Monday, May 7, 2012

Maps In Novels

Is Fantasy the only genre that comes standard with a map? I can't recall ever seeing an included map elsewhere. Maybe in a sci-fi novel. Or a book about maps. I don't think many other genres include a map.

I guess if you're reading a thriller about a bank heist that takes place in Chicago, the writer assumes you could, you know, Google Map Chicago if you wanted to. Same with romance, although there's probably a good slice of those that take place in a made up setting. I don't know. I can't claim to be that well read. I've done a lot of thrillers, sci-fi, and fantasy. Otherwise, just the odd book here and there. I try to give the "popular" books a try, if only to see what the fuss is about. Case in point, I didn't start in on Harry Potter until the series was almost all out. It took me that long to "cave."

I digress. The point is that I was musing about maps. As my fantasy novel gets closer to release (I'm on Chapter 22/32), I've become more ponderous about my mapping situation. Quality maps are hard to come by. There are plenty of folks that'll whip you up a cover for the right price, but a map? That's a lot harder. It has to be accurate, has to fit with what is described in the story. Plus, even in fantasy, you want to have some semblance of geographical correctness. I mean, I suppose everything could be controlled by magic, but I think readers will appreciate a well thought-out, believable ecosystem.

I wasn't planning to do the initial release of the book with a map. I just don't have a good solution for it. I'd really like to do something crazy, like embed an interactive map that makes use of e-readers. Something different than the page right before the story starts. Not that there's anything wrong with those maps... it just seemed like if I were going to "go there," then why not go all the way?

Unfortunately, there are technical and artistic limitations on my end. First of all, I'm not good at drawing. Like, at all. Pictures with words, yes. Pictures with pictures, no way. Go figure.

I actually know someone who makes maps for a living. She's like, the Map Queen. I talked to her about it, and we even know someone who does a lot with interactive maps. The three of us met and had grand ideas. Grand, I say. But I'd essentially be asking them to take on a second job for little or no pay, and they don't really have the time to begin with. Maybe someday our plan of world domination could come to fruition, but it's not going be in time for this book launch. And I'm determined not to let the map hold things up.

I think it is certainly readable without a map. I mean, I drew one for my own reference, but it is awful and I was never planning to share it. Yet, several beta readers have said: "You need a map." In fantasy, it just makes sense. Who doesn't like to track the trek of our adventurous heroes across a fantastical landscape? I know I do. I get it, I really do. I just would rather have no map than a crappy one.

Then I realized I have a wife that can draw. Seriously, she's pretty good. She doesn't think so, but I think so. And I'm artistic director here, damnit. So we picked up some calligraphy pens at Michael's, and we're going to give this a go. It's our first fantasy map. We have no idea how embed it in an e-book, but we'll figure it out. The betas asked for a map. There shalt be a map! It's only proper for a fantasy novel, right?

So we've been musing about maps. We've tried looking at a whole bunch to get an idea about style. Do you have a favorite map? Bonus points if it's not in a fantasy novel.


Post a Comment