Many Worlds Skyrim: Writing, Bending, Breaking Lore

Well, TES lore is a big wibbly-wobbly lorey-worey thing. ~Memai

A/N: This post contains spoilers for readers not caught up through the story.

I finished my next chapter and will probably post it some time tomorrow.  To the disappointment of several of you, it will not be a Trygve-centered post (although I can assure that plenty more Trygve information is forthcoming).  Rather, it’s a lore-based chapter, one of my many attempts to bend the Elder Scrolls universe to do my bidding.

All of my chapters stress me out.  If my husband had a dollar for every time that I said, “This chapter sucks and all my readers are going to leave me,” he would have enough coin to fund my dream of quitting my job to write fan fiction full time.  But lore-chapters (basically any attempt I make to rewrite Elder Scrolls history or insert my characters into major events, create artifacts and expand the roles of the Divines or certain factions) create a special kind of stress, one that makes me reflect on why I am telling this story in the first place.

If I could go back and retell this story with a completely clean slate, it would look very different.  It would center on three very different characters, with different personalities and backgrounds.  It would probably combine more major quest lines and the lore aspects would be seamless.  But the story that lives in my head and is begging to be released is not that story.  The things that need to happen are not always completely compatible with the lore.  Sometimes I am okay with that, but sometimes I’m not.

There are a couple of things I do to rationalize some of the creative decisions that I make.  I subscribe to what I like to call the “many worlds theory of Skyrim.”  I have only a Wikipedia-based knowledge of quantum physics so please bear with me as I try to explain this.  Wikipedia states that the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics “implies that all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an actual “world” (or “universe”).”  The Skyrim in which Elspeth and Co. exist is not Bethesda’s Skyrim, but it exists parallel to (or in conjunction with) it.  In that respect it is entirely possible that Martin Septim was schtupping one of the Blades who later had his baby.  It’s entirely possible that an Altmer named Fainde whose parents who fought in the Nights of the Green Fire would go on to mentor a woman named Evangeline.  And that Evangeline would become Archmage of Arcane University and marry a Blade who happened to be the last descendant of the Septim line and bear him a child named Elspeth.

Sure, why not?

The alternative universes in many-worlds theory, however, are still bound by certain laws that exist in the universe we consider our own.   While there could be, for example, a universe in which I am married to Tamoh Penikett, it is very unlikely that, within that universe, our children are alien life forms adopted from Keppler 22B.  As is the case with any fantasy-based narrative, there are certain rules around which the fantasy universe is built.  And this is where I get uneasy.  Because there are certain things I want to see happen in my story that are, if not impossible, then highly unlikely within the current canon.  And I want to respect the lore, but I also want to make the world my own.

I’ve read quite a lot on UESP and the Imperial Library, but I have a limited amount of time that I can spend on research for this Disaster.  I rely a lot on Michael Kirbride’s posts, which are known for being thoughtful but not always correct in the strictest interpretations of the lore.  His comments on Altmer and Talos fit right into my idea of fringe elements even within the Thalmor so I have unapologetically appropriated some of that stuff to my story.  Going forward I aim to be thorough, but there will be times I may need to go back and tweak things as I discover new and better connections or find things that outright contradict things I’ve said and made them completely stupid.  I’ll note when those things happen, but I won’t be making any plot changes.

My story is also very character and relationship driven and quite often lore takes a back seat to that.  Joss Whedon is perhaps one of my biggest influences and as any rabid and analytical Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fan can tell you, there are times when he and his writers broke the lore for the sake of taking a creative risk.

One could argue that the Elder Scrolls lore is not mine to break and they would be correct.  I accept that, but at the same time there are risks I want to take.  I can say this much, when I come to a plot point that seems to require bending lore and breaking canon, the first thing I do (or try to do) is be certain that there is no canon-friendly way to go about it.  If that doesn’t happen, I try to make sure that the plot point is compelling.  That is, it doesn’t exist to make the resolution of my story neater or more satisfactory.  The background I have set up in this Epic Disaster could easily lend itself to a Mary Sue retelling of certain major quest lines and I’m really not interested in that.  I can’t promise that everything about this story is good, only that nothing will come easy.

4 thoughts on “Many Worlds Skyrim: Writing, Bending, Breaking Lore

  1. Makes me think of the separate continuity of Star Trek books as compared to the shows/films, or the divide between Legends Star Wars and the new unified canon, or even Elseworlds for DC or Ultimates for Marvel. Absolutely nothing wrong with telling a story that deviates from the “canon” of the existing property!

    • Oh there is plenty of deviation. Writing this helped me get over my reluctance. But, I do like to see how far I can stretch things and also maintain some internal consistency and overall respect for what currently exists.

      • There might be an argument that stretching the boundaries of a massive IP like this demonstrates a good deal of respect in itself, probing the limits of what can happen within the property, figuring out what is essential to its DNA.

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