Fantasy Worldbuilding: Zooming In

Okay, this is a long blog post. Sorry (but not really). If you’re a fan of fantasy, maps, and worldbuilding, then you should enjoy this. I have to tell you, I had the time of my life writing it, even if it took me twice as long as most of my posts.

I can’t believe I’ve never thought about doing this before.

Quite simply, this is about looking at a location from macro to micro in a fantasy world. It’s about going from Ontyre’s moon to Talma Loyal’s living room. It’s about having a world come to life, which was my long ago intention.

So, let’s begin!

Location & World

The initial challenge was a location where the maximum number of zoom-ins was possible. Too, I was looking for the highest quality maps for each step. That eliminated quite a few for one reason or another.

Free Pixabay Image
Free Pixabay Image

In the end, I chose the City of Duskspell on the Island of Sancthor in the Republic of Pannulus off the coast of the Continent of Tremjara on the world of Ontyre.

Got all that?

Sorry, but I don’t have an Ontyre globe. The closest I’ve come to it is Riparia glimpsing the globe in Book2, A River in Each Hand, but the details are a spoiler.

Ontyre has a single, captured moon called Ryzer that follows an elliptical orbit, appearing for one month in three. Ryzer’s glow is blue and it appears larger in the sky than our moon (remember the blue glow part). The moon, rich in mysquan, influences magic during that month.

First Zoom

Viewing a globe from one particular side as a two-dimensional picture would reveal the Continent of Tremjara in the northern hemisphere. Size wise, it fits between the two Americas in our world.

Tremjara 2020A - Labled
©2020 CA Hawthorne

The continent is physically divided by the Barrier Range, but more significantly divided farther east because the Brillica Cataclysm turned much of that region into a hell scape.

Empires have come and gone, including the last, which was the Emprensen (Old) Empire. It gifted the continent a (mostly) common language and the aforementioned cataclysm.

There are many races, but less interaction since the Empire’s fall. Once, elves inhabited Mythwyll, but southern peoples (mostly human) drove them to extinction. A related race, the ora’ean, remain in Forstava.

To this point in my writing, I’ve focused on two regions humans dominate. One is Carrdia near the continent’s center. Its stories appear in the Kovenlore Chronicles.

The second region is where we’re going…

Second Zoom

We’re headed to the archipelago situated off the continent’s northeast coast. Complex circumstances kept the Old Empire from conquering Pannulus, which is about the size of Ukraine. As a result, they developed unhindered and (mostly) united.

Pannulus 2020D
Pannulus. ©2020 CA Hawthorne

External threats remain.

There’s the savage mainland straight west. No one returns who ventures inland. There’s whatever the Old Empire wizards left behind on the Isle of Kron straight south. The most immediate threat are the Shadow Lords of Draskrith to the north.

Pannulus consists of over twenty islands, but three dominate. Scurpia in the north suffers a harsh climate and breeds Draskrith sympathizers. Shorus, to the south, has a mild coastal climate owing to warm ocean currents that parallel the mainland coast.

The primary island is Sancthor. It’s known for varied geography, the Mysquanmic Vortex that influences the nation’s magic, and the country’s capital on Lake Arcana…

Third Zoom

No region is as influential as the Lake Arcana Region. Shorus’s southern coast has beaches and the fledgling moving picture industry. The Vortex Gulf has the vortex and Raspell, the center for witches and all things magic. The Spinal Range is brimming with natural resources.

Lake Arcana Region, Pannulus. Map: ©2022 CA Hawthorne
Lake Arcana Region, Pannulus. Map: ©2022 CA Hawthorne

Lake Arcana, though, is the country’s beating heart.

The cities ringing the lake represent the republic’s commercial, industrial, and political might. The capital and biggest university are in Arthune, the nation’s largest city (by far). The first telephone network rings the lake. It’s a hub for traffic via lake, river, railroad, and airships.

Speaking of airships, they’re vital to an archipelago, its waters brimming with giant squids, hydras, and krakens. The nation’s biggest airship manufacturer is just outside Duskspell.

Fourth Zoom

Airships mean Avious Airship Manufacturing and that means Duskspell, the country’s hyper economy. Also there is Tonare Motors, a motokar manufacturer. It was Tonare that built Talma Loyal’s limited edition Apex Roadster featured in Case of the Deadly Stroll.

Map of Duskspell. ©April 2022 CA Hawthorne
Map of Duskspell. ©April 2022 CA Hawthorne

There’s a college and pleasant surrounding towns. Every conceivable manner of transport serves the city, plus it has close overland ties to the western coast. There’s no mistaking Duskspell, though, when it comes to fast living and jazz.

It’s also known for its regular and thick fog, especially blinding Azure Fog. Remember Ryzer’s blue glow? That’s what causes it.

