One of my goals in life is to write a novel. This has been a goal of mine since I was a sophomore in high school. In fact, someone actually wrote an article about my ambition for the school paper. It’s a little embarrassing to think back to that article and realize that, 13 or so years later, I haven’t actually written anything yet. But I will. Just you wait.
In the meantime, I have a little bit of a problem. See, I have an idea for a novel (or rather, a series of novels) that has been percolating in my head ever since the aforementioned sophomore year of high school. This concept has grown over time, so that what began as an idea for one book has turned into an idea for a series of 9 books. And the mythology that underpins this potential series has grown correspondingly as well.
As I muster up the drive to actually sit down and work on this stupid book, finally, I’ve decided that my first order of business is to actually write out a timeline of all the relevant events that happen prior to and during the story that I plan to tell. And this timeline starts at the very beginning, i.e. the beginning of time.
Now, my problem is basically that I’m having trouble coming up with a beginning to my fictional universe that doesn’t totally rip off the beginning of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional universe from The Silmarillion. See, at the beginning of The Silmarillion, Iluvatar, the One, creates the Valar (greater gods) and the Maiar (lesser gods), and the greatest of the Valar (Melkor) is jealous of Iluvatar’s power and rebels against him. In my mythology, the One, Ilu (or Eru, or Enu – I haven’t settled on a name yet), creates “greater gods” and “lesser gods”, and the greatest of the greater gods (Malachi) rebels against Ilu and tries to claim Ilu’s power for his own. I imagine you can see the problem here.
From this point on, the two stories diverge greatly (or at least I’d like to think so). And it’s possible I could get away with ripping off Tolkien in this fashion anyway, since these events don’t actually happen within the timeframe that the books will cover, but rather thousands of years prior to the first book in the series. Besides, I’d hardly be the first person to rip off Tolkien. Pretty much the entire fantasy genre of the past 50+ years is just a footnote to Tolkien anyway.
Still though, I would prefer to come up with something original. The problem is that there’s only so many ways that a world can be created. It is essential to my story that there be a being of infinite power that creates the universe, and a being of immense power, created by the first being, who rebels in an attempt to rule the universe himself. I suppose there’s not a lot of room for variation within that framework.
I suppose I could start by coming up with names for my characters that are less like the names of Tolkien’s characters. I am thoroughly partial to the name Malachi for my villain though, and that’s not all that close to Melkor, is it? Not particularly, plus that character will actually be known by the name Drazul for most of the 9-volume series anyway, so it probably doesn’t matter that his original name is somewhat similar to the original name of Tolkien’s villain. That, and Melkor is known as Morgoth in most of Tolkien’s work, anyway. Probably only the nerdiest of Tolkien nerds would know the name Melkor. Of course, those are also the people that would be the most vocal about me ripping off Tolkien. I’m just kind of arguing in circles at this point.
Maybe it’s not really worth worrying about anyway. I mean, this 9 volume series that I’m planning actually begins tens of thousands of years after the creation of the universe, so the specific events surrounding the creation aren’t going to be a huge part of the story. Again though, that means that the only people who would be aware of how closely the creation of my universe resembles that of Tolkien are the hardcore fantasy nerds, the ones who would be the most upset that I blatantly ripped off Tolkien. So yeah, it probably is worth worrying about.
Perhaps the solution is to flesh out the creation story in greater detail. Maybe I need to spend time thinking about the relationship between Ilu and Malachi, and the relationship between Malachi and Medroni, the second most powerful of the greater gods, who takes over the leadership of the greater gods in the wake of Malachi’s rebellion. I could delve deeper into why Malachi wants to rebel in the first place. That might be enough to differentiate my story from Tolkien’s. After all, Tolkien’s account of the creation of his universe is basically just a sketch that sounds as if it was written by the guys who translated the Bible into English back in 1611. (That would be the King James Version, in case you’re not up on your Bible translation chronology.)
It is also possible that I might be able to think of some sort of alternate creation story. I might be able to change things so that my universe is created by an impersonal force of some sort, rather than a God-like being with a name and a personality. As a Christian, it’s difficult for me to conceive of a logical way that a universe could be created by an impersonal force, but this is a fictional story. I’ve never intended for it to be an allegory of Christianity or anything. Maybe impersonal force is the way to go. It would change some elements of the overall story fairly drastically though. I’ll have to think about it.
In any case, none of this will matter at all if I never actually write the first book in the series. So I’d better stop thinking and start doing. Wish me luck.