I am still kind of new at writing and self-publishing (especially self-publishing). I have stories on Amazon and a nifty website to publish articles like this, but there are still lots of things I have yet to learn to do. One thing I am not new at though is world-building. I am a thirty year plus veteran at bringing the backstory to life.
It began when I was thirteen years old, with an old briefcase typewriter that I still keep in my garage. The typewriter was only half of the process for me even then; I had to draw maps of my new worlds. My first story and the accompanying map was about the kingdom of Azroth (Only coincidentally similar to Azeroth of World of Warcraft fame that came to the gaming community some twenty years later). I still remember how difficult fighting with the correction ribbon on that typewriter was, and how proud I was of the single-spaced unevenly inked page and a half I wrestled out of it.
After several other abortive world-building efforts, I came upon a game that helped propel my efforts for years to come. In a surprise twist, it wasn’t Dungeons & Dragons. I’d had a couple of poor gaming experiences with AD&D by then, and wanted something else. Although role-playing games were not exactly new by then, I had no idea of how many choices I would face.
I already devoured Marvel comic books by then, so ‘Advanced Marvel Super Heroes the Game’ fit me perfectly. With that system and the Book of Ultimate Powers, I made hundreds of characters, fictitious locations and even brand new worlds for their adventures. I pushed MSH as far as I could by the time I got to high school. However, to this day, I have never played a single Marvel Super Heroes game.
Although I didn’t know it yet, I had bigger ambitions. The seeds of the stories for my Renegade Galaxy series came from MSH but took almost a decade to sprout. In the meantime, I got married. After our honeymoon, I created the fantasy world of Atan, more extensive and realistic than Arda from Lord of the Rings. best of all, it was all mine. It still sleeps in the dozen or so notebooks and maps I never finished.
Still, I fixated on the idea of writing a game from those science-fiction ideas I had in high school. Despite my efforts at learning to program, I never wrote a single piece of code for a game. Instead, I wavered between new fantasy worlds and fleshing out the locations for my would-be sci-fi game settings.
Life has a way of interfering with unfinished things; at least it does for me. I had a ten year enlistment in the Navy to get through, a marriage and divorce to see through, work of one kind or another, lots of failed relationships, the birth of my son, buying and keeping my first house, more health problems than I thought I might survive and a second marriage to concentrate on. Writing or creativity, in general, took a back seat to all of that for a long time.
I managed a bar for a few years in the little Iowa town I call home. I only spent a few hours a week there, but as anyone who has run a business can attest, it consumed more than those few hours. Only when the bar unexpectedly closed was I able to focus on a new story I had just begun, about the Return of Magic to the real world.
That work in progress is still my main focus today, but I have taken a break from it once in a while to work on the original sci-fi series I began in high school, Renegade Galaxy. I did not know it was a series of short stories and novels then, but I have seen the width of material I cobbled together over the years and have outlined a few dozen interwoven stories for that version of Humanity’s future.
Therein lies my problem though. I am incredible at setting up a vivid world for my characters, full of wonders and mysteries to explore. I can show the world through their eyes, think their thoughts, speak in their voices, but for what? I have spent so much time and effort building those worlds that I struggle to give meaning to the trials and tribulations I inflict upon the characters I created.
My only solace is improvement. I am getting better. One of the greatest joys for me as an author is learning to tell my stories better. I love applying lessons from Ben Bova, Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, or Stephen King to hone my craft and give new meaning to the intricately detailed worlds I have built over the past thirty some years.
I suspect some of you reading this can relate to some or all of this.