Takaom Universe

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Friday, February 19, 2010

When the backstory became the story

When I first realized that I wanted to write fiction again,  I decided to draw upon my family's Tidewater Virginia heritage.  There were a number of tantalizing clues to my Hunt ancestors I had uncovered during a fit of genealogical sleuthing to find long-lost (presumably because they wanted to stay lost) ancestors. I quickly realized that I had to invent a good deal of information about my characters because there just wasn't enough historical fodder in the family's archives.

I initially intended to write stories based on the tumultuous times as the end of Victorian era and the beginning of the 20th Century.  The more I plunged into plotting the story, the more entranced I became with the backstory.

British film director and CalArts professor Alexander Mackendrick defined the backstory as "events previous to the start of the plot which are essential to an appreciation of present circumstances and understanding of character behaviour."

It must be a common thing for authors to start with one objective and end up with a vastly different outcome. J.R.R. Tolkien as a linguistics master invented the languages Quenya and Sindarin and then dreamed up hero stories to be told in these the languages.  He called these stories his legendarium. Out of this work, for which many of you are very grateful, came notably The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings.

Since I don't know much about the Hunt family history, I decided to chuck the family history and invent things mostly from scratch. Along the way I considered two families that had a single divinely-ordained mission lasting for over 200 years to equip and train a single person seen only in a recurring generational dream. I felt after prayer that this was a direction that the LORD wanted me to go.

I toyed with the idea of writing a story arc lasting almost 300 years, from 1650 to 1942, encompassing stories from both families.  Then I decided to have the Hunts as the eventual American cousins of the British Cooper family.

While I do not have a legendarium, I do have a rich love for history and legend from which to draw, as well as nudges/bops on the head  from the Holy Spirit. It has made for an exciting mix.

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