Fantasy Geography: The First Week of National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo Map with cities
Map created by Ron Blakey and Colorado Plateau Geosystems, Inc

So this is my map for my fantasy novel. It’s impossible to write a fantasy novel without appealing the cartography geeks in all of us. Simply put, maps are fun.

This map isn’t my creation, it’s actually the reconstruction of what North America looked like during the Late Pennsylvania geologic time period (about 300 million years ago). I’ve put in a few random rivers and made some lakes but that’s about it. To give you a sense of how this corresponds to North America now, the place that I named the “Novostos Sea” is roughly what is today Kansas. This map and many other very cool renderings of what Earth looked liked through geologic time have been researched, drawn, and copywrited by Dr. Ron Blakey at Northern Arizona University. The library of paleogeography maps that Blakey has created are fascinating and a wonderful tool for introducing to people just how the Earth has changed.

The place names are actual place names generated by the City and Town Name Generator over at Mithril and Mages. So I’ve altered a new of the names to suggest a certain affinity between places. Dystos, Pyrgos, and Elvos will all be part of one ‘nation’ that I’ve yet to name; Paraonen, Heveonen, and Rikonen will be the major cities of another country; I think Ardavass, Banda, Austra Harbor, and Arderra will be another nation. Sulecin and Havan will be affiliated and I plan to have Midhalm, Hythe, Medves, and Calla be united. I think the southern cities of Wick, Dyce, Lappala, and Tegna will all be independent as will the farthest north city Far Port. Elixem and Rautia will either be together or I’ll fold them into the kingdom that will be ruled by Ardavass.

The four seas–Asha, Avostos, Novostos, and the North Sea (generic, I know)–are my own naming creations. There is a southern continent below Lappala but I’m not concerning myself with it. Point is, that continent and this are the only land masses in this world, the rest of the planet is water which is why I’ve named the ocean simply The Deep (again, generic, I know). I’ve toyed with the idea of naming the rivers, lakes, mountains, and open areas on this map but decided against it and will just mention them in the actual text of the story. I’ve also not really settled on the climate of the different areas but I think I can let that slide for now.

I’ve decided to make Sulecin, Ardavass, Rikonen, Austra Harbor and Lappala major sites of my story. Sulecin will be where The Cathedral is, a kind of Vatican-like city-state. I’m still hashing out the tenants of the religion of The Cathedral but it will be the ‘bad guy’ in the story. Ardavass will be the home of The Seven Spires, a city controlled by seven separate factions each with their own tower, and will be the dominate empire of the world. Rikonen will be a port city that will be blockaded by Ardavass in an on-going feud/war. Austra Harbor will be the starting off point for the story.

And finally, Lappala will be a huge city built up around a gigantic and ancient pit mine that is the source of a coal or oil like substance which is then sold to the rest of the world. The substance will be a kinda of miracle resource that can be refined to create fuel or mixed in such a way to be a great fertilizer that instantly increases yield. One of the aspects of this substance is going to be how it is actually a poison that although at first increases farming yield, it eventually kills off the soil. Lappala is a place I want to model on Kowloon Walled City, a huge slum that grew up in Hong Kong before being razed in the 1990s.


This may see a bit too modern of an idea for a fantasy novel–especially one that is basically Middle Ages themed (i.e., swords and magic, though I don’t think I’m going to have any ‘magic’ in my book, I think I’ll go quasi-realist like George R.R. Martin). I imagine it as one huge shanty city, a place where the people who work the mine/pit have spent their whole lives–where generations have stayed and never strayed from. A kind of reverse archeology, every generation has built up upon the previous–literally–so that in a way the depth of the mine corresponds to the height of the city towers.

Anyway, so this is my fantasy novel’s working geography. I’ve written just over 13k words as of November 8th and am still hashing out my plotline but I think it’s starting to come together. I’m hoping to finish a proper synopsis this weekend as well as some longer descriptive pieces to keep on track for the month. Also I realized that I’d like to have this novel be something similar in tone to Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road. I’ll not pretend I have Chabon’s prose skill but I think it’s a good model to aspire to.


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