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elphyon
June 12th, 2007, 10:32 PM
So, as it happens, I'm writing a background history for my novel (which I secretly titled Souls), as to insert portions of it before each chapter. I am completely overwhelmed, as one thing calls attention to another matter, and that another, etc. Any good tips? I'm writing it as an actual document existing in my imaginary world. So here's a tiny bit of what I have so far. What do you think?

Then came the Age of the Four Gods,
They who walked among us,
Through life and death as we do, forever dreaming of wakefulness,
Within human hearts reigning,
O blessings for the faithful.
Call their names in the temples, thou,
Worship them with holy sacrifices.
O praise the Lady of Blessed Sun, the ruler of the heavens and all that is within,
O praise the Prince of Grapes, the sacred lifeblood of all that lives,
O praise the Pale Queen of the Deep, whose left hand leads us through death,
And forget not thou the Faceless One, who, bound in jeweled-chains,
Lights our souls’ paths with his hallowed Words.
Therefore lift their names, thou faithful one,
And so remember…

From Kalish Fajep’s Book of Seekers, chapter six:
the Songs of Four Prayers.

And, more historical portion, from the same book but different chapter.

… so the Sigils were first given to men by the Circle of Eight, the eight dragons and their eight mediators. The Order of the Four Gods condemned the Circle and the knowledge of Sigils, calling forth a great army of the faithful. While most of the seven Noble Houses remained faithful to the Order, House Cysler, of Black Roses, and House Faelshar, of Split River, aligned themselves with the Circle and the power of the Sigils. Thus the ancient alliance among the Noble Houses was broken, and the realms were divided in black hatred. This was the beginning of the War of the Sigils.

James Carmack
June 13th, 2007, 07:51 AM
As someone who writes rather extensive histories for his own work, my advice is to break it down. Handle one topic at a time. Within each topic there are going to be a dozen little sub-items you'll want to expand on. Start at the trunk and the go out into the branches.

Get a timeline going. Doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a thumbnail sketch to keep events in sequence. Make a little encyclopedia to hold your data on individual items. Once again, no need to be fancy, just enough to get your facts down and keep them straight.

Your peripheral material will build on itself. Interconnections will form and you'll have this vast data web to draw upon. No, not all authors go to such lengths (nor should they), but those who have it can take advantage of it. ^_^

Takoren
June 13th, 2007, 08:23 AM
So, as it happens, I'm writing a background history for my novel (which I secretly titled Souls), as to insert portions of it before each chapter. I am completely overwhelmed, as one thing calls attention to another matter, and that another, etc. Any good tips? I'm writing it as an actual document existing in my imaginary world. So here's a tiny bit of what I have so far. What do you think?

Then came the Age of the Four Gods,
They who walked among us,
Through life and death as we do, forever dreaming of wakefulness,
Within human hearts reigning,
O blessings for the faithful.
Call their names in the temples, thou,
Worship them with holy sacrifices.
O praise the Lady of Blessed Sun, the ruler of the heavens and all that is within,
O praise the Prince of Grapes, the sacred lifeblood of all that lives,
O praise the Pale Queen of the Deep, whose left hand leads us through death,
And forget not thou the Faceless One, who, bound in jeweled-chains,
Lights our souls’ paths with his hallowed Words.
Therefore lift their names, thou faithful one,
And so remember…

From Kalish Fajep’s Book of Seekers, chapter six:
the Songs of Four Prayers.

And, more historical portion, from the same book but different chapter.

… so the Sigils were first given to men by the Circle of Eight, the eight dragons and their eight mediators. The Order of the Four Gods condemned the Circle and the knowledge of Sigils, calling forth a great army of the faithful. While most of the seven Noble Houses remained faithful to the Order, House Cysler, of Black Roses, and House Faelshar, of Split River, aligned themselves with the Circle and the power of the Sigils. Thus the ancient alliance among the Noble Houses was broken, and the realms were divided in black hatred. This was the beginning of the War of the Sigils.

First of all, this sounds like it could be really good. Are you already published? I wouldn't mind reading that.

