Exploring Tairenth: Prologue

Lately I have been working on maps for the next books, which are to be a series. I love mapping! I started out on my own, working in Photoshop, but over the years some tips and tutorials from the Cartographer’s Guild have helped me refine my skills. The folks over there are amazingly talented and supportive. The things I’ve learned make me excited to make more, more, more maps—and the graphic tablet my wonderful kids gave me a couple Christmases ago makes it even more fun.

As far as maps + writing fantasy go, I have read advice that declares one must start with a map to advice that says “maps are nice, but you don’t really need them.” Lest there be any doubt, I am firmly in the first camp. Well, mostly… I started As the Crow Flies without a map, sketched one out on paper as I went along, then managed to lose it. There was much weeping and wailing in the land. I felt oddly lost.

Sherakai’s story began without a map—but it also began in a role-playing forum in which a map was actually available. I just didn’t know about it at first. Oops! The thing was sadly out of proportion and I eventually made a new one to donate to the cause. I learned a lot about writing while I was with the role-playing group. It was a good impetus for honing my own style, most particularly when it came to writing stories to be posted on the boards, but eventually I found the venue limiting. Mind you, I am opposed to reading material that looks/sounds like it came from a role-playing session. While it’s great fun to play, it makes for very choppy reading. I did, in fact, recently read a book that bore an unfortunate resemblance to gaming. Thank you, but no.

But I digress…

I made an awesome map for the role-playing forum, and I figured out the bones of a really good story. I even had people tell me I ought to write a book. Very gratifying. However, I couldn’t simply scrape that story out of the forum and into a book of my own; I needed an original world and my own characters. And then, because we worked so splendidly together, the entire project became a joint effort with Kristie, who I originally met in the forum. We established a timeline that included points that must happen in the course of our characters’ development—and we changed everything else. Then we gnawed at some of the details and changed them some more. An entirely new world has emerged: Tairenth. The process of developing it has been (and continues to be) both challenging and incredible.

Having a map not only helps us to keep technical details of the book(s) in perspective, but it makes the place come alive. It looks like someplace. It’s real. It’s helped us to ask further questions about the history of the land. One things often leads to another, and it amazes me how the threads of creation weave back and forth to produce a whole tapestry. Naming places led to more work on the native language, which in turn took us to a discussion about an aspect of the culture. From there we leaped to questions about the magic, and suddenly we’d tweaked and reshaped an old element into something unique. We had the kathraul’en“Shades, nightmares, whispers of lives that never were….” Far more than mere shadows, these constructs of twisted magic are a frightening part of our protagonist’s lives. They know them personally. Intimately. The kathraul’en are the impetus of actions both terrible and wonderful.

It’s too early in the game to do a full map reveal, but I’ll leave you with a little teaser—part of the coastline of Ryali, and the river that leads to the capital city and a surprising chain of events in Sherakai’s life.

What do you think? Are maps a necessary part of fantastic worlds, or just eye-candy? What are some of your favorite fictional maps?

6 thoughts on “Exploring Tairenth: Prologue

  1. I grew up on Middle Earth, so maps are a must. 🙂 As to whether the story begins with a map or whether the map begins with the story, I haven't decided. I've tried doodling some maps, trying to find out who lives there, what kind of society would spring up from this kind of terrain, and have mostly felt sadly disappointed in my lack of cartographic skills. So, I still have no map, and only a vague idea of 'behind and beyond' for where my human was sent, and 'roughly northish' for where my people end up. Not good, I know.

  2. I love maps. You'll find another like-minded soul in Scott Marlowe (also a Magic Appreciation Tour author). I can't say if they are "necessary," but I always appreciate them (and use them) when they are made available to me. One of my favorite fictional maps is the Province of Cyrodiil from Oblivion. I have it hanging on the wall of my office. Many years ago, I hung up the World of Greyhawk above my bed. Yep, that was a real chick magnet.

    I like the look of your partial reveal. Nice job. I don't have the PS skills or design eye to produce something like that myself, although I'm starting to get more proficient with Campaign Cartographer.

    I did start with a map for the Vaetra Chronicles, but I cheated. My story world is set in an "alternate" North Idaho, so the landscape is well known to me. Of course, what I placed in that landscape is somewhat different from the reality I know and love. 😉

    I've started taking mapping down to the scene level. I didn't do this at first, but now, whenever I write a scene, I first create a layout of that scene (whether it's a city, building, or room) so I can consistently describe all of the action that takes place in the scene. I see this as a good way to avoid continuity errors, and for me, it's a fun diversion. Most of these scene maps are just quick sketches drawn on the back of a piece of scrap paper, but they do the job.

    I'm currently working on a full map of the Tanes Empire (from my story world) in Campaign Cartographer. Part of that map will be in my second Vaetra Chronicles book, which should hit the stores within days. Once that map is done, I'll make it available in all its full-color glory on the book web site.

  3. How utterly disconcerting to discover that the reply I made disappeared into the ethernet. Either that, or my dreams are becoming entirely too realistic!

    At any rate, yes! Middle Earth maps are an inspiration, to be sure. I love being able to see what's where, I love the sense of "old world" style, I love the memories it evokes for me. My own process is usually to start with the story, and the map grows as the story does. The world of Tairenth is a little bit different in that I have a general concept for the entire world, and my protagonist has history in places far from where the main story is taking place.

    I don't know if my map-making skills are anything to brag about—as I said, they improved considerably after discovering the Cartographer's Guild. You may very well be able to find something helpful there, too, as they have tutorials for several different applications and styles as well as boodles of maps for inspiration. And I think that as long as you can keep track of what's going on, that's what counts!

  4. Maps are chick magnets—for some chicks! 😀 I have an antique-looking map of the world hanging behind my desk. I fantasize about replacing it with the completed Map of Tairenth one of these days. I am unfamiliar with the Cyrodiil map, but I know the Greyhawk maps done by Anna Meyer through the posts she made on the Cartographer's Guild. Some of them made it into my "morgue" file.

    And yes, maps do make it easier to remain consistent! I will confess to making maps—or floor plans—of houses and castles as well as properties. I have a romanesque fort in progress as well. I have yet to do a city map, but I've been itching to, and will no doubt come up with a reason (or twenty) to make at least one.

    I can't wait to see your map of the Tanes Empire—and good luck with your release! I hope all the hobgoblins of formatting and uploading stay far, far away!

  5. I envy you that. In spite of multiple proofing attempts, my last upload to Smashwords is apparently banjaxed. I've tried using Scrivener for it. I love the app, but somewhere along the line I managed to screw things up, so I opted for the more familiar Pages. While the format worked perfectly for Amazon, wires and eyes got crossed. Do overs! Yay.

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