Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.

5/16/2017

Magical Maps

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Autogenerated fantasy landscapes feel like randomly programmed dreams.

I wouldn’t really call myself a writer any more, since I don’t really write regularly, outside of emails at work and these weekly desperate blog posts. But, I was once, and when I was, I would obsess over what fantasy writers and fans call “world building”. In fact, eventually, that obsession took over all my time and energy and became my primary excuse for not writing. Still, I find it hard to let go of the idea that if I’m writing a fantasy story and don’t know where people are, or are from, or are going, that I can’t relax into telling their story. I know I’m not alone.
So, that leaves a writer with a couple of choices; steal someone else’s setting, or make your own.
I’m not a big fan of stealing, or even borrowing, someone else’s fantasy setting, because there’s always the possibility that you may need to pay royalties one day, if your new work sells. Or, that other author, or their estate, may squash your work altogether. It’s been known to happen. So, then, your other option is to build your own.
Personally, I’ve always loved the maps that come with my favorite fantasy stories. And, when I tried to write, I often would spend inordinate amounts of time trying to draw my own.
Now, though, there are other options. The one I’m sharing with my faithful readers this week is Uncharted Atlas. It’s a Twitterbot that automagically generates a pretty random fantasy map every hour. Yeah, a new fantasy world every hour. And some of these maps are pretty damn good! You can read some notes by the developer, Martin O’Leary, at his website about both how the maps were generated and how the names for the maps were generated. Also, that page explaining the code includes an interactive, step-by-step example of generating a map. It gives you a bit more control over what the final map looks like and is a great way to waste a few minutes on a Friday.

Okay, so this isn’t likely to really fix any writer’s block issues, or even jump start my own writing, but, hey, it IS a great way to waste a little time on a Friday!

10/21/2016

Build Your World

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Now you have a story and the characters in it, but what about the rest of your world?

Most people think that only fantasy or science-fiction writers have to create a world for their writing, but even writers who create contemporary stories create their worlds. They just create a fictional world based more closely to our real world, which is pretty subjective in any case.  I’ve been assuming that you are following these posts in order this month, but there’s certainly no reason that you should start with a story and not your world.  I know that I often start with a setting when I’m thinking of stories and, especially when I’m thinking of fantasy stories, a map is often a great place to start.  In fact, in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card writes about starting a novel by essentially doodling a map.  And, thanks to the internet, there are an almost endless number of pages about making maps.  Let’s start with A Guide to RPG Mapmaking.  It’s focused on fantasy role-playing games, but everything in the guides and tutorials are applicable to other kinds of fantasy maps.  And, if you like that, check out Observations of the Fox: Map Tutorials for even more details on creating detailed maps.  Most of the techniques there are pretty applicable to any tools you might use, and there are many to choose from, but if you’re serious about making maps and aren’t a professional artist, I highly recommend ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer.  It’s not incredibly expensive, and there is a bit of a learning curve, but I think it’s worth the investment in time and money for some of the results.  To see what some of those results can be, with practice, as well as Campaign Cartographer specific tutorials, be sure to visit Ralf Schemmann’s site Maps and More.
And, if you just want some inspiration, check out Fantastic Maps or Fantasy Cartography by Sean Macdonald.

Of course, you may not need a map at all, but want to create some other details about your fictional world to make it seem more real.  For that, I humbly submit Fantasist.net’s own World Building resources for your use, which includes, among other things, an on-line Timeline Generator to create a little history that your characters can refer to in conversation.  It also has a link to the incredibly complete Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C. Wrede, who covers pretty much every detail you could ever ask yourself about a fictional world.

As much as I love worldbuilding, in recent years I’ve realized that I can easily get so lost in world and setting creation that I never get around to actually writing fiction!  Don’t fall into that trap!  Make enough world to get your story going and then let the world create itself as you go.  For some more helpful worldbuilding ideas along those lines, take a look at Chuck Wendig’s 25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding.  It’s a very up-to-date approach and I found it quite helpful!

So, now you should have characters, setting and plot nailed down and you can start letting that marinate before actually starting National Novel Writing Month in November.  But, come back next week to see what final tools I have for you before you launch your NaNoWriMo project!

 

11/7/2015

Place Names

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Specifically, subdivison names.

