing tennis once and thinking at the same time about one of my plots and characters.

When I brought it into the 'over net' conversation, I got some really strange looks.