The other day someone commented on the map of Devagar. I believe they were drawn to it when they asked “How could you think of it all?”, as if it were something unachievable. The short answer was: “I didn’t”.
Not like that, anyway.
One of the beautiful things about writing fantasy is that in the very beginning, you can allow your characters, your instinct and the story’s needs to dictate the creation of locations. You may find that you first scene will feature your story’s first location, with some of your characters bound to be heading somewhere else, at some point.
As you weave their wants, needs and challenges along a predetermined path you may or may not have set out for them, various fictitious locations will begin to pop up, either in the action, in the dialogue or in your narrator’s prose.
A character could comment on an other’s appearance, accent or eating habits. Perhaps their artifacts may be characteristic of a certain region, climate, or a certain people. Maybe even their shared goals or clashing world views reflect the existence of very different places within this world you’re in the process of assimilating.
That’s been my experience so far, anyway. I know of authors who outline every single geographic detail before they ever write the first paragraph. I can admire that; it takes a lot of diligence and discipline. I like to think of my process as a bit more organic, though. Sure, it can get tricky and demand plenty of rewrites, but in my humble opinion, it pays off.
The best thing about “living in the moment” while writing the first scenes is that your imagination can run wild. You can spend paragraphs describing feelings, textures, fragrances, tastes and habits. Page by page, scene by scene, a new world starts falling into place, even if a bit scatterbrained at first.
From then on, your characters start to sync up with the world around them, and so will you. After a few scenes have been created, you can start asking yourself how they relate to one another: is there a direction in which they seem to point? How far apart are these tribes, villages, cities and nations from one another? Can your characters travel from point A to point B? How long would it take them? How would they get there? What would they see along the way?
These are the questions that start threading fantasy with reality. Soon enough, you’ll have the groundwork laid out for your very own maps – which will be a great asset to keep you grounded as your imagination grows larger than your mind.
Since “The Missing Spirit” is set in Ice Age Europe, I didn’t want to take my chances making wild assumptions and then have my creative efforts dismissed by more experienced readers. Sure, I did extensive research on everything related to the Pleistocene period, but at the end of the day, I’m a storyteller, not a scientist.
So, after the first draft of the book had been completed, I had the opportunity to work with a talented geographer named Luna Chino. In our creative process, Luna helped me juxtapose the realm of Devagar to our prehistoric Earth. Together, we went over the descriptions of landscapes, topography, flora and fauna, in order to merge fantasy and reality closer together.
That’s why every time there’s a change of location in the novel, you’ll find real, matching geographic coordinates. It was important to us that the bridge between fact and fiction remained consistently magical. Perhaps if you pay a visit to coordinates today, you might stumble upon ancient relics of Devagarian times?
You never know…