Insecure Writers Support Group! When we flood the world wide web with our pathetic tears. Or hopefully not. Last month I shared about my eight-year-old daughter's inspirational writing habits. (She is, by the way, still at it. Just the other day she received a new diary and did she start writing about boys in it? No, she started writing a story called "The Adventures of Luthien and Dot" about her and her new baby cheetah stuffed toy. It also features some of the Thundercats.) But today, ah today! I am feeling a bit apprehensive myself and I'd like to share a little bit about what's worrying me.
I love ancient history and mythology. Like, a lot. I'm a little bit obsessed with Ancient Egypt in particular. And thus history and mythology is a huge inspiration for and influence on my writing and my worldbuilding. What worries me is this:
Is it an influence to the point where I am just rehashing history and mythology and not being original at all?
This has been a concern for me for a long time. It's always there under the surface. For some time I thought I had defeated it. But recently I read a book with tips for writing fantasy where the author made the argument that if you are taking names from history and mythology and not making up your own names for your fantasy world, then you are a hack. And thus all the old insecurities reared their ugly heads and yelled, "We're baaack!"
Names are a difficulty for me, I admit. I love names. I appreciate a well turned name, made up or no. But I've never been good at inventing them. I'm no Tolkien. So I've been appropriating names from history and from mythology to use in my world. Akhet, the name of one country in my world, is the Egyptian name for the horizon. Another land is even less inspired, Breizh is simply the Breton language name for Brittany. The island of Palis I adapted from an early name that Tolkien made up but never ultimately used. (Which was an intentional homage to his influence on me.) Character names are no better. Narmer was the name of a very early Egyptian king as was Menes. Sollon is Solon, the Greek politician and philosopher, with the oh-so-clever addition of an L.
But of course names aren't the only problem. I am also concerned that I am following cultures too closely. Since the beginning I intended Akhet to take much from Ancient Egypt. But I intended to pick and choose how much of real Egyptian culture I wanted to use and make up the rest. The problem is that I love almost everything about Egyptian culture and now I'm concerned that Akhet will be little more than an obvious and shallow copy.
Ultimately, am I taking too much from the real world, and not making my world original enough? The thought haunts me. Tolkien is my role model as a worldbuilder and it's clear that he took his inspiration from northern mythology and literature. Yet he took it and somehow made it wholly his. I worry incessantly that I will fall miserably far of this ideal.
So there you have it, ISWG. Any words of encouragement for me?