December 1, 2010

About these Letters

These letters were my National Novel Writing Month project for 2010. Through the use of letters and journal entries, I wanted to showcase various World of Warcraft NPCs, and show how the war against the Lich King had affected them. The letters are all very lore-heavy, some building off existing history or clues, others spinning off in entirely new directions!

I didn't decide to participate in NaNoWriMo until the last second, at the prompting of friends and peers who were excitedly talking about their upcoming efforts. I had no plan going in other than a vague idea of having a Sylvanas/Darion Mograine/Anub'arak story where they worked together to overcome the lingering curse of Arthas' influence - rage & madness for Sylvanas/Darion, eternal unlife for Anub'arak.

The idea wasn't yet fully fleshed out, so I figured I would start with a story about Darion, as I really wanted to showcase the VERY cool lore quests that players can receive after killing the Lich King with Shadowmourne.

Well, the "letters written by NPCs" concept caught hold and wouldn't let go! I've always been of the opinion that the most tragic stories about this war wouldn't be the deaths of celebrated champions, but the unseen, untold disasters that befell the average person. We all know the stories of Northrend's heroes; the Bolvars, the Saurfangs, the Fordrings. But what about the common soldier who sacrifices himself for his allies? What about Northrend's native races who finds themselves trampled/shoved aside by the Scourge, or even worse, by us??

(Ironically, I never did end up finishing my original story idea, though I did use elements of it in Dark Lady: The Rage.)

The first-person perspective and inherently intimate nature of a letter or journal was a great opportunity to really delve into the minds and private thoughts of NPCs who I felt hadn't received sufficient characterization.

Take King Ymiron, for example. Considering he's the leader of one of the more common enemy races and is indirectly responsible for CREATING HUMANITY(!), he really doesn't get a lot of face time! A journal was the perfect medium to tell his tale, since I could describe his honest feelings as well as his inner fears and doubts, things that as a King of barbarians, he could never express openly to his fanatical peers.

The criteria I outlined for myself was simple: the letters had to be written during the war, or just afterward (prior to Cataclysm.) Varian's letter to Baine and Moira is the only letter written after the Shattering, and that was a special case.

I tried to be faction-neutral as much as I could, so as not to exclude players who only knew a single side. I wanted to avoid having letters written by someone that a reader would not recognize because they never appeared/mattered for their faction. Of all the letters, only Burke relates to a Horde-specific questline, and only Thel'zan is Alliance-only. (Ta'zinni's horde-quest has an Alliance counterpart.). Obviously this was less important for major NPCs like Garrosh and Varian - everyone is well aware of who they are, despite being associated to a specific faction.

I also had a number of various other goals, which varied from letter to letter:

- To showcase minor NPCs whose stories moved me, such as Gerk and Old Icefin.
- To share theories and speculation about various lore topics, such as Ashbringer's association with the Naaru, or the strange link between Kel'Thuzad and Inigo Montoy.
- To provide lore-based reasons for unexplained WotLK events, such as Xevozz's presence in the Violet Hold.
- To reveal little-known factoids and bits of history, such as the fact that Arugal is actually originally from Gilneas.
- To have some fun with player meta-knowledge, such as camping the Time-Lost Proto-Drake, or expanding on Archmage Vargoth's fascination with Hotel California.
- To show new sides of major NPCs such as Garrosh and Varian that differs from their in-game personalities, that might make readers think about them in a new light.
- And above all else, to (hopefully) surprise readers and evoke "Whoa, I didn't expect that!" reactions.

It was a fun and challenging experience, and I'm very glad as a WoW lore nerd and as a writer that I did it. Hope you enjoy the letters!