"You're not writing elves or talking animals anymore. It's like I don't even know you!"

- The observation made by my husband before he claimed that I must have been replaced by a pod person. I think he's right.

I've been gearing up for Camp NaNoWriMo (rebelling again this year) by bouncing world-building ideas off said spouse. This kind of creating is something I hadn't spent a lot of time doing previously since I'd been writing in either locations/societies he originally created or I didn't get too in-depth because my short stories were about individuals rather than their culture (like the events in "Hidden Magic" happen almost entirely away from the wood elves' camp). With my current novel and the series I have planned around it, there is a lot of culture development that I need to figure out. The main country where the stories take place is further advanced than the surrounding ones, which has its pros and cons, and it's atypical in pretty much every way. There are no king or noble class because the upper class, as well as the ruling council, are artisans. Artisan-mages, really, but magic is a tightly kept secret here. For a nation to be prosperous enough to support artists at the top, that means changing everything on the way down, too. Enter the classes I have to flesh out below the Artisans: the Officials, the Merchants, the Soldiers, the Tradesmen, and the Laborers. And then there are the ranks within the Artisans, the different guilds/branches for each type of craft, the mobility that exists to move up or down from the class you're born into, rites of passage/name-granting, not to mention building the fringe society of my nomadic carnival performers (technically a branch of Artisans, but always slightly detached from the rest)... that's just some of what I have to sort out, but I'm losing my original train of thought.

The strange thing is that until my husband pointed out that observation, it was something I hadn't really noticed. Almost everything I've ever written, even spanning back to my roleplaying and fanfiction days of a decade ago, has included at least one animal capable of speech or telepathy and I've spent the past five years writing lots of nonhumans (usually elves). Those were my old fallbacks, the character types I would always reach for first. How did I not notice that I left them on the shelf this time? 126 pages written in "Unexpected Inspiration" so far (plus the outlines forming for two more stories to follow) and not a single nonhuman or supernatural animal in sight.

Okay, so there is a housecat who looks like a tiger, but that was just because the illusionist got bored. I have ghosts (of a sort), but they're human. I have weird shadows, but the jury's still out on if those are actually living things; it's just as likely that they're reflections or echoes of energy. But nope, nary a single pointed ear or telepathic animal passing through to make a cameo appearance. It's like I let the side down and I don't feel guilty at all. I do feel like I'm ready to move past that for at least a while. Don't get me wrong, eventually they will make a return since I have to finish "In the Cards" someday and there are nonhumans and animals aplenty living there... with an elf, an orc, a halfling, a doppelganger, a telepathic fox, and a bird-shapeshifter, it's like I pulled nonhumans out of a six-for-one deal bin at the Character Exchange. I may have to turn the fact that almost no one is human into a joke in that one.

But I'm content to write what I'm currently writing. I adore my human carnival performers and artists just as much as my old loves- how can I not when they're wonderfully funny, experimental, and bizarre? I don't need anything more fantastical than their innate magics and circus tricks to pepper their series. The ghosts and shadows may say otherwise, but if something can hardly touch this world and can't be seen by many, are they really worth listening to? ;)




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