From Barnsley to Elenchera
One of the greatest attractions about being a writer is giving my imagination a fierce workout. When I began my writing journey back in 1999 it was no surprise when I chose the path of sci-fi and fantasy. I was drawn to the challenge of creating my own world, inhabiting it with characters, setting the rules and laws that govern each land and trying to achieve the seemingly impossible of having a world that is spoken in the same breath as Middle Earth, Discworld, Narnia and many more. I haven’t achieved the last of those ambitions, not by a long shot, but what I do have is a world that is my own and it’s called Elenchera.
Creating your own world leaves you with many difficult decisions – the names of individual lands, towns, villages, rivers, mountains for a start, the peoples that inhabit these lands, animals and creatures that roam wild, and let’s not forget the history. For me, Elenchera started with a world map, each land had a name, as did the mountains, rivers, forests and deserts. Just from having a world map I’d already defined individual lands – some enjoyed warm and tropical climates, others frequently covered in snow. These features alone pre-determined some of the peoples living there. The landscape has as much character as your protagonists; Tolkien knew it and arguably gave more life to Middle Earth than to its inhabitants. The lands you design determine the journeys your characters make, the locations where towns and villages will be built and, if you like battles, the terrain will play its part when arch-rivals are trying to gain a strategic advantage.
Beyond the landscape of Elenchera came the world history and I spent ten years building this from scratch. As with mythology and religion, I came up with the idea of Elenchera being created by a god and after that the events in the timeline gradually unfolded. It’s never easy keeping track of everything. I ended up with twenty-three individual lands and as the world history grew I had to effectively write twenty-three different stories, beginning with when these lands were settled, pioneers scouring the virgin terrain, building the first villages, towns and cities. As the settlements grow you have to decide how lands are governed, by monarchs or are they republics or dictatorships? Individual societies begin simply, of course, but as time develops innovations in agriculture, science, art and technology all take place. As you build your individual lands you’ll soon find they inevitably interact with each other through wars, trade and alliances. There are so many questions to answer but answers you will always need to find. Much of Elenchera wrote itself but I was indebted to the many history books I have read, in particular, Cassel’s World History, which traced important events in our own world.
Elenchera isn’t a perfect place, it’s no utopia, it’s often cruel and uncompromising, but it’s a world that is the product of my imagination and makes for a great topic to bring up in conversation. When someone asks what you do, you can smile and say, “I build worlds.”