World creation, development, and planning

Last month, I touched a bit on the development of the fictional planet for my series of science fiction novels.  I will talk about it in more depth, starting with how I created it, the maps I made, and what I’m doing next.

In the beginning, I had an idea for a story I wanted to write.  But that story needed a setting.  I took a piece of paper and drew a rough map of a world with four continents, one large and three smaller.  I drew mountain ranges, large lakes, and rivers.  I drew polar ice caps.   This was all on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet.  I gave the planet a name, then discarded that idea.  To this day, I still don’t have a name for the planet, other than a designation based on its parent star, which was a target star for the search for exoplanets in the Goldilocks zone.  But this part came much more recently.  I developed this planet back when we knew of only a small fraction of the extrasolar planets that we know of today.

The second part of my map-making process was to blow up the planet.  No, not destroy it, but to draw it in more detail, on 16 pieces of paper.  I first traced a second map on another sheet of paper and drew lines of latitude and longitude.  The top row of papers were the northern half of the northern hemisphere from 45 degrees to 90 degrees north.  The next row was from the equator to 45 degrees north.  And same for the southern hemisphere.  I marked out where the tropics were, as well.  I used this for future reference.  On my much larger map, I drew all of the countries and capital city locations, then gave them all names.  As this planet is a colonized world, the oldest countries had names that are related to Earth locations.  The newer countries had more exotic names, although some of them had names of people I know, including family.  I even named a place after my favourite astronomy professor.  I drew all of the countries in order from oldest to newest, so I could get an idea about how the world’s population expanded.  I also gave approximate dates for the establishment of each country.

After the large map was made, I then drew another small map with climate/ecosystem zones.  I then drew yet another map with tectonic plates and indicated areas that were seismically and volcanically active.  I developed these maps with the knowledge I’ve gained in university, including the geology classes I’ve taken.  Who knew my university education would be useful for science fiction?
Also, because of my love of geography, this was a very enjoyable process.  And with this love of maps, I created two polar projection maps for the northern polar sea and the southern polar continent.  So, kids, if you’re really interested in making maps for science fiction or fantasy worlds, math and science are actually very useful!  And it’s a fun way to use it.

Now that the maps had been drawn, I went on to write out details about each country.  I included land area, which required me to determine the size of the planet.  I calculated the diameter, circumference at the equator, as well as the length of the lines at 45 degrees, so I can fudge the land areas in more temperate and polar latitudes.  I used this to make a grid on a transparency sheet and overlaid it on the more detailed big map.  It was pretty simple to calculate land area from that, as simple geometry was required.  I then determined land use percentages, length of coastline and rivers, then used a website to calculate a medieval level of maximum population. I’m surprised that website still exists, although the original page that describes how to do the calculations has moved, and can be accessed here.  After that, I wrote about the forms of government, described the climate and geography, date of independence, and so on.

This brings us to today.  I haven’t actually worked on the backgrounds of the nations for quite some time, though I have developed the story quite a bit.  I am planning on starting a new website dedicated to my books sometime in the near future, and this will include an atlas for my world.  I will, over time, write country profiles for every country in my world, including general history.  However, it will be left a bit vague, as I plan to fill in more details as I write the books.  I’ll be able to keep the stories consistent with the history of the world, and also provide readers with a very handy reference guide.  Will I publish a book based on this world?  Probably not.  It’ll be a constant work in progress, and the best way to do it is provide it for free on the internet.

I’m really looking forward to getting these books written, but I’m also looking forward to playing with maps and creating history.  So, keep coming back here as I detail my process of writing more in the future.