What is Project: Destiny?

It’s been months now that I’ve been writing here about my baby, my oldest project, and how I aim to finally complete it this year. I’ve been annoyingly vague about what it is, though. The page I’ve created for it still doesn’t have a proper description. I suppose that superstitious part of me worried that if I wrote up a finely-detailed résumé of the project, it would sink my chances of actually getting it done. I think I have enough forward momentum to chance it now.

Project: Destiny tells the story of a young man who has been hidden all his life by his mother, who feared her enemies would try to harm him in order to manipulate her. She travels to the far south on a journey and does not return. When he learns of her death, he is determined to continue her work and find out what happened to her. He recruits a well-read companion before setting out, realizing that he knows nothing of the world and that being a gifted shadeweaver may not be enough.

This much of the story has remained constant since the beginning. In the first version, though, the protagonist had a different name and was not a shadeweaver but a sorcerer, one who casts spells by drawing magic circles inscribed with particular symbols depending on the desired effect. Sorcerers were identified by their golden- or amber-colored eyes. There were also wizards, whose eyes were blue, and magicians, whose eyes were green. Wizards had nearly limitless power and could move mountains at will. Magicians had extremely powerful talents, but their abilities were constrained to one single skill.

Shadecraft has changed all this. It is the study of the natural energies of the world, broken down into eight color-coded categories: four for the material aspects of the universe, four for the abstract. One who weaves the energies of these eight Shades into patterns to work wonders is called a shadeweaver. They view their work as art or science, and do not appreciate having the word “magic” attributed to it by common folk.

I first began writing this story when I was fourteen. Between actual drafts (that would eventually get scrapped before completion), I dreamed up elements of the world, details to lend it more realism, many of which I suspect won’t get used in this book. A book only needs enough detail for the reader to have the illusion of being able to see interesting things in the distance as they follow the path of the characters, like a tunnel painted with elaborate scenes depicting what’s going on beyond, or what has happened before. I don’t necessarily need to come up with a culture for a people never seen in the book, their homeland never visited by the characters. It’s been almost fourteen years since the start of this, though, and I think I’ve done a bit of that, some of it as an excuse to procrastinate and delay writing the actual narrative.

My goal with this is to write an interesting story set in a world with a rich history, a diverse span of cultures and peoples, and a system of magic that doesn’t involve characters pulling instant solutions out of their hats by doing things the reader thinks them incapable of. It’s an adventure, the characters will struggle and face danger, possibly death or dismemberment. It’s also the story of a young man trying to discover who he is as he enters the world for the first time.

Realistic fantasy, colors with substance

Having written on duality, especially that of creation and destruction, I’m thinking of elements in my oldest project. If you look at my blog’s header, you’ll notice the following four symbols:

fourprincipals

I have these tattooed on my inner right forearm; they represent four principal deities in Project: Destiny, and also the four domains of magic they govern. The symbols don’t derive any meaning from their shape. They are all manipulations of the orange symbol, the oldest and simplest of them.

Violet represents the duality of creation and destruction. In Project: Destiny, it also is the domain of reality and its boundaries.

Next is black, the color of chaos, secrets and lies. It also represents the future, as entropy dictates that order must descend into chaos; and thus mortality and death.

In opposition, white is the color of order, knowledge and truth; as well as the past. Black and white do not represent good and evil, however. Both lies and truth can be used to either end, as can chaos and order.

Orange is a special color in the world of Destiny. It represents many things, primarily oaths. In the world of Destiny, people are taught to never swear an oath to someone they cannot trust with their lives, as skilled “wizards” can use their power to bind the unwary to fulfill such an oath. Orange also represents language, blood ties, and humanity. This is in opposition to violet, whose power over creation and destruction can be compared to the power of gods.

Four other symbols complete this set, and these are tattooed on my left forearm: one for each of the classical elements of water, fire, earth and air. Together, these make up the eight colors of magic as portrayed in Project: Destiny.

I find it very important that magic have limits. If a character is backed up against the wall only to cast some kind of spell as a last resort, it needs to be realistic enough to be anticipated by the observant reader. If magical folk can spell their way out of any unpleasant circumstance by bending the laws of nature, they quickly become irritating. For this reason, I spend a lot of time on the way magic works in my fantasy projects. What does it cost the user? What can it do? How can it be beaten? When is it not worth the effort?

I feel like a learned a long time ago that for it to be worth the read, fantasy has to be realistic. The best-defined magic system can make all the sense in the world, and no one will give a damn if the characters aren’t interesting or don’t do anything worth reading about. Otherwise it’s all pretty colors without any substance underneath.