When a Writer Asks What If?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I must’ve cycled through a hundred answers to this as a kid. Dancer, marine biologist, professional traveler. The only one that ever stuck was writer. Call me crazy, but music, the ocean, and the world always fed me one thing.
Then, in high school, I met Fantasy. Aaah, my soulmate. My beloved. (This is what happens when you’re not allowed to date until sixteen or outside your religion. Drugs or reading. Mine was reading.) I could travel without leaving the classroom, exploring far off lands full of adventure, magic, and the occasional fire-breathing dragon.
Enter the Trope
You know the story. Old guy in a pointy hat shows up, talks to an orphan living with abusive or poor (or both) relatives, and says, “You have a destiny!” ‘great, powerful drama voice here’ Shenanigans ensue, somewhere there is a girl, the bad guy (who may or may not be related to the orphan or responsible for the orphan’s orphan status) is defeated, everyone lives happily ever after!
Also, the prophecy is almost always correctly understood by both good guys and bad guys, (though admittedly occasionally seems self-fulfilling for bad guys.)
You don’t have to tell me. You’re thinking of THAT book. Harry Potter. No, Lord of the Rings. Wait, Shannara, no, sorry Star Wars. Or was it Hercules? Okay, Hercules wasn’t exactly an ORPHAN, but you get the idea. We all know that story. And for a while, I escaped beautifully.
Then along came the big question…
What if those crazy, black-skinned Elves weren’t evil? Everyone just thought they were?
What if that prophecy was written in a dead language that no one could accurately translate anymore, even with spells, because you couldn’t make sense of the idioms without cultural context?
What if you mixed Elves with rock and roll?
What if their world wasn’t stuck in what we like to believe the Middle Ages and Dark Ages were like, not because they had widespread magic, but because magic and technology worked in tandem?
What if their gods were less like Greek gods, and more like a Judeo-Christian one? Or maybe a blend of both?
What if atheist Elves were a thing?
What if Dwarves had a Jamaican accent, not a Norse one?
What if the Elven language had a grammar structure like Japanese?
What if Gnomes existed but Halflings didn’t?
What if the sun was blue-white instead of yellow?
What if two planets could sustain intelligent life in a system?
But the first question that started it all.
What would happen if you put a Drow and a High Elf in a rock band together?
The Birth of an Idea
One that I never thought would stick. I asked that question to a friend as we talked about gaming, somewhere around ten years ago now. His response? “That would make a great novel!”
I agreed. We jotted down a few names for band members. That piece of notebook paper sat nearly blank, with its list of five names, for about three months. Then the story started. It started with one character, then another, and grew into a world full of life and characters and stories, and I will spend the rest of my life telling what I can of them, starting this coming January.