All Mapped Out

When I began writing A Sea Sought in Song, one of my goals was to obviate the need for a flyleaf map.

Now, I love maps. Collect ’em, even. I can lose myself in an atlas just as easily as in an encyclopedia. And A Sea Sought in Song is high fantasy, and there’s nothing quite so characteristic of high fantasy as a flyleaf map. So why the aversion?

Because a map is a crutch. If a story is told well, readers will know where they are even without a map—even if the setting is utterly alien. Also, I had no desire to telegraph upcoming plot points by means of a handy tour guide. A fantasy cartographer must balance realism with relevance. If the map is universally intricate, the reader begins to feel let down: “Why can’t we go visit X? Why’s it even on this map if we never find out what it is?” Conversely, if the Law of Conservation of Detail is adhered to too strictly, it becomes easy for the reader to anticipate where our heroes are journeying next: all one needs do is trace the specificity.

So anyway, I wanted to avoid all that, or at least write in a way that didn’t necessitate it. And I did, and I’m glad I did. But then I finished the book, and I thought to myself, ‘Now wouldn’t it be nice if this book had a flyleaf map?’

Told you I loved maps.

So then I drew a map. But it wasn’t just a map for A Sea Sought in Song; it was a map that encompassed everything I anticipated seeing throughout the duration of my fantasy series. Since I pieced it together by reconciling all the geographic references I’d already dropped in Book One, it contained plenty of complexity right out of the gate. All it took to complete were a few additional flourishes of appellation.

And then I began writing Book Two. And I found myself consulting the map almost constantly—to remind myself of far-flung place names, to hone my sense of proportion, even to calculate the distance and time necessary to travel between Points A and B. The map made everything easier.

And then, suddenly, I needed to start producing promo materials: one-sheets, a website, business cards … All of which needed graphic filler—supporting content that looked good, but wasn’t overly specific. And hey, I had this handy map just lyin’ around …

So then the map started showing up on all my stuff. It’s almost a motif now. A signal for my fantasy-ness.

But I’m still convinced its quality lies in its redundancy.

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