Category Archives: Creating a Fantasy

When Characters Takeover the Plot

In talking with other authors, I often find that some of their favorite stories are about times when their characters takeover the plot.

Full MapI was working on the manuscript for book three, The Light of Ak’ron, this week when I realized that the heroes of Torrence and Lithlillia were about to retrace the steps that most of them took in The Legend of Jerrod.  I spent a couple of days going back through the first book of the Kingdom of Torrence series, recording the timeline. In The Legend of Jerrod, Jerrod and his friends  started their adventures in Torrence, went through Lithlillia after some misadventures in the Black Forest, and then proceeded north to the Fjord of Menduran.

Empowered by my refreshed memory of the timeline, I sat down anxious to write the next scene for book three. I gathered the characters, described the scene, and began the dialog. They had already assumed that the object of interest was is the realm of the Dark Elves. As an author I prepared to lay out the dialog in which they were going to discuss traveling north to Sismen Pass, which they figured was a good starting point for their search. As my fingers began typing out the scene that I had spent more that two days preparing, Imelrinn, an ancient Mountain Elve (Elf), spoke up, “I can show you the way. I fought there once as a young man.

I had too laugh. Authors have to follow the personality of the characters and the logic of the story-line/plot. When I created Imelrinn, part of his history was participating in the Elven-Dwarven Wars centuries before. As he grew older he became the guardian of the princesses of Lithlillia. The Kingdom of Torrence series starts with Imelrinn watching over his third charge, the half-Elven druid princess, Rhonda. In The Light of Ak’ron the friends must seek out a threat to both the kingdoms of Torrence and Lithlillia, among other challenges that arise in the course of events.


Creating a World

Full Map
Map from The Legend of Jerrod: History & Arms

I love creating worlds. I think I first fell in love with fantasy maps when I saw J.R.R. Tolkien’s map of Middle Earth. After studying architecture for two years, I had years of practice mapping worlds and underground adventures as a Dungeon Master (DM) playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).  I am also an artist. When I couldn’t find an affordable illustrator for the cover of The Legend of Jerrod, I painted the Sword of Trisdale myself; I used watercolors.

Sword Photo
Jerrod finds the Sword of Trisdale in the skeletal hand of a fallen knight.
Parents sometimes frown on D&D, but I found it expanded my imagination and creativity. With a good DM it is like playing a part in a dramatic play that somehow lost the script. Actors are left to wing in as they are tormented by, I mean guided by a director. Most of the time it is a good experience, but it can get a little dark as most things can.
Given time and a few tricks, anyone can draw a fantasy map. When I don’t have an idea of what a world should look like, sometimes I just close my eyes and squiggle several shapes on a blank piece of paper. Other times I begin with a more finite idea of what I want contents to look like. One consideration is the water-to-land ratio you may want, but it is not always important. Sometimes, I just limit my designs to a single content. I stay away from color maps because they are harder to reproduce and, if you are putting them in a book, more costly.
After you have your continents down, start adding rivers and lakes. Hills and mountains will often parallel your rivers. If it is easier, put the mountains in first. There are a number of examples of how to draw these landmarks, including lines, circles and upside down “V”s.  In my case, I added shading. Remember, in nature things are seldom completely straight, so have fun with it. You can be a simple or elaborate as you want. Just remember, like creative writing, have fun.

Look for new maps of the continent of Ak’ron in Amanda’s Quest, anticipated to be released in the fall of 2015.