1) Thank you to all who offered recommendations for light, humorous reading material. It is much appreciated. I’m going to get a selection of things and then see what sticks. Should be fun.
2) The winner of the copy of THE SHADOWED SUN by N.K. Jemisin was Kate P from the UK. Congrats!
3) There is a map of Europa in Cold Magic, and a map of North Amerike and the Antilles in Cold Fire. There may be a slightly more detailed map of Europa (or at least a part of it) in Cold Steel. Here’s your chance to request other map subjects, if indeed you have any. Is anyone interested in a map of the cities of Adurnam or Expedition?
I know that some love maps, some are indifferent, and some dislike them. That’s as it should be.
I personally like maps, because I’m geeky that way but also because I process information both visually and kinesthetically, and thus maps make it easier for me to negotiate certain kinds of plots. Yet with other stories, I don’t even think of wanting a map. I wonder if there is a kind of story that seems more to benefit by a map while others just don’t have any call for them.
There are narratives in which there are things about the world you can’t learn from the story but which you can glimpse if the book includes a map, so in that sense a map can add a bit of extra dimension to a world. One of the challenges of writing the Spiritwalker books in first person is that there is a lot of information about the world that can never get into the narrative because it isn’t something a) the narrator would reflect on much less know &/or b) that is necessary to the plot.
In world building as it happens on the page, I believe there is another way at looking at “mapping.” By this I don’t necessarily mean an actual drawn graphic map as a representation of a place, but a map of geography and society and history that is created in the mind of the reader as s/he walks through the story.
Secondary world stories (a term commonly used to describe stories that are set in worlds that are not this world) have to walk a fine balance. If you pile in too much detail, then it slows down the pace and drive of the story (I’m not immune to this writing flaw). However, if you put in too little detail, then the danger becomes that readers will mentally fall back to a “standard.” That is, they may read onto the world a kind of generic medieval-Europe (or British Victorian or whatever) setting regardless if that is the one there. If a story is set in a Europe-inspired setting, then this is not a problem. But if the story is not meant to be set in that landscape, the writer (I think) has to invest a little more detail and explanation to differentiate their world from the sort of world people so often expect to see in, say, fantasy novels. Of course, again, too much detail and the narrative bogs down. The endless cycle thereby continues: What to show? What to leave out?
How do you write or read through this balance?