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Discovery, part II

As my friend Stephen Leigh (sleigh) pointed out in a reply to my previous post on worldbuilding, I begin the worldbuilding process the same way he does:  with a map.  

Why?  Part of it is that I'm pretty visual -- I like to have the physical layout of my world in front of me as I work out other issues (history, religion, economics, culture, politics, etc.).  I find that having that physical context fixed in my mind facilitates the more abstract elements of worldbuilding.  Another reason may be tied to my academic background.  I have a degree in environmental history, and what sets environmental historians apart from others who study history is our focus on the ways in which climate and terrain and the distribution of natural resources combine to shape human behavior.  By creating that map, by setting those environmental parameters, I allow my world building to be guided by those same physical forces.

I've also found over the years that the process of labeling a map, of giving names to the physical features I've created, actually fires my imagination and helps me fill in the back story -- the history -- of my world.  Look at any map of our real world, and you'll find a huge variety of names.  Some, clearly, are sourced in physical characteristics of the place in question --  Mountain View (where Nancy and I lived as grad students), Larchmont (where I grew up).  But other places are named for historical figures or events or for the people who founded them.  And everyone of those names suggests a story.  So as I name places in my worlds, I also develop histories for those names, and those histories, in turn, give depth and texture and flavor to my new world.

That's what I'm doing now.  The outlines of my map are done.  I'm naming now, and as I do, I'm finding stories.

Today's music:  Johnny A. (Sometime Tuesday Morning


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 6th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
Maps! I Heart Teh Maps!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Ghost Gum, Australia
David B. Coe

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