How To Build A World From The Ground Up Week 2: Groundwork

I realise from the outset that a lot of people will decide that this post isn’t relevant to them. And maybe, to some extent, that’s true: not every writer needs to know where mountain ranges are likely to pop up, especially if you’re writing in the ‘real world’. Still, mapping has its place for everyone. For example, the kitchen of a house doesn’t usually migrate from front to back to top floor to basement; the writer obviously knows where in the house it is, and I guarantee you there was a map involved, even if said map is only in the writer’s head.

Cartography: it’s for everyone!
O:)
But I want to go a little further than that to discuss something I’ve seen a lot of lately: a blatant disregard for the actual, physical constraints of the world when creating a map. Published authors are just as guilty of this as non-published, and both are equally shudder-worthy. Sure, okay, writers don’t have to be cartographers as well – but just a little bit of thought and effort will make sure that people who know about this kind of thing don’t feel tempted to throw your book against the wall.
The example I’ll never forget is good old Robert Jordan. Regardless of what you think of his writing, his control over his plotting, and his development of female characters, you can’t escape the fact that his work is popular as anything. And in the front of all the books, all prettily drawn up, is the map of the world, which makes me want to beat my head against the wall every time I see it. Why?
Have a look at it. Note especially the coastline, and where all the rivers exit to the sea. Can you see anything wrong? Every. Single. River. exits to the sea at the very end of the land point. Every single time!
I see heads shaking in confusion. What’s wrong with that? you ask.
It’s wrong because it’s not the way things work. Water always takes the path of least resistance; a spur heading out to sea will be higher than the surrounding ground; water also causes erosion of the surrounding ground; ERGO a river will, nine times out of ten, exit to the sea in a BAY, not off the tip of a point. And if it didn’t exit into a bay initially, give it a few years to erode and it will.
Yes, if you’re writing fantasy you can in theory get away with anything – but only if you have a good reason for it. Hint: “Because it looked pretty” is not a good reason. Neither is, “Because I felt like it”, “Because that’s how it came out”, or just, “Because”. Aside from the use of magic, the physics of Robert Jordan’s world isn’t demonstrably different from our world. We are given no reason to think that physical substances shouldn’t behave there exactly as they do here; and yet, for some strange and untold reason, rivers do.
Lesson #0 in Map-Building: Always have a reason.
If you don’t have a good reason for changing the way something works, don’t. It’s as simple as that.

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New Free Short Story!

Hello! The Darkness&Good blog took a break there for a bit while Liana and I dealt with some Life Things, but I’m pleased to say that we’re open again for business, and free (mostly unedited) short stories will be going up at least 3 weeks out of every four over at http://darknessandgood.blogspot.com! 🙂

Also, we have a new member: Thea van Diepen has agree to join in the madness, hurrah! You can read her first short story right here, followed by Liana’s story from last week – and today, it’s my turn! *jazz hands*.

So yeah. The Darkness&Good blog exists again. You should follow it. There are stories. They are free, and shiny, and awesome 🙂

DARKNESS & GOOD Free Short Story Blog

Let’s Celebrate! Have You Entered My EPIC FGU Giveaway Yet?

If you’re one of the ones playing along on social media, you’ve probably heard of my epic giveaway: to celebrate the impending release of From The Ground Up: How To Build A World That Really Works, aka my non-fiction handbook for writers that looks at the ways geography influences culture. It comes out in about two months (YAY!!), so I’m running a pre-release giveaway, because why not? 🙂

Click through on the graphic to enter for your share in nearly $200 worth of super awesome prizes – and don’t forget that to look for the link at the bottom for ways to earn extra entries 😉

**OPEN INTERNATIONALLY!!! Entries close midnight August 20 Australian EST 🙂 **

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A Pretty Piece of Shiny Artwork: Cover Reveal!

Breaking radio silence to squee joyously over the cover reveal for the Twinny One, aka Liana Brooks, whose final book in the Time and Shadows series is due out in a scant 7 weeks! Wheee!! Buckle your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen; this one’s going to be a wild ride! Read on for a sneak peek at the first two pages…

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Decoherence 1

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Readers of Blake Crouch’s DARK MATTER and Wesely Chu’s TIME SALVAGER will love Liana Brooks’ DECOHERENCE–the thrilling, time-bending conclusion to the Time & Shadow series!

Samantha Rose and Linsey MacKenzie have established an idyllic life of married bliss in Australia, away from the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, away from mysterious corpses, and—most of all—away from Dr. Emir’s multiverse machine.

But Sam is a detective at heart, and even on the other side of the world, she can’t help wonder if a series of unsolved killings she reads about are related—not just to each other, but to the only unsolved case of her short career.

She knows Jane Doe’s true name, but Sam never discovered who killed the woman found in an empty Alabama field in spring of 2069. She doesn’t even know which version of herself she buried under a plain headstone.

When Mac suddenly disappears, Sam realizes she is going to once more be caught up in a silent war she still doesn’t fully understand. Every step she takes to save Mac puts the world she knows at risk, and moves her one step closer to becoming the girl in the grave.

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DECOHERENCE

Decoherence (n): a period of time when all iterations collapse and there is only one possible reality.

~ Excerpt from Definitions of Time by Emmanuela Pine, I1

 

Day 247

Year 5 of Progress

Capitol Spire

Main Continent

Iteration 17—Fan 1

… three. Rose stood and peered through the frosted, warped glass of the conference room as the speaker turned away. It didn’t matter which iteration she was in, Emir was predictable. She had seven seconds to do a head count. She didn’t need that long.

A quick head count was all it took to confirm that the einselected nodes she’d been sent to assassinate were where they belonged.

Every iteration had nodes, people or events that kept that variation of human history from collapsing. Dr. Emir had created a machine that allowed people not only to move along their own timeline, but at critical convergence points, it allowed them to cross between realities. But the Mechanism for Iteration Alignment’s greatest ability was the one that allowed Dr. Emir and Central Command to steer history by erasing futures they didn’t want.

Rose knelt beside the door, did one final sweep for alarms, and nodded for her team to move in. It was her job to cross at convergence points, kill the nodes, and collapse the futures that no one wanted.

One look at the version of herself watching this iteration’s Emir with rapt fascination was enough to make Rose want to snip this future in the bud.

Chubby was the first thing that came to mind. Rose’s doppelganger was enjoying being at the top of the social pyramid and probably gorging on whatever passed as a delicacy here. The squared bangs with a streak of riotous red only accented the corpulence and lack of self-control the inferior other had.

Even with a heavy wood door between them, Rose could hear that this iteration’s Emir was hypothesizing things the MIA was never meant to do. Everyone with half a brain knew that decoherence didn’t combine iterations, it crushed them. Only the true timeline, the Prime, would survive decoherence. Planning to welcome and integrate doppelgangers into the society was pure idiocy.

The techs sealing the door shut gave her the high sign.

Rose nodded to her hacker.

“Cameras locked. Security is deaf and blind, ma’am” Logan’s voice was a soft whisper in her earpiece. He was a genius with computer systems, a fact that had saved him when they collapsed I-38 three years ago. “We have a fifteen-minute window.”

“Hall cleared,” reported Bennet. “Permission to move perimeter guard to the exit?”

Rose nodded. “Permission granted.” She waved for the soldiers to move out. There could be no risk of failure. No chance for the errant nodes to escape, and no risk that her team would get killed here.

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