Saturday, February 27, 2010

Here There Be No Dragons

So, two months into writing the novel, I've decided I need to make a map.

I didn't plan on doing this. I certainly don't plan on being one of those fantasy authors who has detailed maps padding out the front of his novels. They always strike me as self-indulgent and superfluous. It would be especially superfluous for this novel, given all the action takes place within no more than twenty square miles.

But as I progress, I find myself needing the visual reference. I make a lot of references to geography beyond the borders of my story, especially when I'm visiting the heads of the characters who aren't from there, and I need to keep it all consistent. Hence the maps. I've made two, one of the village that the story in so many ways centers upon, and one of the land it lies within. And since they'll never be published in any other form, my ego compels me to post them here, along with some explanatory text.

Yes, this is a transparent marketing ploy for a book that isn't even done yet. Get over it.


I hope everyone can see that. This is the big, superfluous map. All of the action takes place in Greenswallow, the forest to the west of it, and the hill country to the south. And one early scene set on the High Road, because a few of the characters, willful creatures that they are, couldn't make it to the village in time for the first chapter. There's a lot more to it, more villages and such, but I've included mostly just the places referenced in the novel.

The Orum River Valley is a fecund but sparsely-populated area. The most recent population influx came from the west and the north, within the last few centuries. Other civilizations may have thrived there some time ago -- all right, they did -- but no traces of them remain. The city of Orumen is the de facto political capital of the area, although it only has direct control over the area immediately surrounding it, within a week's ride. The rest of the country is taken up by small, independent feudal postage-stamp landholdings, such as that of Lord Bainbridge, and a handful of independently incorporated villages, such as Greenswallow. The population is mostly human, with the nomadic Wandering Peoples having established their own routes throughout the area. The Arryl Mountains to the south, from which the Orum River flows, are populated by giants. Fort Arryl, nominally an outpost of Orumen, is virtually its own city-state. The lands to the east, beginning with the Wild Hills, are mostly unfertile and contain few valuable minerals, and are left unspoiled, except by those person who, for their own reasons, have a pressing need to be away from civilization. Beyond the hills are the Sunrise Plateau, gateway to an inhospitable waste that few, if any, have ever traversed.

The general geography, and some of the politics, of the Orum Valley have been floating about untethered in my head for a few years now. They were therefore ready to serve when I required a larger context to set my novel in. Almost none of this is directly relevant to the story, but it's nice to have fleshed out to some degree.

The Greenswallow map is obviously of much more immediate use. I drew a great deal of inspiration for this one from my main research source, Life in a Medieval Village, by Frances and Joseph Gies. In particular was the explanation of crop rotation, represented here in a three-field setup that allows for one field to lay fallow each season. X-es represent houses, with tags denoting their principal residents where applicable. The village's name is taken from the inn, the first of its buildings to be built. Ownership has passed from hand to hand, not always along family lines, for one hundred and fifty years. The village as a political entity is about a century old, and exists politically separate from the surrounding holdings, a state few villages in the current era are able to maintain. Surplus crops and other goods are sold at Wainsmarket twice a year by the Chapman family, who hold a permanent seat on the village council, as well as much of the village's material wealth. Religion is a polytheistic polyglot, mostly practiced privately, except at harvest times, weddings and funerals.

The house across and to the left of the inn has no special significance; the marking there is merely an ink smudge.

The novel is at 50,000 words, with I think another 20-30,000 to go. I'll keep you posted.

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