Of Maps, and Magic Lost and Found

One learns a lot when one does something for the first time. How often I forget that! I feel like I'm always struggling to find a balance between learning something new, and avoiding the fear of messing something up.

Well, I messed up the map for my world several times, so I called them drafts and moved on to the next sheet of paper. Good thing I'm not a god of worldbuilding. The numerous times I shifted whole continents around would have killed everyone off with volcanoes and tidal waves, and their food crops would have died off and made everyone starve come winter. If they had winter anymore. The poor Kazhbor people went from a UK environment to that of Scandinavia. Sorry guys. Uh, no wonder you're so good at building those Sea Gods. You're all desperate to get to the tropics for a nice warm vacation. Yeah, that's it.

Honestly, what I actually learned during crafting this map is that I should have done a better job on the rough map I used when I wrote the story. I had no sense of distance on the map, only in the story. And putting a map together based on a story written with only a vague sense of distance, well...let's just say that a newfound benefit of writing fantasy is that revisionist history is always an option.

Does anyone else notice that going through a brazillian (brazillian: a number somewhere between a bazillion and South America) edits on the same story really kills the magic that books held when you were a kid? Seeing the messy side of a story is far different than simply picking up a polished, published product and enjoying the fruits of months of labor by numerous individuals.

And yet, to me it reveals another magic: that of creation. That writers can craft and polish common, familiar words into complex forms that convey the full spectrum of ideas and emotions, and reveal to readers a crisp, clarified universe that doesn't really exist--surely, if anything is magic, that is.

Ah, look, I got all rambly. That happens now and again. When I'm old and gray, I expect to be even more prone to such maunderings. If I am not, I shall consider myself cheated.

Well, the master copy of the map I finished last night has been sent to the publisher. Way more fun than I thought it would be. I used to stare at puddles as a child, and imagine they were borders to continents. I'd often doodle maps for fun and try to figure out where the mountains and rivers went. That endeavor--the rivers and mountains--was generally a failure until I learned more about geography. Maps of imaginary lands and stick men are about all I can draw. Oh, and stylized suns shining on stylized flowers that grow on stylized hills next to a stylized tree. Seriously. My drawing skills topped out in second grade.

It really helped this week that I had a few books with maps to examine (funny how I never really looked at their construction before I needed to draw my own). Most of our books are packed, alas, but a few with maps were close to hand. Some I looked at, aside from an example my editor furnished me with, were in Marie Brennan's Warrior, Jim Butcher's First Lord's Fury, and the lovely old map in C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew. Mostly, I was looking at how they drew their mountains and hills. I have terrible mountain-drawing skills. Making upside-down Vs is much harder than you think! Or, no, that's probably just me. In the end, I fell back on my stylization skills and didn't even try to make them anything approaching realistic. Realism and fantasy, they are oil and water in the beaker of my mind.

All right, my throat's getting pretty sore again: back for some more salt-water gargling I go. And no, I wasn't actually talking out loud while I typed. Hee.

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