As a writer, I get to do a lot of fun and different things. There is more to writing than just grammar and spelling. To put it simply, you have to be a therapist for your characters and an architect for your world. When you are telling a story that doesn’t take place on Earth, then you have to do a whole lot of world-building to make sure the world works like it is supposed to.
Creating Tehrahey was a lot of work, both in the sense of simply creating ideas and concepts that would become a world in a written story and in the sense of creating an actual map. Not every story out there needs a map, but when you are dropping readers into a new and unique world, a map can help give readers some point of reference.
I, for one, love having maps in books because it allows me to get a sense of how far the characters have traveled over the course of the story.
For this look at world-building, I figured we could look at the evolution of the map of Tehrahey. I initially planned on focusing on world-building elements as well, such as why certain areas are the way they are, but this post is already getting a bit long and I’m running out of time if I want to get it up this weekend. So, I’ll go more into that at a later date.
In the Beginning, I Created
My first map was just a random, crudely drawn shape on a whiteboard. As you can see from the picture, it wasn’t anything fancy. Fun fact, back then and for several years after, there was no north shore for Tehrahey. It just kind of stopped up there and I was fine with that for a while. Once I began fleshing out the world more than I originally wanted to, I needed to finish the continent. I reworked the northern coast, reshaping Glachalis to be a more rounded point, and adding a northern sea.
Another fun fact is the naming conventions I used. Originally, a lot of the names were either made up or typos, such as Ciyt and Thye being typos for city and they respectively. After a while, I came up with naming conventions, but by that point, I felt the original names were grandfathered into existence and would stay as they were, I just changed their pronunciation to match the conventions I came up with.
Other than that, there's not much to say about this first version. It was just a simple shape that I liked.
Going Big with Map 2.0
For my next map, and I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea at the time maybe it was because it was similar in size to the whiteboard, was drawn on a giant, trifold piece of cardboard. You know, the kind of things kids use for science fair projects? I spent weeks working on it bit by bit, a little here and a little there. One day I worked on the coasts, the next I did mountains, and bit by bit I added forests, which were awful to draw because of all the tiny little circles.
Still, it was a fun experience. I’d just lay on the floor and sketch away on this giant piece of cardboard, bit by bit watching my world come alive.
This time around, before I even started drawing, I sat down and figured out the size of Tehrahey based on traveling descriptions in my writing. Since all of these descriptions were based on walking, I used an average walking speed combined with how long the characters said the walk took to calculate the distance. I then measured out the first map I’d drawn to come up with rough size estimates.
I ended up with three very different results:
1. 98,468 square miles. Just a little bit bigger than the state of Wyoming.
2. 455,847 square miles. This is around twice the size of Texas.
3. 4,030,745,530 square miles. This is massive, totaling more land than there is on Earth.
Knowing roughly what size I wanted Tehrahey to be, I settled on my second result, making Tehrahey twice the size of Texas. After that, I immediately went in and fixed all of the Traveling descriptions I used in my calculations so they matched the one I went with.
To give you an idea of the scale of the world, under this size, if Entstal is Los Angeles, then the western edge of the Cabrakan Spine is the Arizona-New Mexico border.
For the design of the map itself, I took inspiration from maps in books such as The Hobbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Admittedly, I didn’t follow the Narnia ones much since they were so colorful and while I can draw a map, I don’t have the skills to paint it very well. Plus, I’m pretty sure Amazon won’t do color prints for their print-on-demand service.
It wasn’t until I was almost done with it that I realized I’d made a bit of a mistake when I began thinking about how to get it digitized so it could go into my book.
Entering the Digital Age
Realizing my mistake, it became clear that I’d be needing to essentially redraw the entire map, which had been a months’ long process the first time around. I managed to avoid a total redraw from scratch thanks to technology. I took a picture of my poster board map (The one above.) and loaded it into a drawing program.
First, I tried Adobe Photoshop, but couldn’t figure out how to use that at all.
Then my sister told me about Autodesk Sketchbook, which is a free app that let me do exactly what I needed. I could draw over the image and create layers for the different map elements, allowing me to experiment without fear of damaging the parts I’d already finished.
At first, I tried to use a Wacom tablet to redraw the map. Then I learned how difficult it is to draw something without looking at your hand. Add in my tendency to accidentally bump the tablet and rotate it just enough to make it impossible for me to draw a straight line in the direction I wanted.
Luckily, after getting some sleep, I had a bit of an epiphany: my laptop has a touch screen. All I needed was a nice, rubber-tipped stylus and I was able to set to work tracing over my picture. Bit by bit, I added elements just like I had the first time around. This time, I threw in a few extras, such as the sand and textures in the trees.
When I printed out the map for the first time to see how it would look scaled down for a book, I was blown away. I must’ve stared at that page for an hour, mesmerized by what I had created. It was one of the moments in my life where my book became real for me. For the rest of the week, as I sat writing at my desk, I’d occasionally glance over at the paper and just smile.
Building a World Is Fun
I learned a lot with this whole map-making experience. Mapmaking is unique, fun, and exhausting. If you decide you want a map for your own book and that you are going to pay someone to do this, expect to pay handsomely. This isn’t an easy thing to do and come up with something that looks good.
While I love the map that I’ve created, I know it isn’t perfect and there are ways that it could be improved, but I do like how it turned out. This is especially true considering where it started.
Honestly, I recommend making your own map, even if it’s just for you and doesn’t end up in the book itself. It is such a fun experience watching it grow from undefined blob(s) to something you recognize as a continent.
On top of that, having a map can help you gain a better understanding of your world. There are definitely elements of Tehrahey that wouldn’t have existed if I didn’t make the map myself. One example is the aqueducts running to Entstal, providing it with fresh drinking water because it never occurred to me that the inhabitants couldn’t drink seawater. Another example is the jagged edges and fjords along the Glachalian Peninsula that I added in the second version of the map.
A lot of these details don’t matter for the story in The Dead World, but at least I have them for the next story that I write within the world of Tehrahey. Remember to be on the lookout for my first book The Traveler The Dead World, hitting Amazon’s virtual shelves this June!