We now come to the close of my not-so-little map series. I’m pleased to say we don’t close with a whimper, but with the map that most fires my fantasy map passions. The Pannulus map, in short, has a history like no other location on the Tremjara map, caused unique challenges, and required the most intense development.
First though, a review of past weeks…
Week1: Historical map influences.
Week2: Fantasy maps and my first attempts at creating Carrdia.
Week3: Creating the continent of Tremjara in B&W.
Week4: The colorization of Tremjara.
It’s important to understand that the Tremjara map grew out of Carrdia. The original vision held that Carrdia’s location at the continent’s center was both physical and symbolic.
Things change. People change. Writers change. Visions change. After all, it’s twenty years since the original Carrdia map was sketched. Too, on the original Tremjara map there was no Pannulus. In 2015 it still didn’t exist.
Evolution of an Island Group
In the beginning, in 2002-03, there was Sancthor Island and it possessed mountains and forest and one city, Arthune. At the time, I was looking for places to put islands and placing one there created a sea to the west. Too, it appears to have been once attached to the peninsulas to the north and south.
At the start, that’s all Sancthor Island meant to me. In the original history it was a footnote, at best, another piece of the Old Empire.
Years passed. A lot of years. Life happened. I returned to Ontyre and decided to revamp the Tremjara map. What happened to Sancthor Island as a consequence? Absolutely nothing. In fact, on the Tremjara 2015 map the island was of so little consequence I left off the city of Arthune.
How did it become consequential?
The first spark was overcoming my fear of short stories in 2015. At first, I wrote historical Empire tales. Soon, though, I sought somewhere fresh and new with progressing technologically. The problem was, if Tremjara dissolved into chaos after the Empire collapsed where could I find such a place? In December 2015, on a whim, I wrote a short story where it was mentioned Sancthor Island was a safe haven.
The second reason was tied to the first. I wanted a location for focusing on mystery, intrigue, and, most important, social issues. I was tiring of epic wars. I wanted to delve into tales combining crime, lgbtiq, prejudice, radicalism, women, and other topics. It was time for stories more closely aligned with me.
Lastly, there was the decision to colorize the Tremjara map. While tweaking the map in early 2017 I decided to enlarge Sancthor Island given I’d written numerous stories there (more land equals more stories?). After considerable experimentation I settled on the now distinctive arrowhead shape.
Colorization began in Carrdia and moved west. Each day I opened the map and viewed it at 100%. Each night I did the same. My eye first went to the colored areas—and then shifted to the new Sancthor Island.
Its evolving society in the short stories and that enticing island shape caught my imagination. While I colored, a different part of my brain created more stories for the island and whispered there were more islands.
Worldbuilding was happening.
The locations multiplied. Arthune, the capital. Raspell the magic/witchcraft heart. Farthing, the mountain resort town. Two more islands that were politically connected, but socially different, were added. I called it the Tri-Islands.
Soon after, while still coloring the mainland, the Tri-Islands gained smaller islands. By the time I colored my way east I knew the Tri-Islands needed a name possessing more meaning. I settled on Pannulus. Pan, meaning all inclusive. Annulus, meaning ring-shaped.
Tremjara was completed. Pannulus had a new appearance and name. Short stories set there were surfacing faster than I could write them. The Pannulus novel whispering in my ear started screaming. It was time for a formal Pannulus map.
The Pannulus Map Hits Snags
It was early 2018 and Pannulus was coming to life. I also hit my first ugly snag right away. As huge as I’d made the Tremjara map so I could zoom in, there were limitations brought on by file size and app capabilities.
While I could zoom in on the Tremjara map to see details without losing definition, zooming in enough to utilize a small region for detailed labeling still caused pixilation.
At first, I ignored it. Me being me, though, it bothered me more with time. At first the map was only for my reference so it didn’t matter. That thinking fell apart when I developed a novel. If ever it was published I didn’t want anyone seeing the map’s hideous flaws.
I lived with the pixilation long enough to use the map as reference for the first Pannulus novel written in the spring of 2018. Soon after, I began the painstaking work needed to smooth the entire map while also enhancing definition.
The second problem caught me completely by surprise and pointed out a flaw in how I’d created the painted Tremjara map. I swore at my error for all the time I worked on the problem, but in the end, and in conjunction with fixing the first problem, it led to great things.
Even so, I swore a lot.
Most of the time I referred to the issue as the damned trees! Believe me, I often said worse than that. It wasn’t the fix that bothered me as much as the initial error.
In 2015, when I finished the Tremjara map, I’d used various tree shapes to designate the various forests. That was also true for other flora.
All was good in Christina’s land of maps.
Adding color, though, I knew would cause the file size to soar. My solution was to duplicate Tremjara 2017 and flatten the image. In other words, make it a single layer map and then add color layers to it. From that standpoint, the plan worked.
The problem was, it never occurred to me that coloring the map would make the flora symbols superfluous. Whoops.
*It’s only recently occurred to me that it might be possible to return to Tremjara 2017, duplicate it again, turn off the flora layer, flatten it, copy the flattened image, and slip it into the color map. Would they align properly? They should given the layers are all digital, but it doesn’t always go that way. Besides, it’s too late to help Pannulus.
