It Is Law

It Is Law

I recently discovered an aspect of writing that had previously never interested me, which I find amazingly fun, productive and inspiring.

World-building.

No, that’s the wrong word to use. I’ve done that before. I’ve drawn maps and invented beasties and described countries and worked out languages – I know how that works. I find it hard work and it’s not my favourite aspect of writing, but I do enjoy it.

Law-making.

That’s what I’ve been doing.

I started out writing a couple of pages of what I titled “CORMAC HEADCANON” – backstory and information about my character Cormac which will never be used in the books or shown to anyone else, hence why it’s headcanon (because it lives only in my head). Then I went on to look at Aifa, another character, and how she interacts with a certain part of the law.

And then I wrote about the other lawbreakers.

And then I wrote about their backstory and why they did what they did. And I wrote about what the king of the fairies thought of them and their punishment. And I worked out what the citizens of the fairy world felt about the current punishments for things like murder and reasons why thinks hadn’t changed.

I worked out all the crimes fairies could be exiled for. I worked out the laws of succession for the throne of the king of the fairies. I worked out the general details of the fairy language and the various dialects (nothing detailed, there isn’t a concrete language there, but just what it is and who knows it and attitudes to it).

I wrote several pages of what I titled ‘headcanon’, referring to a period of time between book one and book two that is never really addressed.

And I loved every minute of it.

17 pages I have in that notebook, ranging from the laws of exile to fairy sexuality. 17 pages of world building that no one will ever read except for me.

It was totally worth it.

I now understand the world and its attitudes better than I did before, which will help me with writing. Sure, so I have to rewrite a bunch of stuff in book two, but hey, that was going to be necessary anyway. I’ve worked out details and limitations that will help me making everything match up.

It’s funny that I only discovered this now, two and a half years after I first wrote Watching. If I’d known it sooner, I might have found it helpful.

But I doubt it. The experiment was triggered by inventing an aspect of the law that literally only occurred to me while half-awake a couple of days ago, so I wouldn’t have been able to write half of those notes without that moment, that eureka.

I’ve realised, though, that I love making up the laws of the fairy world.

So I’m going to carry on doing it.

25 thoughts on “It Is Law

  1. I was always fascinated by the things people in ancient cultures couldn’t do. Laws and cultures are great. I might try it sometime… Though, one question I should know the answer to: do you outline?

    1. Nope. Well, very rarely. Well, what I usually do is write the book, then realise it doesn’t work, rewrite half of it and sit down with a piece of paper and talk to myself on paper. “If this happens, can this happen? No, that doesn’t work. How about this?” Eventually I get a plot out of that. It’s probably not the best system but it’s quite fun.

  2. Wow. I hadn’t thought about law-building before like that, which is ironic because I’m actually in law school at present. I shall have to do more of that with my stories. :P

    1. It is so much fun! It’s also helpful because a lot of my characters get exiled at various points in time and I found it useful to know if and when they’d be allowed to come back, and whether or not there were precedents for their situations, etc. :D

  3. That is amazing and it would be cool if you ever posted any of it! I like learning about laws and government and stuff in ancient civilizations, too. I know that’s nerdy but it’s just cool to see how people structured their world. And it’s fun to play God when writing a story. :P

    1. It would be cool but in the format it’s currently written, would make absolutely no sense to anyone who hadn’t read the most recent editions of both the first and second book in the series :D Which is currently nobody.

    2. It would be cool but in the format it’s currently written, would make absolutely no sense to anyone who hadn’t read the most recent editions of both the first and second book in the series :D Which is currently nobody.

  4. Such a clever idea, I will have to apply it to my own novel, though in an adapted format since the world described in it is only a sort of sub-world to our normal one…it sounds like a good way of getting down to the bare bones of a fictional story, its grammar, its logic. Best of all it means if you ever have a query while you’re writing, you have a corpus of laws to go back to instead of having to think, hmm, how am I going to manage this one? every single time!!

    1. That is certainly its benefit! Most of my novel takes place in the ordinary human world, but several of the characters are fairies and thus come under fairy law even while in the human world, so it was something I needed to work out despite the fact that only about five chapters take place in the fairy world :) However, most of book three takes place in the other world, so my job will be easier when I get there!
      Good luck with working it out for your novel :)

  5. Aesome. I’m probably going to end up doning something like it for a couple of my stroies. I’m starting with Unearthing Magic, since i”ll be writing that in November.

    Oh and speaking of your Death and fairies Trilogy, though the down side is that Fiona is very sick at the moment (see my post on Protagonize, in my private group, which I’m pretty sure you’re a memeber of, I should probably check).

    Anyway, I’ve made it to Chapter 24 in Destroying, or there abouts. I can tell the end is approaching.

    } Cathryn

    1. I’m sorry to hear she’s ill. I’ll check out your post asap – I’m just struggling with some Greek nouns at the moment :-/

      That’s good news! I can’t remember how many chapters there are but it’s not likely to be a huge number more than that. I was doing some minor edits yesterday, but they’re just to bring it in line with the version of Watching you haven’t read yet, so that’s not a problem :-)

  6. The only time I like having to follow laws is in books. Because I create them. And then I make all my characters break them for my amusement.

    I’m glad you’ve discovered the joys of world-building and law-making-and-breaking. It makes planning stories a lot more fun. And there’s lots of room for random laws like we have here, just because we CAN stick them in.

    I love playing the figurative God xP

    1. Well, you know, all my characters are outlaws so I had to know what they were outside of, makes things easier ;) Currently they’re just ranting at each other in a non chronological manner. (I think I need to reverse the order of these two chapters, but maybe not. They overlap but are happening in totally different places and I can’t work out which should come first.)

        1. Ehehe, true. But do I write the opening as Aifa – Alys – Cormac, or Aifa – Cormac – Alys? I mean, Alys breaks up the setting a bit, puts us in human England rather than fairy Holland, but technically her chapter starts later, chronologically, than Cormac’s. I think. I don’t know any more. I’m confused.

          1. Aifa and Cormac are both in fairy Holland. Alys is in human England. Her chapter and Cormac’s chapter happen basically at the same time but I can’t decide whose to put first as both have information that the other doesn’t know.

          2. Clearly. :/ I’ll leave it as it is and see what beta readers think. As I’m only on chapter three, it’ll be a while before I HAVE any beta readers for this, but whatever.

  7. Law-making is so much fun, but cares so much responsibility. I am working on a book now, and realized the other day that I had spent a year building this world and the laws in it, and that now my characters think some of them unjust. I liked this post, I’m not going to worry about pleasing my characters, I’m just going to play with how I can use their reactions to the benefit of the story.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

%d bloggers like this: