I love maps. Whenever I pick up a new fantasy novel to read, the first thing I do is look to see if there’s a map of the fictional world I’m about to enter. Maps of these imaginary worlds are so much fun to study — the rise and flow of the landforms and bodies of water, the boundaries of the kingdoms, and the placement of cities and towns. And the names — that’s what I enjoy the most, reading all the names and getting a feel for how they sound and what kind of images those sounds evoke in my mind. It doesn’t matter if they’re everyday words or if they’re exotic or fantastical. Any name can spark my imagination.
Drawing maps is even more fun. Before I started writing my first novel, I had already drawn maps of the world my characters inhabited, and rough sketches of some of the important places. From these beginnings, my stories build, my characters living day to day in a paper land that’s so real in my mind’s eye. I’ve always found it easier to have that visual when trying to figure out the timing and spatial aspects of a story, like how long it would take this person to travel here versus this group traveling there, and questions of that sort. It makes everything seem more concrete to me. I refer to my maps all the time when I’m writing, just as I regularly flip back to the maps I find in fantasy novels, to better follow the characters’ progressions through the story.
I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the map that goes with my soon-to-be-published book. I tweaked a few of the names of the towns and kingdoms to make them more unique, and changed a couple of them entirely when I discovered the names had already been used on other maps in other books, or had previous proprietary claims (such as the kingdom name I “created” which turned out to be the same as a trademarked drug belonging to a pharmaceutical company). When I first drew this map back in the mid-1980s, I never thought about whether anyone else had used the names before. Now, I do Internet searches on every name, for both places and people, to try to avoid inadvertent conflicts. But since I’ll never be able to read every book ever published or every map or character name from every online gaming world out there, I know it’s impossible to avoid all duplication. I try, though, unless it’s a common name or household word, in which case it’s not as important.
I can’t wait until the day I see my map spread out in the front pages of my own book. Soon.