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View Full Version : Maps as an afterthought (not!)



Tracker
01-17-2014, 05:58 PM
Hello:
I have been a program manager for a publisher for 15 years. My goal is to publish works of quality and not write them. I have encountered several authors who have stated that they need a map for their work, but it is not that important. Their point of view is that a map is only an afterthought and has no place in telling a story. Those authors have not been published.

I can name several examples on how important maps are to a story in several different media releases. These include:

Movies:
The Fellowship of the Ring (any of the versions)
The Muppet movies (Travel by map)

Books:
The Lost Regiment by William R. Forstchen

Video Games
Robokill
Star Trek (any of them)

Table top role playing games
Any adventure of campaign.

The list can go on and on of examples. There are two methods of storytelling. You can use the dialogue and passages of a story to tell it or show it. Both show a story and tell a story has their own merits, and I will not go into a debate on which is better. A Map allows you to do both at the same time. It allows the reader, player, viewer a point of reference for where the story is. It also allows the possible directions the story can go and some of the obstacles in each of the possible directions.

It allows the author of the story to use a visual tell / show aid to get their story across to their audience. I know I am passionate about mapping. I still remember getting my first professional cartographer credits from Steve Jackson Games. A Map should never be an afterthought of a story. It might come before, during or after the story is completed by it is an important part of the story or it should be.

Tracker

arishok
01-17-2014, 09:41 PM
Whenever I start writing something, I oftentimes spend hours on developing the world. When I do write without any planning, oftentimes I end up feeling lost.

Where am I going? What was I supposed to heading toward? Was there a town back there? Or was it a dungeon? WHY AM I NOT WEARIng ANY PANTS???

I'm kidding about the pants. Maybe.

Jaxilon
01-17-2014, 10:34 PM
Thanks for the input on this. I am pretty certain all of us here agree, we are after all a bunch of cartographiles (that should be a word). :)

Whenever I'm mapping I'm often imagining events unfolding on the terrain I am creating. What historic moments transpired here? I imagine a hero sneaking through or crossing over the river I am painting. It may all go back to my pen and paper gaming days of creating worlds and adventures but when I behold a map within a book I do the same thing.

I can't imagine writing a book without having some kind of a map. Brandon Sanderson who is an excellent Science Fiction writer of our day certainly supports nice maps. Check out his "The Way of Kings" prologue. Saweeeetness!

Anyway, I support your message and for those authors who poo-poo the idea of a map they should realize that just because we are readers doesn't mean we don't ultimately embrace sight. I can't tell you how many books I've picked up just because the cover looked good and how many I ignored because I hated the cover art. (I know, it's shallow but really with so many books out there I have to have a reason of some kind). The next thing I look for after the cover is to see if there is a map. A great map and I'm very likely to take that book home with me. :)

I'm currently in a great series of books that has a rudimentary world map but it's barely functional. The books are so good that the map is kind of embarrassing. I feel somewhat motivated to show the author some love and create a real map for it but I haven't found the elusive "free" time.

arishok
01-17-2014, 10:43 PM
Thanks for the input on this. I am pretty certain all of us here agree, we are after all a bunch of cartographiles (that should be a word). :)

Whenever I'm mapping I'm often imagining events unfolding on the terrain I am creating. What historic moments transpired here? I imagine a hero sneaking through or crossing over the river I am painting. It may all go back to my pen and paper gaming days of creating worlds and adventures but when I behold a map within a book I do the same thing.

I can't imagine writing a book without having some kind of a map. Brandon Sanderson who is an excellent Science Fiction writer of our day certainly supports nice maps. Check out his "The Way of Kings" prologue. Saweeeetness!

Anyway, I support your message and for those authors who poo-poo the idea of a map they should realize that just because we are readers doesn't mean we don't ultimately embrace sight. I can't tell you how many books I've picked up just because the cover looked good and how many I ignored because I hated the cover art. (I know, it's shallow but really with so many books out there I have to have a reason of some kind). The next thing I look for after the cover is to see if there is a map. A great map and I'm very likely to take that book home with me. :)

I'm currently in a great series of books that has a rudimentary world map but it's barely functional. The books are so good that the map is kind of embarrassing. I feel somewhat motivated to show the author some love and create a real map for it but I haven't found the elusive "free" time.

Free time? Is that what kids are calling drugs these days?

Bogie
01-18-2014, 12:53 AM
I recently have been working on making battlemaps from some of the real old 1st Ed AD&D Modules for a client. It has been fun, but it is also very frustrating at times when the written description does not come close to matching the map (my guess is that the cartographer and author were not communicating at all ) A typical example: the room is described as having 4 beds 2 bureaus and 2 desks with chairs and the original blue grid map shows a 9' x 9' room with 1 bed and a chair. Or the opposite might be shown where the mapper drew a 9' x 9' room with all 4 beds, desks, chairs and bureaus in the room, but they are drawn hobbit size so they fit when clearly they are being used by humans.

So my point is this, not only are maps important, the accuracy of those maps is also critical.

Jalyha
01-18-2014, 10:07 AM
Yep, accuracy in maps is important - and not just with battlemaps.

I'm not one of those people who intensely study the map before I read a novel - but I do look at them a little. Then I'll get to a point where the hero walks from dawn till dusk and finally arrives in village X.

So I look at the map to see if there's anything interesting about village X... and it's 300 miles away from the starting point. I usually try to go back to reading, but it still bounces around in the back of my brain, distracting me until finally, I can't even finish the book.

Very frustrating.