Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sometimes the World Is Already Built

I write two different series - a loosely connected set of science fiction romance and adventure  novels set in the far future of a galactic civilization I call the Sectors and another loosely connected set of paranormal romances set in Ancient Egypt. 1550 BCE  Egypt to be pretty exact.

Talk about a rich background in which to to set stories! By then the Egyptians had about 1600 years of history already behind them, the pyramids were built long ago, there were myths and gods, heroes and legends, male and female pharaohs, and a well organized civilization with all of its own rules and intricacies. OK, so I did not create Ancient Egypt. But I don't write pure historicals either...I want, no I need the gods to be personally involved in the events that occur during my novels. So I do research and more research and I never know where the research will lead me, in terms of either new plot ideas or facts to weave into the stories.

It really made my day when Kirkus Reviews said I'd "clearly done my research".  Thanks, guys!

So I invented my own Pharaoh, made him a composite of several real men who sat the on the throne around that time. I gave him a Usurper Pharaoh to fight  and she's very loosely based on Hatshepsut. My ruler and the heroes and heroines of my books constantly battle the Hyksos, who were Egypt's primary enemy at that time, and their gods and demons, which I freely admit to having developed myself, based on research into a great many belief systems of ancient peoples in that part of the world (Sumer, Mesopotamia, Akkadia) and what little we know of the Hyksos.

But it's not as simple as plunking my characters down in hot, sunny ancient Egypt during the Nile inundation and "just"  writing. I want  the people in my novels to inhabit their world believably, even if black magic is going on and the goddess Isis is issuing commands... First of all, while we know a great deal about the civilization, most of the knowledge is from tomb paintings, scraps and fragments of papyrus, broken columns etc. So a lot of what we "know" is theorizing, which leaves me room to maneuver. Secondly, the Egyptian pantheon of deities had origin stories that shifted over time. Not only that, the gods themselves changed during the thousands of years the Egyptian civilization reigned. In some cases three or four previously separate gods eventually morphed into one. And many cities and towns had their own local  god or goddess, or a version of one of the more well known gods.

So like anyone who has built a world from scratch, I have to keep track of which aspects of the mythology and the history I've chosen and be consistent. I have to try to weave daily details into my novels that place my characters in ancient Egypt for you, without either going overboard on how much research I've got at my fingertips or having the dancers, priestesses, warriors and others take too much notice of things that would be routine to them.

I enjoy the challenge. I love the time period, which is part of why I write novels set there...I sometimes create
deliberate anachronisms to make the story flow a bit more easily...I catch myself in other anachronisms that need to be fixed. "The chariot jounced over iron hard ruts..." Umm, no, they didn't have iron at this stage. and saying the chariot jounced over bronze hard ruts is just going to take my Readers out of the story most likely so...time to rewrite that sentence!

So yes, I "moved into" a world that I didn't have to create from thin air, but once I was there, I definitely did some rearranging and expansion to make the background into the place where the stories I want to tell can take place.

Maybe another week I'll tell you about my science fiction world building. Anything can happen at Word Whores!

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