For lack of a better title.
Over the past week, I’ve been busy brainstorming. Ideas have been bouncing all over the place—not all of them good, mind you—and I’ve made a bit of progress with the story. I’ve read up on my Ancient Persian history, just to remind myself of the culture. I don’t want to get too caught up on being accurate since the story locale is based on Ancient Persia, rather than actually being Ancient Persia. Still, I love this sort of thing—reading up on religions and cultural practices and science and such.
Now this stuff will probably just be in the background, never really the focus of the story. But I feel like it will enrich the fictional culture with a little bit of reality. Not too much though. Once I start getting specific, the focus turns to those realistic details, and that’s when the story takes a halt in order to serve a not-so-subtle history lesson about Zoroastrianism. That’s not what my book is for. And I think that’s one place where my last attempt at writing this book took a seriously dangerous and deadly turn—I got too obsessed in the details, trying to fit religious themes and accurate ancient history into the story when it didn’t belong there. Lesson learned. Moving on.
Well, almost. Moving on, that is. I want to talk about details for a second. What do I include? What do I summarize? What is important? Etc. For those of you who don’t know, the Persians were a decorative bunch. Nearly everything that they made had some artistic value—cups with rams’ heads providing the handles, plates embossed with lions’ heads, intricately woven rugs, pillars made to look like elephants, walls decorated with ornate porcelain tiles, extraordinarily detailed jewelry, doors engraved with designs, and reliefs on every once-flat surface. It was a culture of artisans—super awesomely skilled artisans. How can I possibly do their artwork justice in a medium made of words? It will definitely be a challenge for me, finding just the right amount of detail to describe without bogging down the story. But I want you, my readers, to see this culture, to experience it in all its decorative splendor. It’s my job to make you see it. I just hope I’m up to the task.
And while these details—the rituals and basic beliefs of Zoroastrianism and the art of Persian design—while they may seem unimportant to the story, something a lot of people would include as an afterthought, these details are what bring a world to life. This is what makes the setting of a story more than a backdrop for the characters to traipse through. The characters are a part of the world, and so the world deserves just as much—if not more—characterization than the characters themselves. Or so I believe. I want the characters to interact with the world, and I want the world to interact back. That’s why these details are important to me.
As for the story itself, I plan on beginning the long, arduous road of plotting today. I’m starting to see scenes in my head, rather than places and characters, so it’s time to start writing them down. I imagine it will take me at least two weeks—perhaps longer—to get a workable outline hammered out. This will consist of me writing about ten outlines and deciding they’re all crap before finally finding the one that works.
I’m hoping that as I plot and iron out the secondary characters, the names will come to me more easily. It’s difficult to name something you know so very little about, someone who’s lived in this story world for years, who has a history and friends and enemies and a place they call home. But it’s all the more satisfying when you do find the perfect name, even if you slave over baby name websites for hours and hours and want to pull your hair out because you just can’t find it. Maybe other people don’t obsess so much about names. But I think they’re important. Just like setting is important.
Well, I’ve rambled long enough about this. Time to write.
How do you make a setting come to life? Do you focus on the details or let the world fade into the background?
And how important are names to you? How do you name your characters?