I’ll be the first to admit that I’m beyond stubborn. I like things to go a certain way. I have routines. When I had a clear vision for the Second Realm as a place for my characters to explore and play, I created solid rules that the universe could not break. These rules governed my world building, and consequentially, any story ideas born for the Second Realm after that. Much like Stephen King’s Maine, where events tend to cluster in the same cities, the Second Realm was meant to house all of my fantasy, in varying locations. All the locations played by the same rules, the solid rules the universe could not break.
My roommate, however, thought that was too restrictive.
My roommate has been a constant sounding board for my ideas for the past couple of years. Whether it be the Second Realm or other projects, he’s been a valuable resource for idea bouncing and getting me to write even whenever it’s the last thing I want to do. He is also incredibly more well-versed in other fantasy works by authors whose greatness I can’t even compare to yet. One thing he pointed out to me was that with how restrictive my universe is, I’d be holding myself back from other ideas. He and I started creating a separate universe than ran close to the Second Realm in terms of how magic and modern life interacted, but they never quite touched. It ended up bothering me after the idea sessions were done. If the Second Realm was supposed to be my playground for fantasy, why was I creating a whole new world – especially when the Second Realm wasn’t done with me yet?
I’ll bounce back and forth between story ideas or even story genres for a while. After I finished drafting Liliana, my brain hurried to other non-fantasy projects that will take time to, well, marinade. Ideas build up for me, but I store them away until I have the “proper” focus for it. Planning to build a new fantasy universe got me thinking about the Second Realm, and the plans I had made for its future. The future ideas and stories I had saved up never broke the strict universe rules, although they did touch hands occasionally. Why was I restricting myself so much by trapping myself into a tight bubble of, “No, it has to be done like this”? I created the Second Realm, dammit. I control this universe.
Once I let them, my roommate’s ideas burst my own concept of what the Second Realm was wide open. I closed the doors to focus my writing and keep me on track, but by doing so, I restricted myself from developing the Second Realm further. There were vague ideas I had tossed around, about expanding the Second Realm beyond what it was so far. By opening myself up to what my partner in crime suggested, it opened the Second Realm up to infinitely more possibility.
Being a writer gives one the power to create whole universes. It’s something I like, that power to play within my own brain. Restricting oneself too much can be a tool for focusing – or it can be detrimental to the universe as a whole. Being flexible as a writer is something I’m still learning. Between the vision of what I want and the vision of what the Second Realm could be, there’s still a great balancing act to accomplish, where being flexible helps. Having a partner in crime to tell me I’m limiting myself helps. I get so caught up in my projects that it’s good to have a third party who is not as emotionally invested as I am be able to tell me to take a step back.
Flexibility. It’s so strange. Writers who create entire universes should have the flexibility to say, “Hey, this is my universe. I can make it do anything.” Sometimes I forget that. It’s good to have a reminder, sometimes. As for the Second Realm? I have a mental timeline in my head of events that I want to happen, and where I want to take my universe. The Second Realm Trilogy is only the beginning of what this universe has in store. I took a long break from the trilogy after finishing the first draft of Liliana, but the Second Realm isn’t done with me yet. I just needed to remember how much potential this universe has.