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This week's article: Daydreams and Ruminations: creating fictional mythologies
It won’t come as much surprise to the people that know me, but I spend a lot of time daydreaming. I ruminate on stories. Parts of some will pop up in a novel here, a short story there. Most will not escape the confines of my imagination. These are the scenarios wherein I work out elements of my daily life, relationships, future aspirations, things I’ve said when I shouldn’t or not said when I should have. Inside my head, life is role-played, on repeat, nightly (which explains my insomnia).
Most of us probably do the same (please say we do otherwise I’ll worry I’m losing the plot altogether). What I want to talk about today though is the parts of my daydreams and ruminations that go on to appear in written stories or form foundations for a story idea. These are the persistent threads. The thoughts that turn into guidebooks for a new fantasy belief system (I have several).
Take my 2017 release, A Single Light, as a case in point. The ideas for it came out of some old nightmares (and B-grade horror movies), a poem, and the desire to let loose an entity committed to duty, diligence, and protection. Not the kind of duty that one might pay lip-service to. Or the kind where one has imposed obligations. But the sense of duty that comes from deep within, where life’s purpose is known and acted upon. Such an abiding knowledge of self leads to a solitary nomadic life and from this a character, Lael, came into being who was a Guardian, unknown outside of her own people; born to protect the innocent from the dark-side of her race.
The innocent are known as the Rydri. Humans. Lael’s race is the Alffür and their dark counterpart are the Bledray. The Alffür and Bledray were once a single race. They came into being through constant thought-processes (the very same that keep me awake most nights) and an obsessive desire to untangle their history. When I first started writing A Single Light, the Alffür and Bledray had no particular story, they just were. By the time, I finished writing and in the last few weeks before final edits concluded, their backstory burst into life to become the Journal of Malaik. Fragments of the journal appear between chapters to give the reader some idea of the “alien” race of ghouls whose sole purpose seemed to be gorging themselves on every essence of humanity they could capture.
The reader learned, alongside the protagonists about the complex paradox in which the monsters existed. Theming followed the line that the good aren’t always, by nature, good; and by the same token, the bad aren’t always bad.
My “daydreams” can become quite complicated. To support my thinking, I hit the books and started researching ancient cultures that hinted at similar concepts; creation stories and mythology from various earthbound cultures intrinsically connected to the earth.
The circle and the tree are fixed points in many world cultures and ones I often come back to when working on “new” mythologies.
The “one tree”, the “world tree”, the “tree of knowledge” is represented in the knowledge and learning of Miaheyya While Miaheyya, and the related philosophy used in this story, is derived from an ancient culture, the offshoot races are fictional.
In A Single Light, the Alffür and Bledray are the Children of Miaheyyu.The Alffür understand that all life is precious. The Bledray care only for themselves and each other. Yet the divide between them is fragile; a thin line between a hunger for knowledge and plain old hunger.
On a grand and individual scale, life is cyclic. As cultures age they weaken until they pass into mythology or fade away into the unknown. When the Alffür and Bledray become extinct, there will be none to remember them and their history will be constrained within the tattered remnants of Malaik’s Journal.
When researching early human history, we tend to frame what we see and read within our personal context. If the researcher is a trained historian then perhaps their parameters are broader, but they too are restricted by the culture and society in which they and their teachers live. There are many scraps of records in existence that are the remaining vestiges of civilisations that we will never fully understand.
The Journal of Malaik is a representation of these lost histories and the stories they told; the broken stories left to us; the stories that we too will leave in our wake.
And so, you have an inkling of where daydreaming can lead a writer, and the stories behind the stories in a published work.
A Single Light is not meant to be a call to action to remember and record history, or a story that harks to golden ages gone by. It is, at its core, a story that borders on horror and the contemporary realisation of myth not quite gone from this earth; an adventure in the hot scrubby bushland of southern Sydney where if you venture a few feet from the trail, you could become lost. A place where strange sounds are heard and invisible animals move among the trees; where monsters might lurk, waiting for the unsuspecting hiker to come within their reach and satiate an ages-old hunger…