Open a window or go outside. Look around. That’s the map you live in. Fly. Let your imagination soar, but be certain a tale awaits unfolding upon the land you’ve created. Many maps are a delight to behold, but their greatest worth is purpose. Most of my maps exist as aids to writing and were never intended for public consumption, but I’ll share a few…
First and foremost was Ontyre, the continent where Hartise is located. The map was needed, not just for when my characters venture forth, but for creating the history. The Old Empire
that controlled most of Ontyre for 3000 years collapsed into chaos and broke apart. Hartise, a backwater province, survived intact, but the technologies and advances in magic seen during the Old Empire were lost over time.
As is always true, history shapes the present and it was crucial that I understand Ontyre’s history to best paint the present my characters exist in.
I wanted a representation that was both appealing and inspiring, but that wouldn’t require years to create. Thus, my new map project sent me in an entirely different direction than with Hartise. Ontyre was created beginning to end on the computer. This had several advantages that included the ability to turn the labeling on and off as needed (most labeling is turned off in this version to avoid spoilers). Another advantage was the ability to change the color to black and white and then overlay color for various historical periods. The Ontyre map is also easier to simplify for specialized purposes. For instance, when I examined the economic regions.
Later came interesting hybrids. Southeast Hartise is a good example. This is actually the original Hartise map blown-up to the point that it blurs, the color enhanced, and more details provided. This map was created for the original novel that grew beyond reason and was scrapped. Though not needed for Where Light Devours, it’ll one day provide me with needed information.
Just as maps marry my interests in geography, geology, and even art, so too do I have a fascination with architecture (I’m not an expert, but more a tourist with a camera). That point takes me to a visual footnote…
Sometimes I create visual references for specific locations and, less often, for specific structures. Asbray Hall is one example of the latter, for it plays a small, yet important, role in past, present, and future.
Asbray was constructed during an enlightened period in Hartise history. It was the college for sirens (partials with the gift for song). Visual aids exist for all the colleges, but no other college so dramatically combined a natural feature with architecture as Asbray Hall. The structure was built over a stream where seven cascades were likened to the seven elements in their world. Each cascade was said to possess its own melody, thus the attraction for sirens who lent their voices to the mix, the acoustics such that the music each cascade produced was heard in near isolation.
The hall is an excellent location for character discussion or events in a later book (yeah, in my fantasy world I look into the future…it’s a valuable ability). Too, a location like Asbray Hall that has the potential to play a big part in a story becomes an inanimate character that deserves background and detail. This is the only time I created a cross view to go with a floor plan.
That’s a glimpse into my map making world, but it’s important to remember that those pictures are home to characters. Map features play a part in a character’s life. The rains that keep Forstava green and lush leave little moisture upon the Baris Plains. No one lives on the cold, rocky, windswept Granite Highlands, but may live around The Great Lake where the land is fertile, the fishing lucrative, and livestock thrives in the river valleys.
Of course, in Hartise the geography and weather are often the least of your worries…