Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When Writing Turns into Map-making


This week I realized something while working on my novel: Until I chart out my city and its outlying regions in detail, I can't write my final battle scene. Got the climax basically wrapped up (that final showdown between the two brothers), but what's going on down below them in the city is fairly important, too, and that's just a little hazy in my head, because I haven't figured out where everything goes. Not exactly.

I need a map.

This would not be a problem if I were an artiste.  Or if I hadn't played around so much with my setting, which is only loosely based on reality. I had to play. The real setting didn't fit my story well enough. And anyway, it was fun.

Apparently, this sort of thing happens to writers a lot.

I came across this entertaining article on the subject while I was looking for ways to procrastinate drawing my own map. I laughed a little. Those crazy writers! And sighed. Because I'm one of them. And yes, I know I do need that map.

I was interested--and a bit relieved--to learn Tolkien didn't draw his own maps. He commissioned a map-maker for Middle Earth. And then C.S. Lewis borrowed Tolkien's map-maker for Narnia.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-y10cUh0h3wk/Td8oBHzWcbI/AAAAAAAAAtQ/aWpgHjOabmk/s640/NarniaMap_fullsize.jpg
Map of Narnia by Pauline Baynes


However, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Ursula Le Guin didn't need to borrow anybody. They drew their own maps of Treasure Island and Earthsea long before they ever began to write the books to go with their drawings. Even Faulkner drew maps for his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, and was duly proud of the result.

Apparently, writers are obsessed with maps.

Perhaps because we live in other worlds and want those worlds to be real? What we want is the biggest possible map, with as much detail as possible, and then to step into that map and...

Well, whole stories have been written about that.

I don't draw. And unfortunately, I'm too impatient to wait around until someone who can has enough time and ink to create a map so I can plot out the details of my big battle.

So this week I am writing by drawing a map, and wishing I'd taken an art class or two in college. Who knew drawing was one of those prerequisite skills for creating a novel?  And I keep running out of room on my paper.



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