I’ve been the owner/creator of some sort of detailed paracosm ever since I was a very small child; I believe it started out as a way to keep imagining and playing with My Little Ponies even after I was told to go to bed. Naturally, it’s evolved quite a bit since then, and I suppose it would be more truthful to say that I’ve gone through several paracosms over my lifetime. For me, it was always a way to explore ideas that would have been taboo in my ultra-conservative upbringing, or simply to live vicariously through the characters I created.
In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to take one of my imaginary worlds and turn it into a book — and maybe even share it with the world. That’s a scary prospect, though, so I kept it all to myself for decades, telling myself silly stories about how nothing I had come up with was really that good. My husband, who is my best friend, didn’t know I even had this stuff in my head. When I finally started telling him about my ideas, he was, to my amazement, super into it,* and he encouraged me to start writing it all down. Finally I was like, “What the hell.” So I pulled up some Google Doc files and started dumping information.
Friends, writing out your paracosm is not an easy thing. It’s fun, yes, and shockingly fulfilling, but it is not easy. Here are a few things that I was not quite prepared for when I started this project.
Naming all the things
I never realized how many characters, places, and things didn’t have names; in my mind they were sort of just “the second person from the left in that scene” or “that land to the south that has a desert.” When I first started what I’ve now dubbed “the paracosm project,” I thought I could jump right in to writing… only to spend the first few weeks naming all the things. And sometimes renaming them. And maybe re-renaming them.
Damn it, some of my characters came across as one-dimensional once I started putting them on the page. But they’re not, I swear — they’re really awesome when you get to know them. Actually, this has been one of the most fascinating parts of this project; the more I write about my characters, the more I learn about them. Suddenly I find out that one of my favorite guys has a really annoying streak, and that minor characters who didn’t even have names before are hilarious and snarky. Whereas my first attempts at writing them ended up feeling shallow, they are now starting to take on dimension.
You know how, when you watch a scene in a movie, it doesn’t take nearly as long to watch it as it does to read it in a book? Yeah, this whole writing thing is like making a movie in your head and then trying to adapt it for the page, where you’re the only one who can even see the movie and you have to explain it to everyone else. In detail. Without sounding like a five year-old.
Filling plot holes
When everything just stayed in my head, I didn’t always bother with coherent plots, figuring that, a) it didn’t matter because no one was ever going to know about this, and, b) if I ever did want people to know about it I could just go back and fix everything later. Which sounds great until you realize you’ve just been imagining a bunch of loosely related scenes that, once strung together, contain a flimsier plot-line than most pornos. Suddenly, some of my favorite sequences just don’t work anymore, or a significant bit of the other scenes needs to change in order for them to work. Ugh.
At this point, I’m about a month and a half in to this project. I’ve done a lot of thinking, a lot of writing, and a lot of re-writing. I’ve got Google Docs coming out my ears. I should probably draw a map, which is not something I ever thought I’d add to my skill set. I’m more than a little freaking out about this entire thing. But I’m having fun. And so far the My Little Ponies are staying out of it.
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*Really, I don’t know why I was so surprised. I mean, my paracosm is full of magic and mythological creatures and epic battles and all sorts of things that my super nerdy man is totally into. I told him I was thinking of getting some books on armor and weapons and he was like, “Why do you needs books, I am a walking encyclopedia of these things,” and proceeded to show me his notebook of sword sketches. So, yeah. I don’t know what my problem is.