Planning a Fantasy Romance #1 – A bit of backstory

This blog is my online planning journal for my next novel. Instead of filling notebooks long-hand, I’m keeping a record of my ideas as I go. It’s a great way of building my new world, while sharing with others how the planning and writing process actually unfolds.

Planning is such an important stage. Despite that it’s creative and a lot of fun, it was always one that I used to rush. Such was my enthusiasm to start writing I would just tell myself I’d plan things as I went. Hence, I had a lot of corners to write my way out of along the way – and lots of lengthy rewrites during the editing process!

How do you start planning your novel?

I’m going to start with creating some backstory, and then move onto the ‘inciting incident’ (the event that starts the whole story rolling). After that, I’ll start building my world around my key concepts.

Bear in mind that a) I have an imagination that tends to run away with me, and b) these ideas are still very sketchy and will be developed as I work through the novel.

Here goes…

Some backstory…

In this world, people worship the Shadow Gods (working name, at this stage). However, this belief is based on fear. Every year on the evening of the longest day – the time of year when the shadows are the longest, folk pay tribute and make sacrifices to the Shadow Gods, to appease them for the coming year.

Some years, the Shadow Gods are cruel, others they are kind. The people of this world know not to linger outside at dusk, or at night when there is a full moon. Over the years people have been mauled, or even slain, by their own shadow. The shadows have been known to carry away children who have wandered outside at dusk unattended.

The roots of this religion are 1,000 years old.

There was once a king who ruled Karth (possible name for my world, not sure yet…) with an iron fist. He possessed a cruel, dark magic. His name was Thane Ombra (name also work in progress – ‘ombra’ means ‘shadow’ in Italian), and he was a powerful warlock. He had a shadow army, of men and demons, who kept control over his terrified subjects.

Eventually, the people of Karth rose up against him. Led by another warlock, named Elduin, they fought a great war against Ombra. Eventually, they pushed him back, far to the north of Karth, and there they fought a great battle, in the foothills of the Shadefell Mountains.

Now, Eldiun possessed a deadly weapon, a talisman that he had fashioned from the darkness itself (will have to develop this idea further). At the height of the battle, when it seemed that Ombra would win, Eldiun used the talisman against him. It cracked in-two as it released its spell, killing Eldiun and imprisoning the ‘Shadow King’ and his army within the caverns and tunnels inside the Shadefell Mountains.

There, he has been ever since, trapped by powerful wards and spells for eternity.

However, the Shadow King left a legacy behind in Karth. Ever since his rule, the shadows have become living, and dangerous, entities. Before his rule, the people worshipped the gods of the seasons (two gods, and two goddesses representing each season), but for the past centuries they now worship the Shadow Gods. They seek to keep them happy at all costs.

Shortly after the Shadow King was imprisoned, a secret society began. They are the Shade Brotherhood , and they all follow the Shadow King and wish to release him from his mountain prison.

These men and women are dangerous. Although magic is said to have been lost from the world since Ombra’s demise, it seems to have reappeared, as those who follow the Shade Brotherhood wield the ability to command the shadows around them to do their bidding.

Those in the brotherhood have worked hard to find a way to release their lord. They have spent the last 1,000 years searching for the two pieces of the talisman that trapped Ombra in his mountain prison. At the entrance to the mountains, there is a great sheet of ice, that forms the door, with an imprint of the talisman in its centre. The Shade Brotherhood believe that what put their master away, also has the power to free him. They believe the talisman is the key that will unlock the door.

After Eldiun fought Ombra, his apprentice – a young man named Farrel – took the two pieces and hid them in opposite ends of Karth. He had to do this, for the material that the talisman is made of is indestructible, so it must be hidden. His master had instructed him to do so, if Eldiun should fall in battle. After hiding the pieces, Farrel promptly took his own life, so that no one could ever torture the knowledge from him.

The power of ‘What if…?”

When building a backstory and theme for a story, I love the technique of using ‘What if…?’.  Here’s my attempt, based on the backstory above.

What if the Shade Brotherhood have finally found the two pieces of the talisman?

What if one of their members is on the run, trying to carry one of the pieces north to where his brothers await with the other half?

What if, in in an act of desperation when his pursuers get too close, he gives it the heroine of our story for safe-keeping… hoping to come back to retrieve it when the coast is clear?

What if she discovers what it is she has been given and takes matters into her own hands?

A promising start??

My upcoming posts will be about the ‘inciting incident’, the novel’s protagonists, and world-building. Still lots of planning to be done!

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