If you’ve been paying attention to the goings on of YA, you’ve probably have noticed a whole lot of chatter about the amazingness that is Fireborne by Rosaria Munda and its sequel Flamefall. Between the dragons, political intrigue, and wildly complex relationships of characters that had our hearts absolutely aching, Rosaria Munda pretty much captivated fantasy shelves everywhere. And that’s why we decided to ask author Rosaria Munda: how does she do it?! And she answered, so welcome to Rosaria’s insight on plotting the riveting world of Fireborne!
by Rosaria Munda
Fireborne and its world have evolved a lot over the years—I originally imagined it a lot more like Neon Genesis Evangelion, ie a sci fi about children fighter pilots in big suits. Now, though the characters have more or less stayed the same, the world they occupy is a high fantasy with dragons.
I wish I could say there was a method to the madness but really, my process is a slow drip and a lot of revisions. Fireborne has evolved as I’ve accumulated ideas and experiences, through school, life abroad, and in the workforce. I tend to come up with discrete story ideas extremely infrequently—about once every five years—so everything in between gets added into the existing pot. That’s why Fireborne is both inspired by Plato’s Republic, which I read in college; and about the aftermath of revolutions, which I explored in Paris and Beijing; and a send-up to my oldest nerdiest love, the Latin poetry that I studied in high school.
It changed through the drafts as I changed through the drafts, which made keeping track of the details a bit of a nightmare. I’ve made so many worldbuilding guides, for so many versions of this novel, that it can be a bit hard to sort the apocrypha from the canon. I used to think this was a failing on my part until I realized that taken properly, flexibility about worldbuilding is a gift. It helps you focus on the most important thing: characters and plot.
I strongly believe that for the sort of story I want to write—and the kind I like to read—extraneous worldbuilding should be avoided. If it isn’t necessary to the plot or characterization, it shouldn’t be there. I found that when I relied too much on guides I had prewritten, the story I produced was bogged down with exposition. But when I reversed my priorities, and only added to the guides whatever had turned up in the story, I was better able to stick to what was important.
Plotting is an egg I’d like one day to crack at the outline stage, but in the meantime it’s something I still have to do wrong first in order to do it right. At the drafting stage, that feels like driving through fog with low beam headlights—where is the road? Am I even on it? And in the revising stage, it feels like solving a three-dimensional math problem. Character arcs and locations and timelines are all variables, and if you adjust one you have to readjust another… on and on until you re-establish equilibrium. It’s exhausting, but it’s also my my absolute favorite kind of math. And there’s nothing so satisfying as that moment when you realize you’ve got it right.