Yesterday (or was it the day before?), somewhere 40k feet above the Pacific, I brought out my NaNo novel one more time, and it was next to impossible to get back in the groove. I went back several thousand words and re-read to the end (which isn’t the end at all), and jumped back in… and was completely uninspired.
It isn’t my intention that this turn into a whinge, so I’ll get to the point. I stopped working on the story, and turned my attention to the beings and the world that are my setting.
Late last week I had an idea – why not set this novel on earth… but in the Eocene epoch? First – why the Eocene? Because I was basing a large mammal (the sarkkussan) in my novel on the Andrewsarchus, which lived during that time. But that created a problem, because the Eocene falls after the K-T extinction event, which resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs. The Umgonnan are rather saurian – dragon-like creatures – so wouldn’t they be extinct, too?
Um. well. No. Not necessarily… because it seems that they are some kind of proto-bird, and the saurian progenitors of the birds survived the K-T extinction event. So far so good.
If I choose to set the novel in that epoch, then the physical world is built. Simply surfing around Wikipedia I can learn about the landmasses of the time, the way the climate was, the way the climate changed over time, they way plate techtonics shaped the world during that epoch… everything. And last week I was in Half-Price Books selling some books that I needed to ditch, and I found a 5th edition of a textbook on all the above for $10 – the 6th edition goes for $130.
All that being said… I’m still not sure that’s the way to go. The Umgonnan are not based on any actual Eocene creatures (after all, they have eight limbs – four legs, two arms, and two wings!), and using actual historically verifiable denizens of the forests and plains of their planet might doom the scientifically-minded reader to confusion.
Since that is completely unsettled in MY mind right now, I started writing a detailed physical description of the Umgonnan, clarifying for myself exactly what it is that I’m seeing in my mind’s eye. I enjoyed the process, easily writing 1500 words, which morphed from a simple physical description to an outline of 2000 years of cultural history, and the relationship of the four main culture groups of the ‘people’. I plan on continuing that process in the coming days, as well as using Holly Lisle’s book on Language Building to make naming things easier.
What do you think about using a prehistoric era as a setting? How has worldbuilding worked for you? Are you able to get back into your Nano novel after setting it aside for a while? Let me know what you think in the comments!