Up to now, most of my writing has been either in fanfiction (Anime series), or in a shared universe (Battletech). Both are universes created by someone else, and everything is laid out --- the main characters, locations, situations, even the technology/magical level, all established and need only the story and original characters (main or supporting). In fanfiction, I'm a great believer in staying within the universe created by the anime series, so my stories are clearly in the universe set out by the creators. With Battletech, most of the universe is set in stone, and even my fanfiction based in that universe is with the confines set by those markers. My profession Battletech writing is even more closely settled in the universe.
On the other hand, original stories are harder to write, because everything in an original story has to come from the author. “Well, d’oh,” you might be saying, “that’s what an original story is.”
True, but until you sit down and begin thinking it through, you may not realize how much stuff a story needs. There’s the obvious things: characters, plot, and locations. But original stories need so much more.
In the Merlin Heir series, magic is a large part of the books’ theme, but I need to create the magical rules system that the hero must operate under. And since magic is not a set of laws I can go ahead and look up when I need to, I need to create them and establish what the hero can and can't do with magic. I have to create a system so not only do I understand it, but so does the reader.
For some reason I cannot understand, I set the Merlin’s Legacy in a small town in Maine. Yes, Maine. (I guess my subconsciousness likes Murder, She Wrote when it came to the planning phase if things, as I've never read Steven King.) Somehow, setting the novel here in Florida doesn't feel right, while Maine does. What hurts is I've never been to Maine, cannot afford to travel to Maine , and I don’t have any friends up there to ask for background on Maine. I have to research Maine and get enough details for a convincing background (travel guide, Wikipedia, and websites.) On the plus side, Merlin’s Legacy and Merlin’s Staff are set in that part of Maine. On the minus side, Merlin’s Trial is mostly set in San Francisco, while Merlin’s Courtship is primarily set in Boston. So, two more cities I've never visited need to be researched.
(If anyone living in Maine, San Francisco, or Boston want to share their experiences or local knowledge of these areas, I will not say no.)
Then there is the small stuff. My main character uses Latin to call up his spells, while the main villain uses German. Another character uses the Fae language (Gaelic that I've slightly altered) for her spells. I also have Arthurian elements that I need to blend into the story. The right characters need to be snarky at the right time.
If this sounds like i'm complaining, I'm not. In some ways, it's liberating. It's the difference between riding a bicycle with training wheels and without. And while I'm not ready to leave Battletech anytime soon, being able to do something that is all mine is a good feeling.
I’ll go into some more detail into each Merlin's Heir novel in future posts.