We’ve talked a lot about maps and illustrations in our books, and I read this article by TS Adrian about the Shadyia Ascendant series and it rang so true! What do you guys think??
A few weeks ago, I touched on maps for my story. Early in the week, I happened across a post by a member of the Facebook writers’ group I’m in and saw some wonderful maps that another author had been working on. She’d been using GIMP, which I’m not familiar with, but her maps were GoRgEoUs!!
So, feeling inspired, I decided to revisit my map of Gexalatia. I actually ended up with way more than what I anticipated when I started!
My first step was to find a map generator.
I have to be honest, I suck at imagining what my world will look like. It’s something that I’m struggling with, but it’s really cool that there are tools like this, which are actually intended for role-playing games, but can also be used for book concepts! I especially like this website, because it gives me a lot of options and I can build my own maps and character designs using the presets. It also gave me an option to see a random map, and that’s what I did until I found a map that was pleasing to my eyes!
This is the map I chose. All that was left was to find my countries of Ymber, Siccita, and Fornax. I zoomed in a bit on the middle and found the area that most closely looked like how I’ve imagined it and it’s geographic features. I edited the map where it needed it to fit with certain elements, like where there is water and such.
The second, and hardest, step is labeling!
Actually putting the map together was very time-intensive. I spent two hours or more the first night putting it together in Photoshop. I made some mistakes and saved the wrong file, and had to go back and re-do it the next day, but since I’d already done it, I knew where to put my pieces. It still took time, but less than it had originally.
Photoshop is a great tool, and I highly recommend that every author should learn to use it! It can take so many things and make them amazing.
These are a few of the elements I used to make my map:
This is one of the menus that is available on the map generator website. I simply screenshot it and cropped the parts as I needed them to put on my map.
These are pretty self-explanatory. I used them to build my mountain ranges, which there is one major range on the border of Siccita and Fornax.
Rivers and Roads:
This was pretty self-explanatory as well. These pieces were designed to be rivers, and I added color to them on my map to make them blue. When I used them as road pieces, I cropped them together and left them brown.
Castles, ruins, and villages:
These were really fun because they gave life to my world. I used them to mark where important cities and ruins are. The last piece was actually a plateau piece, but I used it to denote Paries’ Wall, which divides Ymber and Siccita.
The Finished Product
And there is a first look at an actual map of where my story will take place! As you can see, I used pieces as they were intended and as they fit my needs. Don’t be afraid to do the same with your designs! Get creative and think outside the box. It sounds cliche, but if you can imagine it, you can make it happen!
Have you worked on your maps lately?
Maps are hard. Especially for people like me who have trouble visualizing what the heck even goes on a map. My most basic map of Gexalatia, from years ago looks like this:
Awesome, right? (It’s okay to say no!)
Gexalatia has come a long way since its early days. Now it looks slightly better, like this:
Definitely starting to be flushed out a bit.
So what should your map have on it?
1. The easiest place to start was the countries.
So the overall land/continent is called Gexalatia. So far Gexalatia consists of Ymber to the north and Siccita to the south. Once I decided that, building around the two countries wasn’t too difficult.
2. Every country obviously needs a capitol city!
For me, the capitol cities are Regius Carmen in Ymber and Celo Cavus in Siccita. I chose to put them at opposite ends of the map for no real reason. That’s just sorta where they ended up.
3. Next you gotta add some landscaping.
I decided I wanted Regius Carmen to be encased in mountains, and the royal city is even built into the side of one, making it a great fortress. Enemy soldiers only have three ways to get to Regius Carmen: funnel through a mountain pass, try to make landfall by boat through the bay, or fly over the mountains with dragons. None of these would do much to intimidate Regius Carmen or its citizens, especially since the bay is heavily policed by Ymber soldiers and the country that supplies Siccita with dragons is on strike.
For Celo Cavus in Siccita, I decided that it would be bordered on the western side by mountains and be surrounded by open plains. I’m not a military strategist by any means, but I figure it’s hard to attack someone if they can see you coming. And of course, to the north is forest and a pretty large river that runs from the Coracinus Mountains (left-hand side) to the bay (right-hand side). Siccita also has the benefit of being the aggressor. They have Ymber pushed well within their bounds of their country, so the risk of attack on Celo Cavus is pretty minimal during the events of Return to Royalty.
4. Add some character to your map.
So once I added the countries and the cities, my map was looking pretty sparse. This allowed me to decide where I would put rivers and forests and mountains. This also gave me opportunities to really explore the people who live in these regions. So far I’ve really nailed down Ymber, since that’s where most of the action in the series will take place, but I plan to expand on Siccita as well.
In Ymber, from left of the map to the right, we have the northern Coracinus Mountains, where the Limen is hidden, the Abjure forest, the Plains of Aduro, the Forest of the Aife, the Forcia Mountains, and the Bay of Antiquus. A wall was built in between Ymber and Siccita during the reign of King Paries to keep enemy soldiers in Siccita and protect Ymber from their attack. It has only one opening along the main road, called the Custos Obduros, which are watchtowers. Anyone who comes to Ymber from Siccita must pass through the Custos to enter, unless they come by water.
In Siccita, I have so far only mapped the ruins of Dirvo. Before Ymber and Siccita split in two, Dirvo was the capitol city of Gexalatia. Dirvo will feature in book two of the series, when Nyx takes an unwilling trip there (no spoilers!). The river that runs through Siccita is called the Eluvios, and I picture it like the Grand Canyon, wide and deep. I’m not sure about the forest yet.
Then, in the Coracinus Mountains and to the west, not on the map, is the country of Fornax. Fornax is where dragons are bred. Fornax will also be featured in book two as Nyx and Jet meet some new friends…or enemies….
So that’s all I can say for now, but hopefully this was helpful! Of course, I’m also learning the difference between estates, manors, provinces, etc. There’s so much to building a world! It can get overwhelming, so take your time and let it fill itself out as you go!