I second what James said; start with one topic and then when you start the other, refer to the first. It does add up, though, and even when you think you're "done", you find that there are some areas you didn't cover and you have to go re-think it again. It can be frustrating, but just remember that as you are writing, you'll think of stuff you never did while doing your background outline, and it may suppliment a lot of what you're worried about.

Michael B
June 13th, 2007, 12:05 PM
First of all, this sounds like it could be really good.

The first section reads dead right. I read it out aloud and it has the same feel as a passage from the Bible.

Bethelamon
June 13th, 2007, 12:59 PM
Im also obsessive about the history of the world my narrative takes place in.

I go about it a different way though. In my world I go for realism. The history of the world is not dominated by any great magic or gods or anything. The focus of my narrative is important to the world, but to describe it in a nut-shell, it has been lying dormant for a good two millenia and so the world has gone by undisturbed.

So I have gone for a realistic timeline. I have how the world was in the ancient days, when the Saints ruled mankind, and I have how it is in today's mostly aethiest society. Before it was very simple, ten kingdoms ruled by the ten saints. Nowadays it is just as complicated as our very own contemporary Europe.

Currenty I am engaged in the momentous but hugely rewarding activity of writing the timeline - how did it get from how it was then to how it is now? Im going through endless wars, treaties, revolutions, etc and writing it in a big timeline.

Here are a few samples from my timeline to give you an idea...

77 - The Council of Ereth Arc unites under the House of Ralianne.

87 - Gold is discovered in Naleag. Arcian and Miranian mining communities are founded.

110 - Ereth Cairl receives no aid against renewed barbarian raids. It's people begin emigrating west through Gulden.

140 - Driven by the descendents of Dhainian immigrants, the people of Teriegna begin demands of independence from Darenarc.

143 - Street battles between republicans and nationalists erupt in Aradurn, and have to be repressed by troops from Ereth Arc.

146 - Haranadin is besieged by the Lacorians for the second time - Ferrimair sends a fleet to relieve them, but is defeated in a surprise naval attack as it comes in to land. Haranadin falls to the Lacorians.


So this is one way you can go about it - uber-realism.


By the way, I really liked your extract. Im usually not a fan of the old 'almighty gods, magical items and racial hatreds' concept, but yours seems to be truly convincing.

James Carmack
June 13th, 2007, 09:39 PM
Another important thing to keep in mind is your slant. All history is slanted and it wouldn't be a bad idea to reflect that. Yes, you can have an authoritative, omniscient record for your own reference, but don't be afraid to muddy the waters a bit.

I was told once that history is more a reflection on the historians that the people and events they describe. If you compare the differing accounts across time and space, you can see the truth in this. Play with that, particularly if you ever intend to publish your history.

elphyon
June 13th, 2007, 11:16 PM
wow. thanks all for responding, and compliments. I will definitely make a timeline and an encyclopedia! (i just finished an exam.... i am a free man!)

Bethelamon
June 14th, 2007, 06:10 AM
Something to consider is that if you are going to go for a big, detailed timeline, it can get VERY complicated and confusing and you need to keep your notes incredibley ordered, or you will just get lost.
Im making my timeline on a spreadsheet. The way I do is first find an idea or something, then add in cells with the date and what happened, then continue this idea with new entries... then find new ideas and put these in between the exsisting ones.

For example, one idea I had was that Ereth Cairl, a city sort of isolated in the east, would be overrun by barbarians. At first it would recieve aid from neighbouring cities, but as they got their own problems it would have to fend for itself. Its people imigrated into the west, and the city was abandoned and overrun.
So I added an entry for the beginning of this episode...
102 - Ereth Cairl is assaulted by eastern barbarians. It is supported by Ereth Miran and Ereth Hiran.
Then added the next entry in this episode, 8 years later.
110 - Ereth Cairl recieves no aid against renewed barbarian attacks. Its people begin immigrating west through Gulden.
Then two years later, I added the conclusion of this episode.
112 - Ereth Cairl is overrun and destroyed.
This episode was then finished, and I moved on to another interesting thing to write about in my timeline. Slowly it fills up.
I also added columns for each of the nations involved, putting a tick next to every entry which concerns them. This serves two purposes - once the main timeline is finished, I can pick out all the entries applying to individual countries and quickly make a mini-timeline for each country. Also, I can scan through it and notice if nothing has happened in one country for a few hundred years, and write some more historical events for them.

