Finding Context

The Ramblings of a Rose, post #4

In both extracts I have shown from my fantasy novel so far, you may have noticed the inverted sections: ‘Genesis and Eden’ (in Ulrich’s extract), and ‘The Admiral’ (in Indigo’s extract). These fragments of world-building occur throughout the book – somewhat inspired by the narrative style of ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak.

When I first showed some of my novel to one of my lecturers, she asked: “Why are they there? Is there any context to them?” And… well… it got me thinking: is there any context to them?

I can confirm that there is.

In previous drafts of the novel, I included a preface, wherein an assumed narrator supposedly addresses the reader. So, I returned to this preface idea and played around with it until I was left with the extract provided below. Give it a read. Afterwards, I’ll tell you a little about the world-build itself and where the idea came from.

EXTRACT START
(The book’s preface: ‘A Simple Setting of the Scene’)

You step inside, away from the daytime hubbub of a busy seaside town. Under the low ceiling, you hunch, thinking: What jest’ built this mole’s den? The small room is lit by a single candle. “Fuck.” The word slips off your tongue rather easily; you cannot help yourself – winter has followed you in.

“Sit,” the stranger in front of you says, “go on. Sit.” He – you think it is a ‘he’ – is cloaked; his face is shadowed. All you have to go on is the nasally voice. He is the one who invited you in.

You do not speak; you simply follow the instruction – there’s a stool opposite the stranger.

And, he is holding something between the two of you. “Look,” the stranger says. It is a ball: golden and perfectly spherical. “What do you see?”

“I’m not stupid,” you say. It’s a ball.

“That’s a bold statement,” he says, “but it isn’t an answer.”

“Seriously?” You are not impressed: Why the fuck have I come here? You turn; your eyes find the door to the outside world. I could be making profits, you think. But the stranger before you still has you intrigued – so you return your attention to him. “It’s a ball. A fucking ball.”

The stranger shakes his head: “Wrong,”he says.

You open your mouth to speak, but you are too late.

He continues: “This is the world.”

Fuck me. It is an easy observation you make. This is bonkers.

Yet you remain seated… hopeful.

“What you are looking at right now,” the stranger says, “is your world. Earth, if I am not mistaken?” He offers the ball to you.

You look at it for a moment, then take it. “What’s your point?”

The stranger nods toward your hands… toward the ball. “We call your world the Outerworld… the Surface.”

We…?

With another nod, he continues: “Our world, however…”

You cut him off: “Our world? There’s two…?”

“Give the ball a twist.”

You notice a seam running across the spherical surface. It clicks as you twist. The ball splits in half – it is hollow.

The stranger points to the inside of the ball. “We call our world the Innerworld.” He leans back. “That is where we’re heading, if you care to join us?”

You hesitate.

“This may interest you.” The stranger presents you a book… a journal. “It is a work in progress,” he says.

You make a simple trade: the open world for the journal. The latter is titled: The Story So Far.

You look up to find the stranger has brought forward a smaller book – more of a pocket diary. “You may need this too,” he says.

You take the second book; it reads: An Encyclopaedia of the Innerworld. When you open it, you are greeted with the first of many facts:

A Hollow Earth:
On the outside? It is all human and normality – as you would expect. On the inside? It is quite the opposite.

“Who wrote this?” you ask.

“Look at the back,” the stranger says.

Following instruction, you see a name that you cannot unsee. “How…?”

“What do you say?” he asks, “will you join us?”

“I…” Again, you hesitate. Joining this stranger would mean leaving all you know, you would be risking everything: your work, your home, your friends and family. Yet, you are no different to any other human – for you have a curiosity toward the unknown… toward adventure. And, this stranger is offering you the chance to know and to venture. Plus…

The name. You drop your eyes to the name on the back of the Encyclopaedia once more. How is this so? Looking up at the stranger, you stare into the shadows beneath his hood. There are answers in there; you know it. Thus, you make your decision: “Yes.”

“Good,” the stranger says, “I will notify you when we leave. Until then?” He leans forward and taps the larger of the two books. “Read away.”   

EXTRACT END

So… that is how the book begins. It serves a few purposes, but two crucial ones are to bring context to the fragments of world-building that appear throughout the novel, through An Encyclopaedia of the Innerworld, and to introduce the image of a hollow Earth – the premise of the book’s fantasy world.

Where did this idea of a hollow Earth come from? Well. So many of the elements of the story had appeared in previous ideas I’ve had before – for example, Ulrich Leinheart, his brother, and a number of the events that occur in his point-of-view, or the Malabarista, the ship placed at the heart of Indigo’s story. However, I was torn on how to incorporate them all together. And, a couple of years ago, when on a visit to Harry Potter World, I walked away with one key thought: J.K. Rowling got it right. She had found a way to bridge the gap between ‘the real’ and ‘the fictional’. I wanted to do that too.

I was bouncing ideas around, including the likes of magic and multiple worlds/dimensions/realities/realms – as you can see, I never quite decided on what they would be. Then, during one of the many YouTube rabbit holes, I found myself watching a conspiracy theory video, suggesting that the Earth may be hollow. From here, I found a book called: The Smoky God and Other Inner Earth Mysteries.

I had it! In the above book, it is explained how the two could be connected – how ‘the real’ could meet ‘the fictional’. With it, came the idea of the Innerworld, the Outerworld (also referred to as the Surface), and with them, I was confident I could bring together all of the various fantasy ideas, stories, characters together in one tale. And, I did. Thank f@&#!

If you read blog post #2 (‘From the Blueprint to the Final Draft’), then you may have read the words: ‘P.S. […] Oh… and I finished the first draft of my sitcom too!’ Keep an eye out, because I’ll be revealing a little of this screenplay in blog posts to come.

Until then, as always: leave a comment… explore my website… find me on social media… I’d love to hear if you’ve ever created a fantasy world… or any world! What’s your favourite that’s already been created? Middle Earth is a banger. And a true example as to how to make your world flawless and detailed as possible.

Until next time,

Ben x

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