Fantasy Map

Archer’s Aim Daily Vol. 101

Drawing a fantasy map? Here’s how to start!  Plus fantasy name generation, tips about setting (from a gaming perspective) and much more on today on Archer’s Aim Daily

Behind the Scenes: What It’s Like Writing Fantasy

Hello to all the Archer’s Aim readers! Today, I thought I would address some questions which I received on Goodreads where someone asked me about my approach is to writing fantasy. While I answered those questions in that format, I’d like to expand upon those in order to do the topic justice.

As you can see from the screenshot, I received a couple of questions from a Goodreads friend, the first being about what it’s like to write fantasy. My first answer is that it’s very challenging, as there are quite a number of details that you need to plan. In such a short sentence, that covers quite a lot. There’s far more to writing speculative fiction than that simple answer. First, you must understand the genre or sub-genre, meaning you must read what you write. I have plans to dip my writing toes into LitRPG so I have to read some of those to understand how those kinds of books are developed, then add my unique approach to it.

Fantasy is always about development, as is science fiction. An author needs to spend plenty of time developing all of the surrounding setting, which is called world-building. This term really means development of setting, background and all that entails what the story covers. An author to get as detailed or remain as broad as possible, depending on the demands of story. For instance, if the plot has a lot to do with language or culture, then I might spend quite a lot more time developing aspects of those topics in order to make sure those are suitably incorporated into the plot. You can easily go overboard on the number of details, however a good rule of thumb is that the more you describe to yourself about your story, the easier it is to develop around your basic plot characters.

Denaria was drawn years ago, one afternoon while I was thinking of all the fascinating lands that could exist in the story.

How an author goes about developing a fantasy world varies greatly. I suppose that the current projects on which I’m working need more world building since I have worked mainly on writing the rough draft (I started backwards since my agent needed samples very quickly). As a consequence, I have developed aspects of each world almost on the fly. I’ve had to come up with names or places off the cuff so I may not have enough details about those setting to satisfy the needs of the story. Going into the editing, I will spend more time world-building and then incorporate those details back into the rough drafts. To my mind, it’s not the best way to actually develop a fantasy story. Instead, I would like to spend time developing all of parts and pieces before I begin my writing. However, I want to develop the world and the plot together so that they are interwoven as a whole. That doesn’t mean that my current works in progress are bad, just in need of some balance to better round them into form.

My short answer to the original question is that writing fantasy is challenging, but it is also quite a lot fun. Because you fantasy is so flexible in terms of what you can put into it, you can take your story almost any direction. The main point, is to make sure you develop a sense of consistency about what can and cannot happen. This means that you must think in terms of how the society works and how it doesn’t work, or how magic works and does not work. It’s always best to put in limitations so that you can easily manage plot without getting out of hand and falling into some gross mistakes in your writing (being painted into a corner means a lot of work to correct the problem). But it’s also important to get a few readers or an editor who are going to challenge your writing so that you can find off as many holes in your development, plot and characterization in order to stitch together for the best quality writing and entertainment for readers.

As I go along with my projects, I’m looking for better ways to world-build so that I can be faster and more thorough at development. The tool that I am trying to start using for my upcoming projects is notebook.ai. This is a web-based tool which you can use to develop all the details of a world. So some of my upcoming books will be developed first on that platform so I will have a good sense of everything I need in order to proceed with writing. My hope is that in the near future I will share some specifics about what I’m doing that can provide some better insights behind the scenes without giving away spoilers.

Thanks for stopping by today. If you are a fantasy writer, please leave your comments about how you approach world-building. If you have more questions as a reader about what goes on behind the scenes please leave in the comments section and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Fantasy Mapping Re-Visited

folded mapLast month, I wrote about converting my decades old, hand-drawn fantasy map to digital version. Today, I’m sharing the follow-up on the process and how it turned out. For those who may have a similar situation, I’ll include some technical details that may make this process less painful.

I originally had a map that was hand-drawn but had water spots which discolored the paper enough to render it useless for scanning which would have been an easy resolution. So I had to resort to tracing the map by hand using tracing paper purchased at a local craft/art supply store. This process was easy to complete if a little time consuming.

I did have to go over the pencil tracing with a pen and finding the right type to use for tracing paper can be tricky. I found the Paper-Mate Profile worked best. Be careful of smudges though mine seemed to add a bit of character to the map – after all, what’s an old, hand-drawn map without smudges?

East Coast MapNext, since the paper is an odd size I needed to use a special scanner. That meant a trip to Fed-Ex/Kinko’s so I found on in the area. Since I was scanning only to electronic version I needed my own thumb-drive which I usually carry with me everywhere – so make sure to take one if you are doing something like this. Also, scanning paper can be tricky feeding through the particular scanner used – and no, there wasn’t a flat-bed that would accommodate the paper size. However, in this case the scanner had been recently serviced with new rollers so the tracing paper fed without a hitch. The cost was minimal so I easily had a digital version of the map. However I could only get a .tiff of the file instead of .jpg or .png (I didn’t want a .pdf until I had the final version).

At this point, I had a file of the map. I intentionally left the new version without place & geographic names so I could add them via my computer. For this I used a copy of Microsoft Publisher. I added the file as a picture to a blank, custom size and then added text labels for every name on the map. In adding these, I had to adjust size and font to get the necessary result. Also, with publisher it worked best to scroll using the mouse or the scroll-bars in the application since moving the picture threw of the text box alignments. But this same caveat with text boxes proved useful later. Additionally, some places needed to be pointed out in detail so I used the shapes function to select an arrow to indicate specific location details.

E_Auguron and N_ Troll HeathsOnce I finished labeling the map, I could zoom in closer to make screen-shots of specific areas so they would be large enough to see. If I need to enlarge them I’ll use Gimp for the adjustment. However, when zooming I found that larger labels might be partially cut-off the view. I simply moved the text box and re-sized it to fit the area I needed.

Now I have custom maps of various locations that I can use in The Bow of Destiny and An Arrow Against the Wind as well as free, related short-fiction such as What Is Needed . These maps will be added to the final copy for formatting. I’ve included a few screen-shots as final results.

Book Cover Green Top & Bottom Cover - CopyPlease share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

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About the Author

P. H. SolomonP. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title with more soon to come.


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