Compendiums? Is that even a word? Compendia?
Books about stuff!
I blogged earlier about bibles and how important I had come to realize that they were (by the way, that bible has come in handy more than once already). Now, I feel the same way about compendiums.
I am a big believer in the power of specific details. The more concrete details that can be woven into a story, the more realistic it feels. Try this … make up a bald faced lie, but litter it with name brands, specific time of the day, specific place, and actual people. See how many of your friends believe it. It’s those details that make a lie seem real. Whether we like to admit it or not, fiction is essentially a big lie (if it were the truth, it would be called history), so we need to make it feel realistic.
Not so easy when you’re writing a fantasy novel. I can’t have my heroine whip out a Walther PPK 7.62 pistol, like Ian Fleming did. Everything was custom made 1,000 years ago. But I can still use specific details, such as describing the makers mark on her sword.
Which brings me to the compendium. I’ve started writing down specific details in a notebook. It’s just things like the maker’s mark on Aura’s sword, the names of plants and animals that exist only in the small magical realm she is journeying through, and exotic types of clothing. I started by taking things that already exist, but giving them a small magical twist (such as changing the leaf color on a common larch to bright purple, because of the influence of heavy magical use nearby). Sitting up creating trees and rocks helps with insomnia, too.
Like the bible, the compendium is already helping me complete my first novel. Having a ready supply of names, colors, actions and descriptions is helping make this story a little more concrete and realistic feeling. For instance, Aura just encountered the Golden Socialite Spider, a sentient spider that is very fond of people. And poor Aura suffers from extreme arachnophobia. Having a specific name and description already at hand helped that chapter flow smoothly.
It also turns out that I’ve started a companion book in the process. Why just keep this to myself? When the series is nearing completion, I’ll polish up the compendium and sell it, too.