Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I have a map...and I'm not afraid to use it.

I noticed today that my writing studio (the spare bedroom where I keep all my books and the computer) looked unusually writerly. I'd been checking reprint rights to see if I had anything available and not out to send to Anthology Builder (an awesome site), so I had my laptop open as well as the binder where I keep story submission info, and I also had a tidy stack of papers that--from a distance--looked terribly important. Up close, the papers are actually a lot of badly drawn maps of imaginary places.

Twenty years ago, when I was but a slip of a girl in high school (seriously, I'm getting ancient!), I spent much of my spare time reading and writing very bad fantasy books. Fortunately, I have lost all the writing I did back then, but I did save The Maps, or at least four of them. They're pretty goofy, these maps.

For instance, one map drawn on a single sheet of notebook-sized quad paper has two different mountain ranges--the Jade Mountains and the Southern Mountains--and is marked with The Endless Forest and The Scarred Lands, as well as lots of rivers and towns. In one corner young-me drew a line perhaps an inch and a half across and labeled it "15 miles." Which makes the mountains really small, to say the least. And all the maps have rivers snaking around in every direction--one even has two rivers that cross at right angles.

The other night I settled down with a blank sheet of slightly yellowed quad paper that had somehow made it through all those years without me throwing it out or drawing on it (or using it to map a dungeon or a cross-stitch pattern or something). And I drew a new map for White Rose.

It's not as complete as the other maps, because it really doesn't need to be. I have one river, one mountain range, half a dozen cities and towns, and I drew a buffalo under the Sea of Grass (although I plan to call them wisents, which was the name for wild oxen in the old world). That's about it.

It's funny, though--when I looked at my old maps, three of them were like maps of a place I'd lived in for a long time. There are lots of towns (although the towns do sort of float around from map to map), lots of homely-sounding placenames, like the Builded Hall, Hornet's Coronation, Travelsend. I know these places, even if not another soul on the planet does. When I see The Riders' Warren marked on a map, I see the bones of an idea I later used in Stag in Balance; when I see the cluster of placenames in the middle of a mountain range, I remember the otherwise long-forgotten story I wrote about Jertie, a very old dragon who had to save a kidnapped egg from some evil humans--an idea that I later reworked (considerably) into the story "Sea and Sky," which is appearing in the Black Dragon, White Dragon anthology.

But then there are one or two maps that show lands that are unfamiliar, because I meant to write about them but never did. White Rose takes place in this part of the world, in what I used to call the Green Realm. I'm excited to finally be exploring the Green Realm--it always sounded so mysterious--even though I know it's mostly just full of wisents.

Incidentally, each map shows Endra (except one, which has Endra's earlier name, Lanor, which I never liked as the name for a country). The Weredeer and its sequels take place mostly in Endra, as does my story "The King's Messenger," which of course will be in Renard's Menagerie #5. (Have I managed to plug that one often enough yet? No, I don't think so. I'm proud of that story.) White Rose was going to take place in Endra, but once I started writing it, it didn't fit--instead it starts in the Kinwida Hills, which is near the eastern border of the Duchy of Allaramal, which is in turn on the northeastern border of Endra. According to the map.


seaslug_of_doom said...

For some reason your description of literary lands instantly made me think of Silverlock, by John Myers Myers.

K.C. Shaw said...

Ooh, now the day has a purpose! Library trip!