For the month of April, I’m going to be doing something different for Fiction Fridays.
Normally, I try to upload a piece of writing each week. I’m not great about that, but it’s more or less worked out. But this month I’ll write about Aspects of Sand, the fantasy novel I’m writing for Camp NaNo. It’s posted to Wattpad if you want to check it out.
For the sake of keeping things relatively simple should I need to make changes, I’ve been breaking down each post by chapters and scenes. This isn’t necessarily ideal, because it makes things go slowly, but there’s a lot to consider going into it.
I call Aspects of Sand a Camp NaNoWriMo project, but I actually started it two days early (on March 30). This gives me a little head-start. Since I’m posting it “live” I want to give myself a chance to edit as I go.
This place will give me a chance to talk about my work as I do it. I’ll generally blend “development” talk with some of the ideas that inspired elements.
Also, some of this will contain spoilers. If you’re averse to that, wait a week after this comes out (April 9) and most of the things I discuss as elements of the story should have already appeared in the released sections.
Making a Language
Aspects of Sand takes place in an entirely fictional world. While I’ve drawn the phonemes for the language from a mixture of Egyptian, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and ancient Mesopotamian languages, I don’t use a whole lot.
I don’t use constructed words when I write fantasy, but I need ways to name things. It feels wrong to have too many “Adjectivenoun” elements. Despite, say, historical sites often having these names, we don’t anglicize them. As a result I want to have certain sound/spelling patterns to work with to give quality names.
The general naming scheme throughout the kingdom of Ehlil is as follows:
H can go next to any vowel, but is most common at the start of a name.
Any vowel is acceptable, but “o” is rare and usually starts a name when it occurs.
The most common consonants are n, m, k, f/ph (ph in words with “o”, otherwise f), and r.
Diphthongs (two vowels side-by-side) are rare.
Names often start without a consonant, but noun-consonant-noun is a common morpheme setup. Doubling consonants is rare, but possible.
-is, -un, and -ir endings are generally masculine, any -a ending is feminine. This is not a comprehensive list, and diphthong endings don’t follow a rule.
The Role of the Gods
When I write anything with supernatural elements, polytheism represents some elements of nature while monotheism represents the divine.
In Aspects of Sand, I have a central pantheon of four gods. They are vengeful and demand worship, which is an analogy for the elements of nature that demand our attention.
Because of the number and the traditional associations involved with this, I associated the gods with the seasons, though since the setting takes place largely in a desert it doesn’t work traditionally.
Another consideration is the ecclesiastical hierarchy that the Kingdom of Ehlil follows.
At the lowest level are laypeople, who are expected to contribute to their local shrine or temple. In most places, the king pays the priests directly instead of having them collect tithes. Small towns are an exception to this rule, but they typically only have shrines.
The middle tier are the shrine keepers. Devotees of the gods, they understand the basic rituals necessary to satisfy each deity in times of crisis. Shrine keepers require some education, but not literacy. Zefra, the protagonist of the novel, is a shrine keeper. She’s literate and more competent than average, because like many small towns across Ehlil her hometown of Odun has only shrine keepers and no priests, mandating a higher standard of education.
The priests occupy the highest tier. Most priests were, at one point or another, a shrine keeper. This is not a requirement, and sometimes priesthood serves a political function. Illiterates are not eligible, and those with no devotion find themselves sidelined as bureaucrats.
As mentioned earlier, the setting has four major gods. I don’t delve into any of the minor gods in my outline, and I don’t think I’ll bring any up throughout the novel except maybe as a name in passing.
Roughly speaking, they have portfolios as follows.
Akkun (winter) is the god of dreams, death, and the underworld. In particular, he is a deity that people go a long way to please, because people believe that those who die in their sleep are claimed by Akkun.
Akkun is neither merciful nor particularly vengeful, but his predilections tend toward suffering and distress. He is more appropriately thought of as the god of nightmares and decay, with other dreams coming from a minor goddess who is a child of Akkun and Heja.
His priests wear robes of red and black. Akkun has no unified symbol; his followers and the devout collect relics as a sign of devotion, and regional sects or temples will use the symbol most relevant to their organization.
On a deeper level, Akkun is a metaphor for the psyche. He represents the parts of people that are known as well as the parts of people that are unknown. He follows his own logic. Because of the background of the setting, and the crimes of the Glassmakers (who are sorcerers practicing dark arts), he unleashes the plague that serves as a catalyst for the central plot.
The Other Major Gods
Heja (spring) is the goddess of fertility, life, and birth. She is a polar opposite to Akkun, though the faithful often represent them as a wedded couple in mythology and rituals. One reason for this connection is that Heja defends people from Akkun by drawing away his attention, which lets life bloom across the kingdom.
Her priests wear white and lavender robes. Heja’s symbol is grain or a flower, depending on which sect the priest belongs to. Like Akkun, she is neutral toward people. Wild animals are part of her portfolio.
Neiro is the sun god. He is benevolent and much-beloved, but also responsible for the heat of the desert. As a result, there are complicated rules surrounding the invocation of Neiro. Niero’s followers worship him at night, indoors, or from high places to avoid the searing heat of the sun, which he brings wherever he gives his attention.
Neiro’s priests wear white, red, and yellow robes. His symbol is the sun (what a surprise!).
Olipha is the goddess of water and secrets. She achieved fame for her many mischiefs, including stealing godhood. Lovers invoke her name. Although fickle and prone to temper, she is benevolent.
Olipha’s priests wear blue and green robes. Her symbol varies by sect. The most common priestly sect uses a scroll as their symbol, because knowledge is in her portfolio. However, eyes and lips are common symbols of her orders.