Maps, Maps, Glorious Maps
Today, there is no story for you. Or, more accurately, no story from me, for you. There are, after all, stories everywhere if only we look.
Last Friday marked the final part of Only One Death, my dark fantasy novella I originally crafted as a playful take on the idea of the fantasy quest so beloved of writers following Tolkien's example. Indeed, the working title was Standard Fantasy Quest, or SFQ for short.
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I had originally planned to share a longer post today, detailing the writing process and decisions behind some of the plot points and characterisation, building on those points I mention in the introduction to the novella, but instead I think I shall share some maps instead. I think the in-depth discussion can actually work better later, after you have had more opportunity to read more of my tales. I also wanted to have something of a marketing push for the next coming tale but, well, life got in the way. Life and a weathered piece of ash wood.
Every fantasy tale needs a map. Or, perhaps, I'd like every fantasy tale to have a map. There are some outrageously beautiful maps out there, mapmakers, artists of the highest calibre who, one day, I'd love to be able to afford to illustrate my work. As it is, you'll have to settle for my humble offerings.
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My process for these maps is simple. I begin with a sketch in pencil, before moving to inks and adding layers of detail, such as the coast, the roads, rivers and cities. Originally, I planned to paint images for each city, as I have for Eastsea on this map, but decided that, for now, that can wait. Time being the only currency which matters, as I am so fond of saying.
After inking, I move to watercolour paints, using washes and careful brush loading to ensure an interesting non-uniform colour. I start with the coast, working from the land to the sea, fading the colour as I move the brush. After this comes the landforms, whether mountains, hills, or other features. I purposefully don't not what is grassland, what is forest, or what is heath or farms, for example. The simple reason for this is that I don't want to be too tied in to land features for the stories themselves, able to add a swathe of grass, or deep forest later, when needed.
Once all the colour paintwork is done, it is time for carefully photographing the map and digitising for the final features. I like to add the cities and names at this point. The final step is to run some filters, making the colours look less bright, more olde-worlde, as it were.
By doing the final work on the computer, this means any additions or alterations are far easier to complete than if inked by hand. It also makes it clear and easy to read, enabling zooming for those whose vision needs it. An example of later changes can be seen in the French translation version of The Sea: La Mer. I also can alter the filter this way; for example, here is a working example of the English version, the final filter was more like that on the French translation below.
Only One Death has a series of name-drops, places and features which are off the map of the the Northern Isthmus. I like to keep some mystery and, even after locking in some of those places, others still have yet to appear on a map itself. The whole of Dust and Death, the next story to be shared here, takes place far to the east, off the edge of the mapped world. I like that.
One other thing I should note is that, as I am working on the final pair of tales in this introductory series of novels, novellas, and novelettes, I am also working on a digital glossary, of names of characters, but also locations and facts. This will perhaps be of interest for the reader but, primarily, it is to keep things straight and clear in my own mind. There are a lot of words already crafted, with an epic trilogy to follow and it is best I don't make mistakes...