An Attempt to Chart the Uncharted, Part 2: Throwing Dirt in the Water

11:30 AM

Hello all!

It is I, your friendly neighborhood writer blogger, who seems to be on a terrible chatting streak as of late. I'm not sure what fairy blessed me or what dark fairy disappeared, but be forewarned that there is another longish post.

Where was I in this again? Oh yes, I was going to explain why I even attempted to make a map in the first place. And then I got sidetracked by a huge tangent in which the ins and outs of a rather obscure map-making site got a too thorough of an explanation.

Now as I was attempting to explain before my detail-happy muse took over....I never really thought book maps to be, well, useful. I never really studied the maps in either Tolkien's Lord of the Rings or Christopher Paolini's Eragon. I relied on the prose to tell me where the characters were. Which explains why I often had to reread several paragraphs.

It wasn't until I was creating Verden's world then I realized that, well, I had to establish some sort of physical guide. Distances had to be figured, weather seasons had to be determined and my characters were suddenly referring to landmarks that I had no idea where they were. Hence for author sanity, a map was needed.

Before I set about making this map, I checked my notes....and found these mapping guidelines:

  • Two landmasses were separated in the middle by a sea, known as The Sea of Saoirse-Tesni. What a mouthful...someone may need to fix that one. 
  • Duventoliel had a temperate climate, but was near Verden's equator. It's a lot warmer than many of the countries. 
  • Duventoliel was on the northern end of one of the landmasses. Think like South America. 
  • Aistaraina and Duventoliel bordered each other
  • Aistaraina and Ceberlandon bordered each other. 
  • Gwydion was nearby both Aistaraina and Ceberlandon
  • Maisaka was the closest country to Duventoliel from across the sea 
  • And who knew where Jaqaru, Shaltei and Ravndal were located. Though there are cultural hints that Ravndal was near Duventoliel. 

With those margin notes in mind, it was time to start throwing some land into the water, if you will. And I did that by....

Turning everything on it's side? 

Let me tell you, it's crazy what you'll find when you're bored. Turning a globe on it's side and with the Atlantic Ocean in the middle proved to be the inspiration on how Verden was to be shaped. I mean, how many planets do you know with an equatorial ocean? Two continents seemed to a right number too. 

And now, to figure out where all the countries were....

From the cultural notes, it seemed that Duventoliel, Aistaraina, Gwydion and Ceberlandon were very much interlocked. And so it would make sense that they would be put together in the same hemisphere. 
I kept getting inspired by South America - it seemed that no one really had used that continent as story fodder. I don't know, the idea to go north and get warmer instead of going south like we're used to in the US just seems a fun way to mess with people. 
And so, from the directions that I already had pre-determined, I knew I needed a fairly big land mass. 

Hence, my first continent. Moving on to the rest of the world....

Kinda by default, Maisaka, Jaqaru, and Shaltei got thrown into a continent together. They were the more exotic countries that got developed later on, and so it made absolute sense that they be in the same landmass. 

Ravndal seemed it's own thing, but tied to I wasn't sure what to do with that. So I left it alone. Which may or may not have been a dangerous idea. 

Once I got a rough idea on where (mostly) every country was and which one was on which continent, it was time to start roughing out the continent shapes.

I took my main inspiration from my sideways view of the world, and proceeded to take a world map and cut it to pieces...digitally that is. South America got Scandinavia mushed onto it's southern end, with the United Kingdom right next to it to represent the other half of Ceberlandon. Africa was turned on it's head and stripped of Madagascar to be the second continent.

But what to do with Ravndal?

I checked the cultural notes again and found that the only thing good on their land was stone. It was apparently a lot of mountains in their region. They were barbarians - based on the Vikings, actually. 
Then I noticed that there really were no islands in Verden. Remembering that a lot of the Pacific archipelogos (or island chains) are in fact not easily habitable and so it wouldn't be a stretch to say that there were tall mountains of stone in the water. 

And so in a really odd twist, Papau New Guinea and the surrounding islands became the inspiration for Ravndal!

The proto-map of Verden
Once the rough map was in shape, it was time to break out the Roll for Fantasy map maker and get to cracking on creating the official map. For those readers who are curious about how I found this map maker and my critiques of the program, you can view my that post HERE.

As told in the earlier post, it was a tedious task to create the full map. Once I realized the scale of the coastline pieces, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to fit the whole world on there without scrolling. And the canvas wouldn't cooperate like that.

So I first created the island part of Ceberlandon. Initially, I thought this was going to Ceberlandon's entirety, but thought better of it once I actually started to play with the country borders.