Anyway, on the Tremjara map the flora symbols were small and insignificant and, to a large extent, overpowered by the color. The error was bothersome, but not maddening. Well, not too much.
On the other hand, the damned trees overpowered the blown-up Pannulus map (this is also true for the Carrdia map, but I haven’t dealt with that yet). It was like staring at a map of trees.
At first, I thought about thinning them, but that didn’t last long. They all had to go because they caused another problem. They left little room for labeling and pulled the eye away from each tag. Again, initially, I lived with it, but eventually they all went away.
Ah, but it wasn’t like I could just hit delete because they were mixed with the color in the base layer. I also couldn’t color over them. I tried. When I re-blended the surrounding forest color afterwards it turned the entire forest darker because of the added black. That made it difficult to read the labels. Thus, I had to remove the trees and then fill the empty space with color.
In other words, I had to enhance the color across a lot of the map. In the end, though, that project collided with my efforts to sharpen details and led to a better map than I’d envisioned.
The Kinda Sorta New Pannulus
I mentioned at the start that Tremjara evolved out of Carrdia. Pannulus, on the other hand, evolved out of short stories and, later, while overhauling it, out of a novel. I knew a little about what was there, but my characters described to me the details.
After all, the worldbuilding for Pannulus didn’t begin until 2016 (Carrdia began in 2000). That meant I had to move in fast forward to develop enough for a detailed Pannulus map. I’m not just talking about land features, but also names for islands and towns/cities. Again, the stories helped, though the specifics would be a lengthy blog post.
The stories, though, told me enough about the climate and culture to formulate naming conventions for different regions. That led to unprecedented detail. Again, even while I was working, story was influencing worldbuilding and both were influencing the map and so on.
For instance, like in the short story on the website, Taking Flight, it’s mentioned that the population growth is suppressed because of magic. It was long ago established that the more magic you have the longer you live, but it’s also more difficult to produce children. That’s a Rule of Magic that applies to all of Ontyre.
The problem was, how could that rule apply to an entire region and to all the people, regardless of whether they had magic or not?
The solution, which appeared in the novel, Stealing Light, was a magic concentration that leaks out through the planet’s crust and affects all who are near it. Yay! The magic rule was upheld while also creating something new.
I placed the magic concentration in the Vortex Gulf near Raspell. That’s quite near the geographic center of Pannulus. Believe me, that led to a massive number of worldbuilding implications, both magical and technological. For instance, the effect is greater the nearer to the epicenter you are.
You can’t begin to imagine what life is like on Cape Caprice, which is the land closest to the magic concentration. My imagination couldn’t have asked for more fertile ground.
There were other notable changes added during that time. The east coast of Scurpia Island became jagged. Flatgash Canyon was added, as were more rivers, lakes (Waterclaw Lakes, for instance), and a delta on the River Raven. Eastern Sancthor gained the Mica Flats. Most notable on Shorus Island are the towering cliffs along the Kobalt Passage.
It was an intense time and there’s a lot of worldbuilding to go. Even so, I’ve yet to tire of telling tales in Pannulus. Besides short stories, I’ve since added another novel, Protecting the Pneuma Key along with two novellas, Zepha’s Big Day and New Year’s Train to Talonspear.
Pannulus continues to fuel my imagination.
This concludes my map series on developing big maps and learning the processes required in the case of Ontyre. That isn’t to say there aren’t other topics to cover or other ways to make maps (a topic I touched on in the second week).
In the future, I’ll dive into other kinds of maps and diagrams, and also examine how they’re important for the writer. For now, though, this is where I stop. I do hope these have been useful and, at least, entertaining.
Fabulous post – and a fabulous series. Thanks for sharing your maps and map-making experiences! To me, maps are an engine for stories. All strength to your writing arm & may many more Ontyre tales flow!
On matters technical, it’s interesting how often the act of building such a map hits the limits of the software – my own experience too. Mind you, in pre-computing days there were other challenges: based on what I’ve read from Christopher Tolkien’s commentaries on his father’s work, the Middle Earth map ended up more like papier mache from the number of pasted-over bits of paper as he revised and re-revised the geography.
The fact that maps are “an engine for stories” is worthy of an entire blog post. I touched on it indirectly in my series, but I have so many examples of that happening. Quite often I stare at the map and daydream. Other times a story’s seed sprouts and I run to the map waiting for the story to tell me where it wants to be told. After all, the location will influence the characters, culture, setting, and much more.
In fantasy, and especially in Pannulus, magic combines with geography as an influence because of the magic vortex (airships require special navigational equipment). The vortex’s influence is strong all across the country, but it’s greatest near its epicenter. That’s a substantial variable.
I grew up on Long Island where the western end was Brooklyn and the eastern end was rural, but dominated by wealthy elites from NYC. The south shore was vast, open beaches. The north shore, where I lived, was hilly. My vision for Pannulus was for it to have far geographic diversity than that. I had to look no farther than NZ, which has captured my imagination since childhood. Sadly, though, I’ve never been there beyond what books and movies can provide.
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