How does one go about creating an original fantasy world? There are a lot of books and articles on the subject and it seems at least one panel discussion at every sci-fi fantasy convention. I’ve listened to my fair share of panels and been on a few, and all those have helped me develop the skills of world creation.
My two favorite worlds I’ve created, I think, are the Worldshifters world and the Dragonbound world. I think these two are my favorites because I was able to bring a lot of my true inner self into their creation. Worldshifters is a world torn by the forces of order and chaos. Anyone who has cared for children (in my case four of my own and one grandchild so far) knows this constant battle. I just vacuumed a wide spread of yellow pixie-stick off of my bedroom carpet. The war is real and constant and easy to write about.
Dragonbound, on the other hand, took a lot more thought and planning, a lifetime of research, experience, and messing about with characters and ideas in my head. It’s the culmination of something that some of3636363636363636363636it’s roots started (Okay, that bit of chaos is also my grandson. He likes to help me write) in play with early childhood friends. I believe credit for the idea that two people of separate races could form a blood bond that gave them immense telepathic powers should be credited to my friend Lanette Russell. Further development that those two races could be human and dragon, I believe goes to Holly Horton. My memories are a bit dim about who came up with what during play so very long ago. The point being that few ideas are born alone in a vacuum. They are the sum of universal collaboration between writer and everything the writer interacts with, and one should never discount childhood friendships and childhood games. I am very glad for a mother who encouraged such creativity and even played along with me at times, never telling me to get my head out of the clouds or focus on reality even as I grew older.
The idea for a blood bond between human and dragon that gives amazing powers is just an idea. I still needed to create a world to place the idea inside. There have been many many books about dragons set in just as many worlds. How could I make one that would be unique and compelling? I started by thinking about what I didn’t like about one or two of the dragon fantasies already written (a difficult thing to do since I enjoy reading dragon fantasies so much). but, you know, it never sat right with me the Dragonlance idea that were either good or evil depending on what color they were, that in fact all dragons of a specific color had the same personalities and allegiances. Dragons, like other people, should be considered good or bad by their actions not their race. The other thing that bothered me was the tolkienesque idea that dragons are sparse. If dragons existed as a species on a world, it seems like other animals there should be extensive types and sub-types. In fact, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a world where dragons were everywhere and involved in all aspects of humans’ daily lives. Some people believe that the legends of dragons in our own world became a thing when people found dinosaur bones and imagined what creatures could leave such a skeleton behind.
I jumped off at this point and did a lot of research about dinosaurs and extrapolated what a civilization would look like if humans and dinosaurs/dragons coexisted. Of course, I needed dragons who were super intelligent and capable of building their own civilization to equal (outdo if you ask them) the humans’ civilization. Thus the idea of both Great dragons and lesser dragons was born. Both the omnipresence of the dragons and the existence of the Nagas (powerful humans bound to dragons) would have impacted all parts of society. The complexity of it takes a good while to sort out in one’s mind before anything can be written. Thus I spent a good long time just mulling things over, consciously trying to work out the Dragonbound world. But in the end it is from my subconscious mind that my stories are born.
I was in bed one time, trying to get to sleep, when my storyteller voice bubbled up from my subconscious in clear precise sentences (It does that occasionally). Feeling that the sentences forming in my mind were important, I struggled out of bed, grabbed pen and paper, and wrote:
Life started at Stonefountain.
Near the bubbling fountain of power, the humans and dragons grew up together. Bound by blood, the two races became great and powerful. But with power came division. For not all were bound, and those with the power brought on by the bonding abused that power, subjecting all powerless ones to servitude.
In time the servants rebelled against their masters. Their violent uprising destroyed the bonded dragons and humans. From that day on, the races separated, fleeing from Stonefountain and claiming their own lands. Distrust and war grew up between humans and dragons. The humans, fearing the power of the dragon bond, killed all those born to bond with the dragons. But some survived.
There are few things that one writes that don’t need to be revised and polished before being shown to the world. This is one of those rare things that I made almost zero changes to. I think the only changes I made were correcting a couple of spelling mistakes. The setting and underlying conflict for the Dragonbound world had fountained up in my mind on its own where all of my conscious planning had not gotten me far. But where did the idea of Stonefountain itself come from? What about the singing stones, where did they originate? I had certainly not been thinking about singing crystals and fountains while researching dragons, politics, culture, and economics. The fountain, I don’t know. I’ve certainly seen and admired many beautiful fountains in my lifetime. Of course, there are all the legends of the fountain of youth, wishing fountains etc. So there is an underlying cultural idea that fountains can be magic. The idea that such a fountain could be connected to a pure spring of water in the mountains I attribute to the many adventures I’ve had hiking and backpacking in the Wasatch and Uintah mountains. Going back to one incidence in my early childhood, I had been hiking a short trail up to a spring with my father. I remember the overwhelming sense of wonder that came over when I saw this particular spring as it formed a small pool of water that cascaded in a little rivulet over moss-covered rocks amid which little yellow and white flowers grew. It was one of those breathtaking moments that one would like to hold onto forever, and I lamented to my father that I had left my camera in the car. My father, with his ever practical wisdom, told me I didn’t need a camera. I could take a picture of that spring with my mind and remember it forever. I did as he instructed, and that picture still remains with me today ever so many decades later.
The singing stones must probably be attributed to being told over and over again in every writing class, workshop, and conference that magic must always have a price and the more powerful you make a character, the stronger the kryptonite must be to counter that character. Ha, I just did an image search for kryptonite and yes, there it is, a clear colored crystal that can take away super powers. Isn’t the subconscious mind a beautiful thing? But kryptonite as far as I know, doesn’t sing. The voices of the ancestors, the oversong . . . I started college as a music major, playing the cello. I was an okay cellist, but what I really wanted to study was music composition and conducting. I loved writing music, and the more I focused on music, the more I could have sworn I could hear this unending song winding around and coming from the world all around me. I heard it in the water in the shower, in the wind through the trees, in the call of birds, the sound of people’s voices. It was ever present, and all music that I performed or heard others perform seemed to be just a piece of this one great song that filled the world with life. I wanted to tap into that music and write pieces of it myself. Eventually I figured out that I was far better at writing stories than playing the cello or composing music and changed my focus from music to writing. Though my love of classical music had been suppressed and somewhat forgotten for untold years, it could never be purged from the deepest regions of my subconscious. It burst forth in the subconscious creation of Stonefountain, and I was very glad to give it voice in the Dragonbound series.