Naming things can be one of the most difficult tasks for an author.  Whether it’s naming people, places or things, the endless work of finding just the right name, one that sounds realistic and fits the circumstances, can be trying work.  For me, place names are the hardest to do well.  No matter what the setting, naming towns and streets can be challenging.  As it turns out, it can be challenging in the so-called “real” world, too.  Back in 2013, Gizmodo mentioned a book titled Real Estate Subdivisions by Stanley L. McMichael that, among other things, included a list of more than 750 potential names for your subdivision.  The article also included links to a Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator on-line.  But, personally, I was fascinated with the idea of that crazy book by McMichael, published in 1949.  I chased it down, eventually, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Besides the list of names in the appendix, there are also fascinating chapters on everything from planning your future subdivision to setting up a home-owner’s association to deed restrictions, including restrictions along racial lines.  Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then.  But, still, the names of places remain.
Just because I’m a sharing kind of guy, I typed all those names from that appendix into a single text file and I’m giving you all a link to it here: Subdivision Names Text File.
Some of the names sound a bit odd, but others are actual names of places I’ve been.  In fact, several of the “suggested” names in this book are places in the Chicago area where I have or had relatives living!

In any case, I hope you find the file helpful.  I might add, too, that if you add “Street”, “Lane”, “Court” or “Avenue” to almost any of the names in that file, they’d make fine street names!
Enjoy!

5/8/2009

An Upsidedown World

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime.
The moon is a Full Moon

I’m always looking for new twists on old themes.

And, frankly, the whole “alternate Earth” thing is a very old theme. But, I have to admit, it’s one that I can’t get away from in my own head. One of the alternate Earths that I contemplate on a regular basis is an inverted Earth. An Earth with its North and South poles swapped. I guess it’s an idea that grabbed me when my mother told me that people think at some point in the future, the magnetic core of Earth is going to, well, flip and send all our compasses out of whack, among other things.
Well, apparently, I’m not the only one who’s fascinated by this. Chris Wayan explores it all quite fully on a page titled Welcome to Turnovia.

Check it out.

7/3/2007

Fractal Terrains Real World Data

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Okay, here’s some real data for ProFantasy’s Fractal Terrains.

Been looking for Fractal Terrains Real World Data? Well, look no further!
I got tired of everyone asking for this on the Profantasy CC2-l list and thought I’d take a minute while I’m getting my chemotherapy to import the ETOPO2 data and save it as a Fractal Terrains file. Hope it comes through for everyone okay.
Enjoy!

11/17/2006

Dig It!

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

My regular readers may not even know this…

But, I’ve had a long-time obsession with things like steam tunnels, bomb shelters and other abandoned, underground structures. Not to the point of risking my life to explore them, but they’ve always fascinated me.
Well, today’s Friday Fun Links are all brought to you via Boing Boing, and have an underground theme. First, there’s a giant, underground marijuana growing operation. Hey, if these guys can raise weed underground, maybe we can raise food crops and survive a nuclear war!
Next, we have the urban legend that the infamous Seymour Cray, of Cray supercomputer fame, was a secret, compulsive tunneler. Sadly, this turns out to not be anywhere close to the truth, but it sure made a great story!
The next link is to an actual, albiet less genius-like, tunneler in the UK. I mean, look at that guy in the picture. Doesn’t he look like the kind of guy who tunnel under the neighbors?
And, finally, there’s the infinitely more upbeat and fun, Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby. The peppy 1932 copy and clean illustrations sure make it seem appealing, don’t they?

Sadly, in Houston, if I were to tunnel, I’d probably be underwater before I got more than three or four feet. Besides, I have a lot of writing to catch up on if I’m going to even come close on this NaNoWriMo thing! Enjoy the Friday Fun links! (And, yes, this is recycled from my other blog, Diary of a Network Geek. So sue me, it’s been a busy week!)

2/3/2006

Free Graph Paper

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Well, at least free PDFs for graph paper.
This really interesting company has released FREE PDFs of assorted, blank graph paper that you can use to print out your own in whatever quantity you desire. The company is Incompetech and you can find the PDFs at their Free Online Graph Paper / Grid Paper PDFs page. Not only do they have standard graph paper, but they also have hex-grid, assorted geometric shapes, musical notation paper, caligraphy practice paper, and assorted “dot” matrix paper in various geometric shapes.
Great if you’re a gamer, and cool even if you’re not.
And, all just in time for the weekend!

10/26/2005

Fantasy Mapmaking

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I know I’ve talked about this before, but not recently.
I love maps. I love looking at them. I love drawing them. Maps can make an otherwise confusing travel story clear or just spark my imagination to new ideas about how geography effects the world. As a result, I’m always looking for more ideas about making my own maps. I use a lot of different tools to make maps, but mainly I use Campaign Cartographer. Though, the tools don’t really matter as much as good technique. And, I know that my technique is pretty weak these days. So, when I saw Maldin’s Greyhawk – A Guide to Mapmaking, by Denis Tetreault, one of the main cartographers for Wizards of the Coast, publishers of Dungeons and Dragons, I got really excited.
Sure, much of the information is a rehash of things I’ve read elsewhere, but plenty of it is new stuff. And, what’s more, it gives a nice look into the mind of a professional fantasy cartographer. How often do you find that kind of information? Right, not very often. That’s why I linked to it and suggest that, if you have any interest in fantasy map making, you check it out.


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