December 3rd, 2007

amd: amy crehore 1

obsessive compulsive mapmaking disorder

So since there are many foreign countries visited and discussed in my novel (and--dare I say it--any possible sequels), I felt like it would be a good idea to make a map if only for my own reference. I had made detailed world maps for at least two D&D campaigns ages ago and enjoyed myself both times.

Now the geography of my novel is based on kingdoms in ancient India that are mentioned in the Hindu epics (Ramayana, Mahabharata) and the travels of Siddhartha, but projected into a future where they have mostly remained independent nations. Immediately, I run into problems: (1) nobody really knows where these borders were, (2) even if we did, the borders were constantly shifting, and (3) some of these kingdoms were in the same place as each other because they existed at different times. These facts could have been liberating and for a while they even were.

I made a map with the countries I wanted and it was nice. At first it was just the nations from the Ramayana, but this weekend I decided I needed the others too, which was a huge pain, because the Mahabharata mentions like twenty additional kingdoms. I couldn't put them all in, but I put in the important ones. Then I put the cities in. Then I decided that I didn't like the look of the lines, and I started obsessively sculping them to make them pretty. And then I said, hey, why not put in the rivers?

Oh, how I wish I hadn't tried to put in the rivers.

Rivers change everything. Especially holy rivers like the Ganges and the Yamuna. Suddenly I needed tons of research to find out which kingdoms the important rivers ran through. Then I needed to start moving borders around and stretching out countries so that they could connect with the right rivers. And fairly quickly, it became an unpretty mess.

Also while investigating all that, I found better references as to where these kingdoms were and when I overlayed those over my map, they were hugely off. Like "quit while you've still got your sanity and forget you even tried" off. But no. I started rearranging my map to try and make it look like the new references. And it quickly became so ugly and messy that I realized I really either had to give up, go back to the last clean version, or, if I wanted to be really obsessive, start over from scratch.

I started over from scratch. Why? I don't know. Maybe it matters. Or maybe I just needed to beat the problem. Or maybe I'm just doing anything I can to delay the actual writing of sentences. I'm genuinely not sure.

The new map is coming along. The lines are all pretty from the get-go. Thanks to the layering features in Photoshop (which makes it super easy to compare my map to the source material), the rivers and countries are more or less where they should be. And hopefully I'll only need one or two more late nights to get it finished.

Of course, now some of my plotting is out the window, because countries aren't located where I need them to be, but that can be fixed. I just need to readjust my mindset to the new map and rethink the details.