Governing is really hard work.
I often find myself wondering, as I sit here on the 6:23 into Paddington, how creating a government, from scratch, in a fantasy world compares to creating a government in the more real-life world. I’m not saying that the former could, in any way, be easier than the latter (I’m not quite that megalomaniacal yet), but do the two types of architects consider the same sorts of questions? Do they run into the same sorts of problems?
I’m working on fleshing out the third act of book two this week. In this third act, the characters find themselves travelling to a location they haven’t previously visited. The problem? It’s not a place I’ve previously visited either. If their adventures forced them to travel to, let’s say, Mesa, Arizona, this process would be easy. I grew up in Mesa, so I know what the buildings look like, how the local economy works, and what system of government they have. I know that if the characters want to adventure in the desert, it’s a short trip away. If they want to do “city” things, they need to head to the neighboring Phoenix, the capital of Mesa’s larger region. The characters get to discover this city as I explain it to them.
But they’re not going to Mesa. They’re going to a place hitherto unknown in history or fiction (or the history of fiction), and so it’s up to me to figure these things out, because it’s the details, the flesh of a place, that makes it interesting.
So, here I am, trying to work out what system of government these people use, how they dress, what the buildings look like. What shape is the city? What is it that happened in the city’s history that caused it to be that shape? Where does their water come from? How do they get along with their neighbors?
The thing is, if I don’t answer these kinds of questions, I can be certain of two things. First, the story will be less interesting, less real, and a helluvuh lot less engaging. Second, I’ll find myself right smack in the middle of act 3 and suddenly discover that something the characters are doing makes no sense, forcing me to either start plastering over previously established details, or just rewrite the whole thing from scratch.
It’s a whole lot of fun, though. I wonder if anybody else on this train is involved in city planning?