Copyright: Catherine Hawthorn. Created with Roll for Fantasy Map Creator
For this and for most of the landmasses, I was aiming for the general shape of the continent that I was taking inspiration from. I would like to say that I was adding in such things like river deltas and little barrier islands because of significance. In reality, I was throwing together what fit together well and praying that all would turn for the best.

At this point, I set the canvas to 17x15 squares for scaling purposes. I had tried to rescale before, but that ended up causing total erasure. It was then that I started taking screenshots in order to save my work - there was no copy function and I didn't want to take my chances with the save function.

It was at this point when I realized that I was going to need to open up GIMP and piece this map together. Cue lots of mental groaning as I realized that I had a whole night of jigsaw puzzling in order to to recreate each piece.

The second thing I created was the continent that would house Duventoliel, Aistaraina, Gwydion, and eventually the second half of Ceberlandon. In this picture, the Ceberlandon island is not in it's final place, but in the corner out of the way.

Southern Verden Continent
Copyright: Catherine Hawthorn. Created with Roll for Fantasy Map Creator

Creating the northern that was a challenge. I had to have a bit of the southern continent in there for reference purposes. But the canvas was too small in order to show where I needed it. So, the northern continent got drafted in two pieces.

Upper Half, Northern Continent of Verden
Copyright: Catherine Hawthorn. Created with Roll for Fantasy Map Creator
Lower Half, Northern Continent of Verden
Copyright: Catherine Hawthorn. Created with Roll for Fantasy Map Creator

The last things that were developed were the archipelagos (I'm so using that word for now on...) that make up Ravndal. Because I wound up cutting off half of the islands by mistake, I recreated them in another section of the ocean.

Ravndal Islands - to the left
Copyright: Catherine Hawthorn. Created with Roll with Fantasy Map Creator

Ravndal Island Detail
Copyright: Catherine Hawthorn. Created using Roll with Fantasy Map Creator

Once this was done, it was time to assemble all the pieces!

Using GIMP, the individual pieces and some pictures of blank grid, all of them fit together pretty nicely.

By the time I had gotten to this stage, it was 3 am. Time to put it aside for the morning!

I picked it up the next afternoon, and I worked on getting rid of the grid lines in Paint while listening to my favorite podcast, The History Chicks.

Once those annoying orange lines were gone, I started playing with some land positions. Specifically, the archipelagos. I also created several more areas with the little dot islands to give it a more "island chain feel".

The next thing was to get rid of the sick-looking olive green water. I switched back to GIMP and made a color change to a nice bright blue/green.

I called myself done - it had been so mentally exhausting to get this point that I couldn't even think about adding in cities or other geographical features.

Except I kept looking at Ceberlandon's Island and I didn't like it was so out of the way. Nor did I like the hole that was to the right side of the world....something just needed to go there. So, it got carefully moved to higher up on the map on there. 

And it got rechecked over about three more times. Because there turned out to be shadows from the old gridlines still on there. Actually, to be honest, I was still finding gridline shadows during my last recheck.

But here are the bare continents!

Once I clear my brain, there will be borders, cities, mountains, trees, and other such markers on here. It will be an even more exciting reveal then.

But that is for another day. And, another post, which will come after my scheduled tag post on the 23rd. I know, I'm breaking my promise of not having a third post, but there is so much more to show you!

Scribblingly yours,


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  1. J+M+J
    Wow, erasing those lines must have been quite a headache... my sincere condolences! (I'm not sure I could have stuck through to the end)
    Good luck with the rest!

    The Doorman.

  2. Drawing a map is so helpful, especially when people are traveling. Or else I would get lost, my characters would get lost and the story would end with them all dying in the middle of nowhere.
    I normally just scribble mine down on a scrap of paper since it's mainly just to help me write, but maybe I should try this program...It looks so cool and official! You should draw one up and hang it. If you tea stained it, it would look really cool and old.

  3. Catherine, dear.
    Goodness, I honestly don't know if I'd have the patience to do something like that. Great work! I'm sure your writing will thank you for that later. :)

  4. Even though I've seen it before this post, it still looks really cool!!!


  5. Wow. I just couldn't is all I'm saying ;p

  6. This is awesome! I never really cared about maps either, but I remember really liking the one in The Hobbit.

  7. Eep this is so cool. I've always loved fictional maps--although when it comes to my own, I find doodling all-new imaginary worlds to be much more enjoyable than trying to pin down the locations of already-existing story features. And ergo, as many have already said...I doubt I would have such admirable patience as you show here. :)

  8. Girl, you are amazing!! I cannot believe the work you put into this, staying up until 3AM?? I can't stay up that late even if I wanted to. It looks so great!!!


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