Fictional History: An Exercise in Loglines
I believe that the history of a fictional world should be compelling in its own right. Our history is frequently made into stories, be they wildly exaggerated ancient epics like Beowulf, science fictionalizations loosely framed on real events (such as the Honor Harrington series, based on Admiral Horatio Nelson’s role in the Napoleonic Wars) or dryly factual textbooks. I see no reason that a fantasy world’s major historic turning points should not at least be equally as interesting. Even if truth is stranger than fiction, fictional history shouldn’t be boring.
To that end, I’ve started coming up with potential loglines for hypothetical prequel novels set in the history of my world, Verraine, to help establish the social forces that led to my protagonist’s functional enslavement.
In the brutal aftermath of a deadly mage-war, a desperate mind-mage must forge a sanctuary strong enough to keep mages alive despite the priesthood’s fanatic attempts to eradicate them.
It’s vital that someone have tried to eradicate all mages because they were so dangerous they nearly destroyed the world; it’s a central conflict in addition to being the justification for why all mages are controlled by a centralized Mage Collegium. Faceless social forces and directionless angry mobs don’t work well as an antagonist, though, and I couldn’t find a smooth way to have it be “the new ruling class” especially given that the new ruling class (who took power in a brutal rebellion designed to end the mage wars) needs to be convinced to protect the mages for their own benefit, or there’s no way to form the Mage Collegium in that sort of political climate.
History informs the present, after all, and reality informs fiction, so here we are with a fictional Inquisition, the difference being real magic and no centralized Church.
The current setting is an analog for the early Roman Empire and Roman Germania circa 10 A.D. which predates Christianity in any organized sense, but I don’t want to just take German or Roman mythology wholesale and make minor cosmetic changes; not only is that boring and lazy, it doesn’t suit the kind of fanaticism I need to make the story work. I need a mythos that will, and I’ll have to invent it myself.
The important thing, though, is that at least now I have a starting point.