Be original. It sounds like an impossible task. Hasn’t everything already been done? Haven’t all of the good ideas already been taken? Do you REALLY want to be sued by some other author or film-maker if your book ever gets published and they think you stole their ideas? And even if you are not ever published and therefore being sued is not a risk, do you want to write yet another predictable, standard fantasy book with all the norms and structures most in the genre are used to?
I decided that my answers to all of the above are NO. And so the world building began.
Basic principles of the Lands of Greystone and the story:
1) This is a Land, not a world. My old friends from High School will remember the idea. More specifically, this place has a completely different cosmology than anything we are used to in reality. The Land of Greystone is NOT a planet or a globe. If you are a bird and go east across the huge Erinor Ocean for a really long time, there is no guarantee that you will eventually get back to where you started. In fact, I can guarantee that bird that it will NOT ever get back to where it started simply by flying straight ahead. (As an aside, the idea of calling this place the Land of Greystone reminds me way to much of Donaldson’s “Land” in “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant”… but the word ‘Land’ is so generic, and putting Greystone with it sort of sets it apart, so I decided to give in on this point. Sure hope that’s good enough to avoid any issues!).
2) Greystone (the Land) and the Greystone Protectorates (the Country) are not places where magic is a known quantity. To the contrary, daily life is much like late-middle ages Europe in our world. In fact, people who believe in or claim that they can personally use “magic” or special powers are suspected of being insane and subject to forced medical treatment. There are no magic users per se, no spells or magic wands, no wizards, nothing of the sort. There ARE people with special powers/abilities as a natural part of the story (lots and lots of special powers and abilities… magic is central to the story), but such people are very special and very rare.
3) There are not the prototypical multiple races of intelligent life in Greystone. No dwarves, no elves, no fairies, no pixies, no dryads, no gnomes, no Narnia-like talking animals. In general, there are just plain humans (while there are different groupings of humans, sometimes distinguished by physical stature or looks). BUT… there are rumors of dragons in Greystone’s distant past, and of monsters of various descriptions. Both (intelligent dragons and various nasty monsters) will make appearances prominently in the story.
4) The story is intended to read like a mystery novel just as much as it is a fantasy novel. Clues are everywhere to what’s really going on and why, and very few things that are in the story are throw-away material. I have always loved plot twists and gotcha moments, so I am trying my best to make them happen here – both on a small scale from event to event, and across what I hope will be multiple books.
5) In order to push for more originality, I created a new calendar system for Greystone, a new monetary system for all of the countries of the known Land, and somewhat-new governmental systems for the main country (the Greystone Protectorates) and the surrounding countries. Lots of new political and cultural items sprang out of these items, which I can therefore rest assured are either original or only redundant by chance.
6) This is not going to be a children’s story. I mention C.S. Lewis from time to time, but really that is just because I love his sense of wonder and his use of Christian allegory. There are many parts of this story that will be brutally violent, lots of scary monsters and death… not stuck in cavalierly, but with descriptions that capture what it would really look like if the events were real. There will not be any sex to speak of on-camera, but there will be innuendo. There’s no bad language that we can recognize (I invented my own swear words, parroting Robert Jordan), so all in all I would give the books a PG-13 rating for violence and scary imagery.
7) I am relying strongly on 2 main tools: maps, and a glossary. I have multiple maps that give the lay of the Land, so to speak, that will be in the front of the book a la every fantasy story ever written ever. And I am maintaining a growing glossary of terms and people for the back of the book for my reference… oh yeah, and or the reader’s reference as well.
More to come!