Tag Archives: fantasy

World-building for a fantasy novel – Pantheons and Deities

Hello everyone…

I’m trying to save it as a slight surprise in No Redemption for the Wicked as far as exactly how, but the deities that I’m creating for the fantasy world of Chalandris will play a prominent role in the storyline. Because of that, before I go much farther I need to establish very clearly who the deities are and the belief system (or belief systems) that have grown up around them on Chalandris.

Let’s get some definitions established, to start. A deity, for my purposes, is a being of immense power, a spiritual force that is self-aware and able to exert influence in the world. A spiritual belief system is a faith or religion derived from one or more deities and their influence in the world. A pantheon is a group of deities that are associated together as part of the same belief system.

I am going to be establishing something somewhat complex here. I had previously established nine deities for the world of Chalandris and a creation myth that described how they each came into existence and became part of the history of the universe in which the fantasy world of Chalandris exists. I hadn’t yet decided if that ‘myth’ was going to be true and accurate or whether that was going to be simply what some people on Chalandris believed to be true. I have now decided that this creation myth that I established will be a roughly-accurate accounting of the creation of the universe, including the nine deities I had established.

But this ‘truth’ will not exist in a literal sense among the people of Chalandris. The people of Chalandris will be divided into two competing (and occasionally conflicting) faiths, both of which will be simultaneously ‘true’ and also incomplete with each faith completing the other faith’s ‘doctrine’. But their differences in perspective will give people devoted to each faith the illusion that the other faith is entirely wrong; and while the reader will easily see this, the characters who have been indoctrinated from birth to believe that their faith is true and the other faith is false will be unable to even consider a concept so alien to everything they believe as the idea that the faiths they know could possibly both be true.

In specifics, one faith will give credence to five of the nine deities and the other faith will look to a different set of five (with one deity being common to both faiths, a particularly querulous bone of contention to be sure). The deity common to both will be a deity literally called Chalandris by name and will be perceived very similarly by both faiths as a mostly-genderless personification of the world. But the similarities will end there. Each faith will recognize a different set of four deities as Chalandris’ peers and will establish a different set of relationships among the resulting five. This will give rise to two different faiths which will be brought together by their recognition of a common deity and brought into conflict by just about everything else they believe.

My work now will be to take the nine deities I previously established and assign them to the two respective faiths and figure out how they came to be associated together as well as some general principles of each faith based upon the deities chosen and the kinds of relationships they have with the Chalandris deity. This is fun work, folks. It’s a pain in the kiester, but it’s fun. I can’t wait to show you how it all shakes out!

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The Ongoing Search for a Bold, Fresh Approach to a Well-worn Genre

Hello all,

Big thanks are in order for all of my devoted faithful; my long-suffering, precious friends who have remained supportive of me throughout my oft-shifting ideas on what my novels will be. You are truly the best and I am more determined than ever to ensure that the novels I write will not disappoint you.

As most of you know, I am a lover of the fantasy novel and have been since I first read The Hobbit many years ago – a love that deepened to proportions beyond description when I followed that read with The Lord of the Rings.

Many authors have attempted to recapture Tolkien’s magic – and failed; but most have given up that iconic quest and settled for simply writing good fantasy novels. I believe that it is possible to match Tolkien on his own field and I would even argue that it has been done recently by George R.R. Martin in his Song of Ice and Fire series. My attempt at writing is a humble one by comparison, but I believe that the biggest obstacle to writing good fantasy lies in what the author believes fantasy to be.

J.R.R. Tolkien never set out to write a fantasy novel. He couldn’t have, because ‘fantasy’ as a literary genre didn’t yet exist when he wrote and published The Hobbit. The publisher categorized it as a children’s story, and it largely was. Then, when The Lord of the Rings was published… you know, I have no idea what category the publisher placed it in, but it must have been something like ‘general fiction’, because without a ‘fantasy’ genre, where else could it have been placed?

But my main point here is that when Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, he wasn’t thinking ‘fantasy’. He was thinking something else. Just fiction, maybe. Perhaps mythology. Who knows… But we know it wasn’t fantasy and that made a difference in how he approached his writing, and I believe that any serious attempt at writing an excellent fantasy novel ought to start at that same place, by not thinking ‘fantasy’, but thinking… something else.

The Lord of the Rings, despite its setting, is ultimately an adventure novel. Epic in scope and rich in fictional mythology, it is a story of a mythic adventure. By contrast, A Song of Ice and Fire is not very mythic, although it is quite epic. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire is many adventure stories woven together into a complex tapestry of dizzying intrigue and compelling suspense. I have also read fantasy novels with dark themes, bordering upon horror. Many fantasy novels contain an element of mystery. Others are outright comedy.

What is it that all of these stories with their disparate elements (adventure, mythology, mystery, intrigue, suspense, horror, comedy) have in common? Well, it is the type of setting in which they are placed. To my observation (and I’ve remarked upon this before), ‘fantasy’ is less a genre unto itself than a type of setting, a backdrop where stories of any genre can be told: adventure, mystery, horror, even romance.

Science fiction also does this. By moving the setting to a fictional world, writers can explore themes independent from the preconceptions and expectations of our familiar world, thus highlighting the theme and thus any point the writer wishes to speak to. Fantasy is simply another type of setting that accomplishes the same thing. Tolkien focused upon his mythic world to show conflict between good and evil on a scale that our real world couldn’t realistically show. Similarly, Martin is using his fictional world to illustrate the nobility and ignobility of human nature in ways that our real world simply cannot.

Now, I understand that the publishing industry is not simply going to adapt itself to my ‘epiphany’ (if that’s what it is), just because I’ve blogged about it. But, as I said above, I believe that if I think of fantasy as ‘setting’, and not as ‘genre’, I’ll be able to focus on the actual genre of the story I’ll be writing, be it adventure, mystery, horror, romance, or suspense, and that will make for a better story.

Stay tuned, more to come.