Author David Farland, in one of his writing emails (sign up here) notes the following elements that make up a successful series when it comes to story:
- Have a persistent world and persistent characters
- Don’t change the settings too much
- Have a persistent conflict that builds and escalates
- A central conflict will bind the series together.
Now, the first time that I did this exercise, The Knowledge Stones and Grove of Graves (the first book and novella in the Ruon Chronicles) did not exist yet. This meant that I had to refine these points to make sure that the Ruon Chronicles series will still form a whole instead of being a bunch of completely standalone stories masquerading as one story.
Not that there’s anything wrong with different “episodes”, so to speak, that are standalone, but it’s just not what I intend Ruon Chronicles to be.
Having a central and persistent conflict that will bind the series together
When it comes to a central conflict, it remains that the Third Sundering of Airtha-Eyrassa needs to be stopped to keep the world from falling into ruin.
I soon realised when I started writing The Ruon Chronicles that I will need to have a consistent world at my fingertips if I wanted this to work. Luckily I’d been working in the world for a number of years before doing a major overhaul of the world to turn it into what it is today. You see, the first things I wrote in this world were a bit — well, dull and disjointed.
Once I realised that another Sundering could be on its way because of human intervention in Airtha-Eyrassa, I decided on the Third Sundering as the main conflict of the books of the series.
Well, one of them… I can’t give everything away!
By building and escalating the events of your series (and here there is a good reason to sometimes binge your favourite TV or book series to see what works and what doesn’t), you will not only be able to retain readers but also hold your own interest in the story. That is put in italics for me to remind myself that a series should be fun to write and not something you need to schlep through, after a while hating every moment.
A persistent world to bind the series together
It’s also this fact of having to have a persistent world to bind the world together that I had to work on a lot. I couldn’t put everything I wanted into the world, and, so I am keeping some fantasy and story elements for my other fiction, for example Porselein. The magic and talents in Ruon Chronicles are enough without putting all of the now-Porselein-stuff about the masks and memories in there as well as it would just have been too much.
As for magic and technology, the Ruon magic has built itself into a much more intricate magic system and uses a lot of different needlework mediums; not just embroidery and tapestry as it was in the beginning. So you’ll have a character using a (knitted) lace shawl as source of her magic power at the start of book two, for example. (This is a scene that I’ve already written and would have been the start of the series initially. Only after writing almost a whole novel did I realise that I needed to start the story much earlier. And, so, Knowledge Stones was born.)
Of course, there are certain parameters in which the Ruon magic works and not everybody who can do a bit of sewing or knitting can use it!
Building the world of Airtha-Eyrassa — twice
The world of Airtha-Eyrassa has grown very large over the years that I’ve worked on the series and ideas for it. It was, however, in 2015 that I started with an almost complete overhaul of the world and its worldbuilding. I think I was before then really set in the belief that I had to follow to closely in others’ footsteps (i.e. steal for money and profit just a bit too much). I also realised that the world itself had “grown up”, so to speak, as I got older and went through some major life changes. I found that I could no longer write in the “old” Airthai-world.
Soon, however, I realised that, although the world has some very dark elements, the story itself can be considered Noblebright and even borders on Christian fantasy in some ways (think of the more fantastical stories Enclave Publishing publishes).
But don’t worry, it’s not a bunch of sermons not-so-cleverly-disguised-as-epic-fantasy. Though I may have stolen elements from the Bible, especially with the creation of Airtha-Eyrassa:
In the beginning, when there was only Agrai, the world of Airtha-Eyrassa was created. Agrai, called the One by the peoples of Airtha-Eyrassa, created the world and then gave it one sun and one moon. Then Agrai kindled four great stars from which all other stars in the night sky are descended. These four stars Agrai created to show the people of Airtha-Eyrassa their way by night. And they were the greatest and brightest in the night sky.
Then Agrai looked towards the world of Airtha-Eyrassa, and the world was entirely covered in water. With a single word Agrai parted the land and the water, just as the sun and the stars had been kindled.
Agrai then created the plants and animals, filling the land and the waters with them. For an age they grew and lived and, once they had thrived and filled all the lands, the Age of Morning dawned.
Basically, I now have the following as a very summarised history of the events pre-Knowledge Stones that leads into the first novel.
During the Achtarion War between the Airus and Khaldun, the Knowledge Stone was found by the Airus Ira-laleth. Keeping the stone, which was imprinted with the very words of creation, secret from the Khaldun, Ira-laleth found that she had received the gift to add and imprint other knowledge on the stone as well.
Safely sequestered for three thousand years, the Keepers of the Stone was at last attacked in their shrine — but not before the stone was broken into many pieces to be taken to safety. Given to Airus who fled into the wilderness in order to keep the stone’s knowledge secret, the Khaldun set out after them, slaying many and taking the slivers of stone for themselves. It was also at this time that Ira-laleth and her entire family was slaughtered by the Khaldun.
The remaining Airus heeded a call in their dreams to flee to the Midlands and the Sanctuaries there and, so, most of the Knowledge Stone pieces were saved when the First Sundering tore through the lands of the Airus and Khaldun, and much of the land sank beneath the waves. After the Sundering, many of the Airus went into hiding throughout Airtha-Eyrassa, fearing that they would still be hunted by the Khaldun. Yet none forsook their oath to keep the stones safe.
The Age of Blood and Sorrow dawned on the lands of Airtha-Eyrassa, only ending with the Second Sundering.
Many years pass while the Knowledge Stones become a part of Airtha-Eyrassa’s legends and folklore. With the pieces of knowledge stone now scattered throughout the lands, the long search of the lost Stones by the Seekers of Knowledge begins.
When two Seekers find a Stone that contains knowledge about the Khaldun and how they could once and for all be defeated, a fire is kindled in Airtha-Eyrassa. What was only legends suddenly become truth and plunges Airtha-Eyrassa’s lands into war.