My First Novel

One of the dozens of maps I made for my first novel, circa 2005

I was going through the dozens of notebooks in my closet—some twenty years old—when I came across notes from my very first novel, a fantasy “epic” entitled Thalamus the Great. The nostalgia overwhelmed me and I started rooting through my old files, eager to remember those wonderful days when writing was so new and exciting to me.

In my tweens, I was constantly starting stories, usually of a sci-fi/fantasy bent, but rarely finishing them. It wasn’t until age 14 that I became serious about writing. I had read Ursula Le Guin’s novel The Wizard of Earthsea and my world changed. I’m indebted to this book more than any other book in my journey as a writer.

A diagram of the different races

I powered through the doorstoppers of Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind and found myself eager to tell my own fantasy trilogy (a compulsion that I’ve since discovered is quite common in people that age). I based it on “Thalamus,” my character in the now defunct MMORPG Asheron’s Call. It was the most fun year of my life.

The story was pretty cookie cutter: Prince Thalamus learns that his homeland has been overrun by the barbarian king Anag and his mysterious sorcerer. The baddies are conquering the known world and Thalamus must unite the fractured free nations to overthrow the enemy. There is, of course, a Gandalf clone who leads them. The rest of the story you already know.

The original character profile of Prince Thalamus

I started it at age 14 and continued to work on it until I was 16 (around the time I discovered Surrealism). As I grew older and could see the clichés for what they were, I rewrote it to add originality. The medieval setting changed to the Bronze Age. I added the race of Overmen—demigods that served as the not-always-benevolent ruling class, coloring the black-and-white story a little grayer. I shunned the Northern European background of most fantasy novels and instead amalgamated Mesopotamian, Aztec, and Minoan cultures. Ultimately, it would reach a little over 50,000 words.

Reading over it now, it’s comical how bad and cliché it is. However, I am genuinely amazed at how well I described battles. At the time, I read up on every ancient battle I could find to make the action seem more real. It’s a shame I haven’t written a battle scene since.

A map of troop movements

I planned all three books in the series, but only finished the one. Over the years, I’ve thought of returning to it, taking copious notes and drawing maps. But my passion for the fantasy genre is all but gone. I still love it as the genre that started me reading and writing, but the magic isn’t the same.

That said, I’m not completely abandoning it. Last year, I wrote a bizarro parody of high fantasy entitled Generica. It was Thalamus the Great that served as my primary source material, taking every one of those clichés that I once tried to expunge and celebrating them. It’s a love song to my first novel in all its faults.


One thought on “My First Novel

  1. Pingback: Writing Update – May 2021 | Zé Burns | Blog

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