Wow it has been a long time since I've updated my blog! The holidays are draining, to say the least. In this first post of 2018, I wanted to give both authors and readers alike a glimpse into my creative process, and how I created The Far Land, the universe in which my debut novel—Echoes of Ashes: Ember—takes place.
Oh, and if you haven't seen the cover yet, take a good, long look:
I'm just so proud of it!
If you haven't already, don't forget that you can read the first 3 chapters of Ember simply by subscribing to my website! If you've already subscribed, but haven't read the preview (and want to), fear not, at the time that this post was published, I'd already sent you an email with another download link for the PDF. Not only that, but the email also contains the free downloadable content for this post, which I am about to reveal!
I get asked constantly how I built such an intricate universe for my characters to live in, to thrive in, without ever having written a novel before. My answer is always the same:
Dungeons. And. Dragons.
Yeah, I'm a huge nerd. Huge. I don't even try to hide it anymore. In fact, I flaunt it. I swear by D&D for my creative process. Without it, I can guarantee that I wouldn't be where I am today with my writing.
I used D&D to flesh out the races of my world. I used D&D to flesh out the setting—towns, rivers, forests, ruins, etc. All of these things became part of the universe that my friends (the players) began their adventure in. But my favorite part of D&D is running scenarios around the history of my world, The Far Land.
One of the most important things (in my opinion) when it comes to worldbuilding is the history of the world. And there's no better way to work out those minute details and epic civil war endings than to run a campaign where it actually happens, and let your friends make the decisions.
Let me give an example. In The Far Land, 300 years previous to when my story is actually set, there was a tragic civil war between the two human kingdoms of Rokswing and Mariscale. In my D&D campaign that I am still currently running, my friends play in that setting. This allows me to not only flesh out the map, as the landscape wouldn't have changed too drastically in 300 years, but also for them to help me discover tiny details and bits of flavor that otherwise would have been lost.
Details like the fact that there was a wide area of no-mans-land between the two kingdoms, an area in which the small mining town of Padstow sits centerfold. One of the reasons that the war started—reasons being emphasized because silly old me didn't even think about the fact that wars have to have inciting events—was that gold was discovered in Padstow, which was technically in Rokswing's territory.
So, long story short, Rokswing hired some dwarves to do the mining, but the dwarves were displaced by the war. Some of them went back home, but a lot of them coast from town to town in the two kingdoms, waiting for the war to end so they can get back to work, regardless of who wins. (Dwarves, always in it for the gold.)
These details do not come up at all in Ember, but are critically important to any story-boarding that I do for the Echoes of Ashes trilogy as a whole. Having the entire history of my world fleshed out to that degree of detail is invaluable as an author.
I also used my campaign to solidify details in the races of The Far Land. Things like the differences in the appearances of the fae people, or the special abilities and unique personalities of the felidae. Taking D&D descriptors and language and using it to define my races deepened my connection to them and understanding of them. Which therefore allowed me to write them more accurately.
If you want to download my original races spreadsheet that I created for my campaign using the races of The Far Land, feel free to click the link. (If you are a subscriber of mine, this form has already been sent to your email!) I hope you can see kind of where my thought process was in creating it. Keep in mind that this is actually the original document, created by me in my spare time for fun. It likely is riddled with technical and grammatical errors, so don't judge me too hard!
Anyway, thanks for reading everyone! If you have any questions for me about this process, or D&D stories of your own to share, don't forget to leave a comment or shoot me an email. I'm always by my phone!