Other writers often ask what it’s like creating fiction for a shared world. The process DOES have some challenges, but then in some ways they aren’t too different from those I’d faced when I wrote historical fantasy novels. You have to know about the place you’re going to write about if someone else has already been running around there, whether it be ancient Arabia or an imaginary world.
To bring a setting to life you have to know about its traditions and customs and religion and land features, the sorts of food that’s eaten and the style of clothing that’s worn. When writing historicals that means a whole lot of digging through a variety of sources. When it comes to writing a book in the Pathfinder shared universe, all that data’s already organized for you in handy guides. As a matter of fact, the little corner of the world I set this new novel in had an entire supplement written about it. The information was literally at my fingertips. Between that resource and having read all about Pathfinder’s world of Golarion for many years (I was a fan before I started writing for Paizo) I was in pretty good shape. Editor James Sutter makes sure his writers get all the data they need to assemble their books, and is ready with answers if you need to drop him a line for clarification.
I suppose the biggest challenge writing for role-playing games is knowing the rules. The novels aren’t rule books, but any time you’re describing magic you really need to ensure you’re describing the kinds of things that the game allows. It helps that I’ve played Pathfinder for many years, but that doesn’t make me a definitive expert. There are a LOT of spells that can be wielded. As one of the antagonists in this story is a sorceress, I had to know exactly what spells she could use, how many she could prepare each day, precisely what their energies looked like, and so on. I always had the main Pathfinder rulebooks on hand, and frequently one was lying beside me open to the magic section.
One of the best things about working with Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales line is its inclusive tone. James Sutter was openly encouraging about me having another female lead character (just as in my first two Pathfinder Tales novels) and one of mixed race besides. When I told him the other main characters were a young man who was gay and a couple of lizard men, his only complaint was that “lizard men” are now referred to as “lizardfolk.” I grew up playing 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons, and back then a lizard man was a lizard man, even if he was female. Calling mine lizardfolk makes a lot more sense, seeing as how one of them’s a not a dude.
Regardless of what I write, it’s all about the story and characters. This may be set in a game world, but character arcs, reveals, plot momentum, and the unveiling of mysteries get the same kind of care that they would if I were writing one of my creator owned works. I’m all about tales of adventure and heroes, and I write the kind of stories I like to read. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I always keep my daughter in mind as I’m writing adventure stories because I want her to find relatable heroes; strong, independent women who are beholden to no one and who stand up to do the right thing even when no one is watching.
Pathfinder Tales: Beyond the Pool of Stars by Howard Andrew Jones
Series: Pathfinder Tales (Book 29)
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (October 6, 2015)