I’ve had a number of posts about what I’m writing and how it’s sort of moving along as of late. These updates are probably alright every now and again, but I think it’s about time I mixed it up a little bit and talked about something different. This is still a writing oriented post, just not about what I’m actively working on… sort of.
So, just the other day I was thinking about the creatures and peoples and places that I’ve put into my books. I try to make a point of not borrowing mythology or ideas from other authors. I even try to stay away from the standard fare of dragons and minotaurs and whatnot—it’s more fun to make up my own stuff. I have found, however, that when you make up a completely new thing, people are going to want to know about it. The biggest issue then, for me, is to explain about said creature or place, without boring the readers to death with excessively complex lore.
Now, I love lore—I could (and have) sat down and read entire books on the lore of worlds in various sci-fi/ fantasy-scapes. There’s something outrageously fulfilling about knowing all the facts about how the worlds (in the books) work. I also know that a lot of other people don’t really care all that much about the minute details; having a semi-working knowledge of why something is happening is more than enough for them. An example of this is the swee’flits in Dreamstate: Dark Eyes; I’ve probably had more positive comments about the creatures than anything else in the book. In truth, I think more people have commented on the swee’flits than on the book itself. They’re different, and (I think) a pretty cool horse alternative, but I also feel like I struck a pretty solid balance between complicated explanations and oversimplified descriptions.
When you first encounter the swee’flits, Daniel gives a solid run down of their physical features. You hear about how they move, glide, and are used by the riders—this is a simple explanation. As the book progresses, however, you come across their personalities and idiosyncrasies through their interactions with the other characters—this is more complicated. If I were to try and dump all of the information (along with their more subtle traits) at once, it would be a total overload. I’ve done this before and had readers tell me that it was either boring or they had no idea what was going on. I get this, and I’ve definitely encountered it in books that I’ve read. Too much information was given at once and I either stopped caring or had nothing to reference the facts against, and so I forgot it. I honestly have a journal filled with all sorts of random tidbits about the swee’flits and their history as a species. I don’t know if I’ll ever use all of those facts in the book series, but I like the fact that it’s there for me to draw on if I need it. I also think that having everything mapped out so completely gives a very consistent base for any inclusion of the thing that I’m writing about; I know everything about swee’flits, and so it’s a lot more difficult for me to err when talking about them.
Striking the right balance between overly complex designs and simple explanations can be tricky. I’m still learning myself, of course, but sometimes I get things right; and I can draw on those odd times to better my future writing. For now, I think a lot of it has to do with spacing out the more complicated/ subtle lore for later, while presenting something solid and easy to grasp upfront. Transition the reader into the content slowly and don’t frighten them off—they’ll take to the weirder stuff later on.