I keep a notebook full of issues which I need to adress, and to keep my thoughts ordered. Here is an extract...


HOW DO THE MODERN STATES COME INTO BEING?
Teriegna - Becomes independent of Darenarc (first democracy)
Belavad - Becomes independent of Darenarc
Nebriegna - Becomes independent of Darenarc
Diranec - The few central states of what once was Darenarc reform
Ardiegna - Becomes independent of Darenarc, is taken over by Mestenetia, then gains independence again
Alvenia - Formed with the Arcian expansion, then left to independence with the Arcian revolution
Elesenia - Was once Calanior, reduced to the land around Maragalen after the Calanian War
Aranetia - Formed with the Calanian expansion, then left to independence after the Calanian War
Mallanor - Formed with the deforestation of Lannimair
Nethria - Was once the land around Ereth Cathion, deserted then later repopulated by people from Vennimair and northern Lannimair
Nemaria - Was once part of Calanior, broke free as Calanior focused its attentions westwards
Mestenetia - The land between Antirol and Bruin
Dartec - Much fought-over land in the Calanian wars became a new state with the war's end, populated by both peoples
Ciranaon - Declared independent of Dartec with the growth of the port of Dumbar
Magretanion - WAs once part of Tunerion until the people of Tunerion deserted it, became independent
Tunerion - Was once the great nation of Ferrimair, was slowly reduced by war
Cimmuran - Was once part of Tunerion, declared independent
Sulghard - Once part of Ferrimair but deserted with the Calanian war. Later repopulated by Vennimians
Esgharad - Once part of Vennimair but abandoned. Later united
Tarinon - Once part of Vennimair but abandoned
Vennimair - Once a great nation, now greatly reduced in size
Marinagon - Once part of Vennimair, declared independent in revolution

So this approach takes lot of effort and organisation to get right, but its really good fun! Instead of having a world with a vague history and no real depth, you have a REAL world under your thumb. When talking about Teriegna, I can say:
"Teriegna is a small nation in the north of Ardenai - capital city Aradurn. It controls the Gulf of Mirathel. It used to be part of the Empire of Darenarc. In the First Century, as Ereth Dhain began to be deserted, its people crossed the channel and landed in Teriegna. Many moved on into Greater Lebbenia, but a good deal of them settled there. Slowly over the years they grew in power and influence. In the year 140, the descendents of these Dhainian immigrants, keen to be free of their Arcian overlords, began to press the state to appeal for independence. In 142, conflicts began between Dhainian republicans and Arcian nationalists. The next year these conflicts escalated into street battles, and troops had to be brought in from the capital to deal with the situation. However by 145, the Prince of Aradurn had died and his son had come to power. He supported the independence movement, and put forward the proposition to the Council of Ereth Arc. Greatly respected in Darenarc, he was listened to and Teriegna recieved independence. However two years later the Prince of Aradurn died without an heir, and Teriegna became the first republic of Ardenai."
How much of this is going to be used in my narrative? I doubt much of it, if any. But its good fun! And it is a good feeling to be writing a narrative in a real world rather than just a vague and skin-deep one.

James Carmack
June 14th, 2007, 07:29 PM
If nothing else, all your work can be rolled into a nice omake for the fans. ^_^

hippokrene
June 14th, 2007, 07:37 PM
elphyon:
"What do you think?
<snip>

O praise the Lady of Blessed Sun, the ruler of the heavens and all that is within,
O praise the Prince of Grapes, the sacred lifeblood of all that lives,
O praise the Pale Queen of the Deep, whose left hand leads us through death,
And forget not thou the Faceless One, who, bound in jeweled-chains,
Lights our souls’ paths with his hallowed Words."

They worship gods of the heaven, the sea/underworld, the something-we're-not-told and... the alcohol? I think it would make more sense to have a god of 'the green' or 'the fields' or of a specific staple food like corn or rice.

Or are you saying these people literally believe their blood is grape juice?