When I initiated my fantasy novel late in 1999 my imagination opened wide and ideas descended faster than flying monkeys scooping up Dorothy. Yes, I’m talking about writing fiction and world building. My first world building project that required writing (yes, there are other kinds) was the world’s history and over the years I’ve added to it until it’s at least 150 pages long.
There’s a moderately detailed history spanning the Old Empire period, which covers over 3000 years. It includes the Emprensen Empire’s rise, height, and fall. Also included are the kingdoms and nations it eventually defeated, the groups that rose up to oppose it, magic discoveries during the period, and notable figures. After the Old Empire’s collapse the only sizable civilizations remaining were Hartise, which once was considered an Empire “backwater” province, and Forstava, the ora’ean homeland. All the other Empire provinces collapsed.
The next history I created was for Hartise. It spanned the roughly 1000 years following the Empire’s fall. It contains more detail and includes the former province’s struggles to survive. Hartise is located near the continent’s center, but natural barriers and a few other factors aided its survival. There are other small specialty histories, too.
It’s my belief that understanding the past helps with understanding the present. Too, knowing what came before helps me visualize what remains. Those ruins over there? Oh yeah, that was an Old Empire outpost. That abandoned structure? That was one of the colleges that taught magic to those possessing the gift. To me, it’s exciting and since Hartise constitutes less than 5% of the continent, Ontyre, there are many cultures and ruins awaiting exploration and discovery.
A fringe benefit is that the history aids idea generation (quite a twist given that it was idea generation that created it in the first place). It’s also a tremendous reference tool. For the reader, history equals mystery (catchy saying!) if it’s revealed with a careful hand that well understands that history. For the world builder who writes fantasy fiction it’s important to write that history, for with the writing comes the understanding.
As anyone else written a history, big or small? I’d love to hear about other experiences.