A new month means it’s time for another Tremjara map update. Less than 20% of the map remains to be colorized so there’s a good chance the initial phase could be completed in February. After that? Touch-up, coastlines, and removing the color bleed on the rivers.
This month I’m going to talk about how, just like when editing a story, maps grow, evolve, and require editing. To help me I’ll focus on an island that, over time, captured my imagination.
Carrdia, which is located near the center of the continent, remains my focus, but Sancthor Island, which began its life as a footnote, has inspired a number of short stories over the last 18 months that have, in turn, inspired the creation of the Tri-Islands.
This is an island’s tale…
When I initially created the Tremjara Map—which had a different name way back when—Sancthor Island was an afterthought. In the northeast, two peninsulas pointed at each other and seemed to beg for an island in-between. Truly, that was all the thought that went into the island’s creation.
That was in late 2002 and the map was a .bmp file drawn in Paint. File size limitations at the time meant there was virtually no definition.
By that point I’d worked on the history and knew that long ago Sanchor Island existed in a void between the Old Empire to the southwest and the Northlands Confederation to the north. H’m, might the island have maintained its independence by playing the two sides against one another?
And then the thought promptly went out of my head.
The map’s size was marginally increased and the coloring overhauled, but otherwise the island remained unchanged in 2005 when my life took an unexpected turn. Writing and mapmaking were shelved…
I returned to novel writing in 2012. In the interim, computers had advanced significantly. I’d even switched from a PC to a Mac.
The old map was a single layer with little definition. It was time to see what I could do if I started from scratch.
In 2015 I embarked on an ambitious project that, in some ways, is still underway: I’d recreate the original map in Photoshop Elements.
Improved computers meant I could make the map many times bigger and far more detailed. Wrap your brain around this: the old map was 1.2 MB and the new one is currently 97.8 MB.
The basic shape remained because I created a file the size I wanted, pasted in the old map, stretched it, and gutted all but the outline. Even so, the new Sancthor Island had far more detail. At that point it became less a blob off the east coat and a real place.
Later that year I started writing short stories and again wondered about what kind of place would exist between super powers. I decided to set some stories on Sancthor Island.
It became a fever.
The island was capturing my imagination, but there was something missing (more on this later) so I reimagined it in 2016 with more of an arrowhead shape while retaining the original island’s shape in the west. Raspel was already the center of several short stories, so I relocated the enlightened city to the huge bay near the island’s center. (For this post I had to dig deep on my hard drive to find this particular version.)
Still, the island seemed a bit undersized for having gone toe-to-toe with an Empire, even if they had the advantage of water as a buffer. Also, it’d be better if there were more harbors, inlets, channels, and seas because—yeah!—there fun to make.
Uh oh, I was in map creating overload…
Late in 2017 I created an island group I called the Tri-Islands (even though there is a host of little islands). Sancthor Island remained the principal isle. The Tri-Islands, finally, became the seafaring republic I’d envisioned. The main island is the only one named (to date), but there are three cities so far: Arthune, Raspell, and Farthing.
And still I wasn’t done.
I initiated a colorizing map project in 2017 and started with Carrdia near the continent’s center. From there I went west into Forstava, not moving to the northeast until after this past New Year’s Day. I immediately set to work on the Tri-Islands and they became the first colorized lands east of the Barrier Range. The islands still aren’t done. A more defined coastline and other refinements remain.
It’s fun to think how this map has evolved while shadows of the original remain. Too, the map’s evolution was largely driven by short stories.
No one (hopefully) publishes a story’s first draft. They know editing is needed, not just to make the story easier to read, but to make the magic happen, to allow the story to become more than was originally envisioned.
Maps are NO different.
People talk about writing that first, horrible draft. Again, the same applies to maps. Each time I look at Tremjara a new short story threatens to stir.
I’ll be forever grateful to the characters of Raspell. Originally, the city was set in a tiny harbor with flat, open land around it, but my characters were seeing something entirely different. In their eyes, Raspell was wrapped around a harbor, the bowl–shaped land climbing from the water’s edge to the western hills. Beyond the harbor was a vast bay and towering peaks to the north and east.
What a journey! From an afterthought island to an island group designed by the characters living there. Over the course of January 2018 I continued work on the mainland and so color has filled in around the Tri-Islands.
*Keep in mind, the Tri-Islands only constitute, at best, 3% of the Tremjara map. Now you know why it’s taking so long.
No doubt there’ll be additional inspiration in the future, but the way I’ve rebuilt the map using layers it won’t be too difficult to incorporate changes. Evolving stories, evolving maps. It’s much the same, and one inspires the other.