Odd Inspiration

Have you ever sat down and wondered where your inspiration came from? Maybe a character in your writing is based on your mother or the town in your story is the town you grew up in. Inspiration is a key factor in world building and every writer has to do some world building at some time or another. I’m currently working on the second draft of my first novel, Stroversai, and one of the things I am in need of is a map. When I wrote the first draft I had an early map but there were a number of things that I liked and disliked about it. One of the key dislikes was the chunkiness of the landmass. It just didn’t look realistic. I knew that at some point I would need to come up with a better idea for the world I didn’t get too attached to the first map.

File 2015-05-19, 10 27 36 AM

The landmass at the bottom of my mug

Several years back my office got tied of cleaning the rug after people spilt their coffee so that set out a rule that only covered mugs could be used. To help support this new rule they provided every employee in the office with a new, branded, covered coffee mug. It was that mug that would provide me the inspiration for my new map. Jump ahead nearly a year and I’m sitting in yet another boring meeting, whose purpose is simply to take us away from our work and waste our time. I had my mug and was drinking water from it (I don’t drink coffee) when I realized that I had emptied the mug. The dampness at the bottom of the mug was drying quickly and leaving a very interesting pattern on the bottom of the mug. So in the middle of the meeting I pulled out my phone and took a photo of the bottom of the mug. I immediately saw a wonderfully looking landmass. Just a few moments after the photo was taken the moisture at the bottom of the mug has dried and the landmass was gone. I’ve also repeated the process several times since and not once has the drying process produced another useful landmass.

Landmass after being cleaned up in Elements

Landmass after being cleaned up in Elements

I took my new landmass photo and imported it into Photoshop Elements. I was impressed by how natural the islands around the landmass appeared. In this image I was already playing around with possible borders. I then spent the rest of the year writing and then transcribing the first draft of the novel. Which brought me right back to this landmass. I wanted an island in the story and this would make a perfect landmass. It was time to once again pull the image into Elements and get to work on it. The first time I wanted to do is get rid of the large blob of land at the east end of the primary island. I just didn’t have any use for it so I deleted it. This opened up the western sea. I wrote out some notes about the landmass. The first was that it would be divided by a mountain ridge. The string of islands in the north west would be the tops of an underwater mountain range, making approach by sea from this direction next to impossible. The mountain range would also divide the two distinctively different cultures that live on the island, as it does in the first draft.

Removed the Eastern Blob and dropped down a hex grid.

Removed the Eastern Blob and added a hex grid.

With the Eastern Blob removed I had finally the perfect landmass for my story. I decided on the hex grid because of my years of playing Dungeons & Dragons. The scale however is incorrect. It currently reads 1 HEX = 25 MILES. I’m currently thinking to reduce that to 10 miles. This is small part of a larger world and the scale of the map will ensure that is remains small as I might want to explore beyond this inspired landmass at some point in the future. The next steps will be to print a couple of black & white copies out so I can doodle on them. Mountains, forests, swamps, towns and roads all need to find a home on this land mass.

I learned that you need to keep your eyes open as you have no idea where your inspiration will come from.

– Steve


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