Duskspell is also known for crime, especially illegal potions, but also crime bosses who dabble in corruption, potion dens, and smuggling. It’s one of the premier western Sancthor cities for smuggling (like a certain artifact smuggled into Cather in Protecting the Pneuma Key).

Given its restricted area, Duskspell possesses numerous soaring towers and suspension bridges. Arthune might be bigger, but Duskspell is taller.

Such sights are a favorite for a certain photographer who arrives in the city to track down a killer…

Fifth Zoom

This is where story comes in, living, breathing characters experiencing the world firsthand. To do that, I’m going to turn to some of Talma Loyal’s observations. I’ve removed most story elements.

Courtesy: Pixabay
Courtesy: Pixabay

The first excerpt, from Talma’s backstory, takes place mere weeks before Case of the Deadly Stroll begins. She’s seeing the city (sort of) for the first time:

The ship banked west and passed over the Exclamation Islands in Cloudburst bay. The bay became Fognight Harbor. Jutting out of the water, Eyetooth Rock appeared, the park behind it. Across the Reflection River’s mouth was Memoria Point. Farther upriver, Reflection Bridge spanned the gap between lower Duskspell and Reflection’s memories on the heights.

The Duskspell towers greeted her as the airship made a gentle jog to the north and her breath caught. “So many new buildings…”

Nine years had converted the city’s skyline, the ship’s flight path marked with blinking lights atop designated buildings. Once, the Troika Towers were the lone tall buildings in the city. They’d become two bristles on the brush.

Among the new buildings were five roundish towers situated in a circle near Eyetooth Park, each a little taller than the next. Her new home.

The second excerpt is from the novel’s Chapter Two after photographing her first crime scene:

Fine tuning the gases and filters on the engine, she released the parking break and shifted into first gear. The police parted the crowd and she pulled onto Midtown Avenue going the wrong way.

She’d circle around so as to avoid passing the hospital. She mustn’t go near the hospital.

On Shoreline Drive, she drove south, the Melpomene Towers appearing out of the Duskspell fog half-a-block away. Five round towers in a circle. Each a different height like a staircase. Each possessing a different purpose. FiveTower was tallest, residential, and full of the wealthy. Like her. Except, that was a lie.

Last is an excerpt from Chapter Eight after the remodeling on her penthouse is completed and she sees the Tyde Deco result. I’ve removed her dialogue with Aunt.

Case of the Deadly Stroll mood board. ©2022 CA_Hawthorne
Case of the Deadly Stroll mood board. ©2022 CA_Hawthorne

Black, purple, and rose dominated the room, the floor glistening walnut. To the right, on the purple wall, and above the pink marble hearth, was a Zephtasha Barcaine contrast landscape.

Rose and black drapes spanned the room, hiding the balcony and harbor view. Rose and purple wallpaper wrapped around the foyer entrance, interlocking ovals running vertically, other geometric shapes chasing more vertical lines.

There were mirrors and vertical light fixtures on the walls, not to mention ebony lamps, their fantastical figures holding glowing orbs. Overhead, chandeliers mimicking the Pannulus islands suspended glass arcs.

It was hers. It was breathtaking. It had to have cost a fortune. The plush furniture sporting the same color scheme? She needed to sit on it before she swooned.

There we go, from the Ryzer view to Talma Loyal’s living room. One of these days I’ll make a better penthouse blueprint and share. Only a light pencil version exists. I’ve also interior decorated every room.

I hope everyone made it this far. I had far too much fun putting this together (and spent far too much time drafting and editing. What’s important to me is to show where worldbuilding can take a person.


About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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3 Responses to Fantasy Worldbuilding: Zooming In

  1. Map-making is such an integral part of fantasy writing – as I’ve said often enough before! It’s fantastic to be able to then zoom in – and as you say, it all builds that world. I have various maps from a fantasy world I was developing, for which I have only ever written one story – it was published in an Australian fantasy compilation. The editor remarked on the quality of the worldbuilding – which, of course, was WAY in excess of what was needed for a 10,000 word story! I was still missing a ‘zoom in’ map of the main city in which everything was set, though – which would have been handy. I never have managed to write anything else in that world, though (and that story, itself, was only the first half of the character arc) – other projects have relentlessly got in the way. And because I rely on my writing for income, a project that’s going to sell well and pays always takes precedence over one that has no guaranteed commercial return. I still have the maps, though. One day…

    • The one thing I’d love to have, but don’t have the patience to create, is detailed city maps. There are far more skilled cartographers than me who excel at such things (diviantArt is full of them). Their maps are gorgeous, but the process painstaking and at some point I have to choose between mapmaking and writing. Yes, like you, choices.

  2. Pingback: Naming Stuff: Places | Christina Anne Hawthorne

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