Tuesday, June 22, 2010

REPOST: The Crafting of a City Map

This post originally appeared on March 23, 2010. 

My propensity for doing a lot of research is well-known across various people's blogs (and now on Twitter), but perhaps less well-known is my need to do a lot of background figuring because of this.

One of the criticisms I got from my fantabulous betas (you know who you are) was the lack of a sense of place/time differential when Moriah travels through the city of Callarion. The easiest way to fix this is to design a map of the city. However, one of the problems with doing such a thing is my lack of any drawing ability whatsoever. Instead of drawing that map then, I've decided to craft some background information on architecture and distances in various parts of the city.

This amounts to yet more research (and some unrepentant cribbing of real places) to craft the exact city map that I need in order to give the city its verisimilitude. So far, today, I've written capsules on Marketplace, Quayside, and Woodsedge (three districts of the city) and will at some point finish the ones on Lowtown, Academe, and Gardens Hill as well.

The map and geography that I'm using for Callarion borrows from three places -- Rome, San Francisco, and San Diego. San Fran and San Diego provided the proper winding coastline that I imagined, and Rome's Seven Hills provided the basis for what I kind of wanted to do terrain-wise (turns out Callarion's looking more and more like San Francisco by the minute, but that's beside the point).

What purpose does all this serve? Perhaps the biggest benefit to doing this is having a map means I don't accidentally place Thomas's shop in two different sections of Marketplace. It also means Gardens Hill consistently stays in the center of the city, and other landmarks start to gain more and more importance because they're located in a concrete place in the fictional city. Correction: the biggest benefit is that my distances stay the same. That's important, because I can't have Moriah cross Marketplace on foot at two different speeds. There lies inconsistencies my friend.

And I very much dislike being inconsistent (which is why I always like people to point out when I am). What about you, loyal blog readers? Do you craft maps of your settings? Or do you let it fly like Terry Pratchett, who's of the opinion that "You can't map a sense of humor"?

1 comment:

Gary Corby said...

Oh dear Gods...the maps.

With Pericles Commission we made the decision not to include a map, and I'm dead sure that was the right thing to do. As long as you know the Agora in Athens is slightly north of the Acropolis then life is good. But I spent upwards of 50 hours working out precisely what was in the Agora of Athens in 461BC. I'm confident that if you sent me back in a time machine, I could walk across that agora blindfolded without running into anything.

With the second book we haven't talked about it yet, but I doubt we'll map Ephesus and Magnesia, because it isn't really necessary to the story. Though a map of Ephesus would be straightforward since it's clearly visible on Google Earth, and the site of the original Magnesia is entirely lost, so I can make up whatever I like (within historical reason).

The third is set in Olympia, I'm only at first draft, and I'm already thinking it'll have a map included, because the original site of the Olympics is much smaller than most people imagine, and the site as people know it today is from Roman times and the original was much more sparse.

I like the new blog style btw!