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