Cartography and Fantasy

Aside from working on the second half of Bloodlust, my big task this week has been getting a map inserted into the first book. In this case that meant pouring over the place descriptions and travel sections that I wrote and situating them properly on a hand-drawn map, making sure that places were where I had described them to be. It would not do for the Iron Bluff to be west of the Red Hills, for example.  I drew the map in pencil, finalized it with pen, scanned it, and then added place names in a digital editing program. I was unsatisfied with the way the place names came out, they were hard to read and obscured too much of my great work. So, as I do whenever I have a problem like this, I harassed my friend Dan Barclay (who did the cover). After a few calls and some experimenting on Amazon we came up with the map shown at the end of this post, which shows up quite well on Kindle and Smashwords copies. As soon as I can figure out how to format it properly, I am going to drop it into the Print on Demand copy as well.

Here are some random thoughts about the process:

I should have drawn up the map before writing the book.

Yeah… this seems obvious in retrospect. In my youth, whenever I wanted to create a new RPG campaign, I would get working on a map as early into the process as I could. The map helped everyone visualize the setting, lending a bit of reality to something purely imaginary. A map was an early request, actually, one from the Puslinch Pioneer reviewer Virginia Hildebrandt.

It is also quite a bit easier to to draw a map and then use it in your writing than it is to reverse engineer a map from your novel. You

Many Fantasy Fans prefer “hand drawn” maps, in the books at least.

Originally I wanted to break out my expensive, dying-to-be-used campaign cartographer software and whip up a digital map. I’d had this in mind from the start, actually. But while I was researching how to insert an image into the various formats I use, I came across post after post that stated that people prefer maps that have that simple, iconic look. Delving deeper, I found research and discussion on why people prefer these maps. Firstly, it seems more personal. The handcrafted look simply feels more personal to the reader, like the author put special effort into it. Secondly, with modern mapping software you can create a realistic map, but the reader might be put off by this this. A too-detailed, perfect map speaks of reality, which does not help settle you into a Fantasy book at all (although readers often seek out immensely detailed maps of works they have already read) while a simple, iconic map evokes the imagination.

Here is my contribution, the map of the Domains of the Chosen:

 

I’m pretty happy with it. I did not draw forests. Let me know what you think.

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