Thursday, May 3, 2012

World Building - 1: Maps

I always begin world building with a map.  I sit down with a piece of paper a draw a country, a city or just a field with a house on one side and the entry to a forest on the other.  Even when I start a story without a map, the moment I have to figure out something about the physical space, I start drawing a diagram of the house or the path of the river or the city streets. 

I drew the map of Idhua a long time ago - spreading out sheets of graph paper on the dining room table and shading in woods and rivers with my mother's Prisma Color pencils.  Eventually, I decided I wanted the ease of editing on the computer.  I didn't have a scanner so I took digital photos of the map.  

Jigsaw of the Photos
Since then I have generated political, historical and topographical maps - zooming in to country or city, zooming out to mark oceanic currents.

I like to know where I am located.  I have a good sense of direction and am usually correct when I try to locate north.  I like it also when I am reading to look at maps and diagrams on the cover leaves and trace the journey I am reading about.  Perhaps this is why I seek to understand the space I am writing in as the entry into my fantasy world.  I want to know how far it is to the sea or how close to the edge of the Forest, as the physical landscape is a powerful anchor and influence for a person.  As I am rooted in the various landscapes of my childhood, my adulthood and my travels, so I want my characters to belong somewhere – or if they don’t, to be able to explore where it is that they don’t belong.

Recent Topographical Map

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