I am, by training and disposition, a researcher. I am drawn to fantasy because it is a essentially a series of what-ifs. Fantasy is a potent marriage of storytelling and thought experimentation.
When I first began building the world of Aerdh, I started with two fundamental constraints:
- There was no after life.* Nothing is supernatural.
- Magic can exist but only if I understand how it works. It can’t function as a convenient black box which births heavy handed symbolism and contrived plot devices.
Basically, I am a curious reductionist in my approach to the world, and it came out in my worldbuilding. And then, I started writing.
Way back at the start, I thought being a good writer meant you knew everything about every last corner of your world. Now, I don’t think so. There are times a mystery has come up in my books – something as small as how a relationship formed, and something as large as the nature of a whole race of people. And there are times it feels wrong to interrogate the mystery. I don’t always understand things in life. Some things just are. There are phenomena for which we may never know the explanation, even though an explanation surely exists.
I wonder how common an experience this is. Do other writers dig deep and try to answer those questions, do the let the mysteries sit? Should I dig deep, or should I trust this instinct? I can’t help but trust it. I can’t help but think that if the mystery needs solving that a story which solves it will develop organically, without my prodding. And I’d rather solve it in a story than in a vacuum.
I like the mysteries. I like not knowing everything, not being able to predict everything. It makes me feel less like a god and more like a participant in the writing. The mysteries keep me interested.
*This is a rule I have flirted with breaking at least once.