I’m going to jump right in this week because I can be long-winded when I start talking about maps. The Pannulus map project I vowed to finish before January was through is complete. As I tend to do, I’ll probably always tinker with it, but the basic map is done.
About a year ago I completed the Tremjara continent map and an idea formed for a series in the island group off the northeast coast. On the fly, I blew up that tiny portion of the map to have as reference. All well and good, but I stretched it too much and it pixelated, losing its definition. It looked okay small (25%), but anything more and it was awful. Too, I made some other significant errors in my haste, which I talked about earlier this month.
Thus the project.
*To be clear, the new map holds up even at 300% magnification without significant loss of definition, but what I share online are screenshots of a JPEG file, which means these don’t magnify as well. Mostly it’s a copyright thing. Also, I’ve named the phases I went through for this blog, but in reality I wasn’t that organized.
For Phase-1 I cleaned up edges and redefined the hills and mountains to a degree. After that came the tedious task of removing the trees I forgot to remove after I colorized the Tremjara map. Color is sufficient for showing where there’s forest, grassland, or neither. The last part of the physical clean up was to fix the rivers, which took considerable time. The rivers had to be bold strokes to show up on the Tremjara map, but when they were blown up they looked ridiculous.
Phase-2 was detailing the changes I made, which was mostly adding contrast. The shaded sides of the mountains became darker. The coastlines were better defined with shading. The part that took the longest was adding subtle darkening to the river banks and lakes because I had to zoom in so close. The one part of this phase that wasn’t about contrast was re-blending the forest’s colors after I removed the trees. I did that while blending in all the other work from Phase 2.
To say I was shocked when I finished all this around mid month would be an understatement. I was certain it’d take me until February. My unexpected progress left the door open to make some changes I’d always wanted to make, and to enhance the map.
My imagination had already been churning so I was ready, my head full of map what ifs. My only self-imposed rule was no changes that’d be significantly different from how Pannulus appears on the Tremjara map. Given Pannulus is extremely small on that map the door was open for anything short of reshaping islands and moving entire mountain ranges.
What I noticed right away was how much cleaner the map was without the trees. It appeared less crowded and heavy. That extra space provided the opportunity to add details I couldn’t when they were in the way.
Phase-3 started with extending the truncated rivers and adding tributaries. In the forests no longer clogged with trees, I added rivers that’d been strangely absent. I named locations needing names and fixed a misspelling of Peninsula. More lakes were added, and in some cases existing lakes were reshaped. A few smaller towns were added, but not many. It’s easy to become excessive naming towns. Finally, I deepened the forest color in places where it was washed out, especially in western Shorus Island, around the Vortex Gulf (more on that later), and western Scurpia island.
Yet again it went faster than expected.
I added another phase, Phase-4. This was me having fun adding detail, some of the ideas coming directly from stories, especially those for the Thornwillow series. So here’s a (hopefully) comprehensive list of what I added:
• Waterfalls. There are a couple on Shorus and one on Sancthor.
• Beaches, especially on Shorus, which is known for them. There are beaches everywhere, but on Shorus they’re more prominent.
• Fjords. There were no fjords anywhere in Pannulus, which was a travesty. Those also ended up on Shorus, its west coast begging for them. It provided more personality to the biggest city on the island, Dalewater.
• A delta at the mouth of the River Raven on Sancthor.
• I already mentioned the additional lakes, but of fun importance are the Waterclaw Lakes on Sancthor, their outflow streams all heading in different directions.
• A representation of the actual magic (mysquanmic) concentration in the Vortex Gulf known as the Mysquanmic Vortex, its depth unknown. (I’m going to return to the Vortex Gulf for a more in-depth look at the end).
• Mica Flats, a plain where there are outcroppings of sharp sheets of mica that’ve been lifted so they’re on end.
• Flatgash Canyon in west-central Sancthor adds a deep canyon to the island group, another land feature that’d been lacking.
• There weren’t a lot of changes on Scurpia, but the biggest of them was its own project and took considerable time: the jagged, rocky east coast (plus its accompanying islands). It was maddening because I struggled to realize my vision for it. It’s close now.
• Lastly, there are the tiny islands I added, some in lakes and some not. It seemed odd there were only larger islands.
Okay, the Vortex Gulf.
In talking about it, I’m also showing examples of how the map looks at about 200% magnification as opposed to the old version. Yes, now you can see how the 2018 version was driving me crazy.
The trees are distracting, details are blurry, and you can see how the coast line has become a series of right angles. Take a glance at the Sorrowful River (left) and how big it is even though it comes out of nowhere. The deep forest that surrounds the gulf, and is especially present on Cape Caprice (which wasn’t even labeled), is largely absent because there wasn’t enough room to shove in trees. In the 2019 version the trees are removed and the green deepened.
The big addition is a representation of the Mysquanmic Vortex’s epicenter. The gulf is where the Thornwillow stories take place so I wanted the region more accurate than it was before. The school is located north of Din Haven on Cape Caprice. I also heightened the sense of isolation in the region despite it’s location near the center of the islands. That’s done with hills, mountains, deep forest, and the newly added Imp Bog.
Eventually there’ll be a more detailed map of Cape Caprice, and especially the lands around Thornwillow, but it’ll be for my own reference. The focus now turns to world building, which I mentioned last week. Next week? I’m not sure at this point so I’m not going to say, but it’ll probably be tied to my Pannulus world building.
Beginning on February 1st I become the hashtag leader for the Twitter writing group, WritingChallenge.org so I might see some of you there. Any level of participation is fine, but 500 words and/or 1 hour of editing allows you to be included in the next day’s shoutouts. This will be my third turn as hashtag leader and I’m looking forward to it. I’m quite encouraging.