Creating Fictional Places

Before I begin developing my characters, I either draw or take photographs and make maps of where my main characters live. I want to be able to see where they are while I write, and what the areas look like should I want to use location description in my stories. This exercise pleases my artistic muse while I begin to build my storyline—a.k.a. plot.

Many of my stories happen in a fictional community called Ravenwood, of which I have drawn extensive maps of the place and houses for my characters to live in. I include interiors and exteriors of major places, and pencil in furniture placement and notes about wall hangings and knickknacks and what books are inside bookcases (if important). I also list what color the walls are, or if they’re wallpapered and what pattern they are. Some floors are carpeted, others are bare wood with throw rugs.

Informative maps also let me know where my characters are, what they’re doing, and importantly—what they see at the moment I write about them. Whenever someone rearranges a room or adds something new, it goes onto my map inside my notebook.

Parker Evans House Map
Sample of an informative map ready for furniture placement.

A Day In My Life

Words awoke me the other morning, repeating in my mind loudly, obtrusive. At 4:27, I snapped on my lamp and scribbled them down.

Dark cold
Deep blue
Frigid from the death of violet

I wondered, What does it mean, frigid from the death of violet? I tried to remember the dream that had birthed those words, but it had vanished.

I extinguished the light and dozed. More words came to me: Birthed. Birthing. Born anew. They repeated and filled my head, sounding like children clopping in oversized rubber boots around my bed until the clamor became one voice saying Words. Words. Words. You send your words into the streets; they’re attacked and raped there. They give birth to new industries; your old words fall away like fallen soldiers.

Again I awoke. Again I asked, What does it mean?

Nothing revealed. I fell asleep and dreamed dreamlessly until sunlight stirred me back to the living. I took my jottings to my office and put them aside while I worked on some pencil drawings—3 hours of studying shadow and light. After breakfast I put away my art project, picked up one of my stories in progress and wrote some chapters. My main character was in a dark place—dark cold, deep blue; the basement room she was in was painted blue-violet and was frigid from the lack of windows.

Aha! The writing went quickly as words spilled from me. Soon, I had a few more chapters.

By afternoon I left for my other job (the one that pays the bills) and left behind the creative person that I am. There is no place at that salt mine for thinkers, imaginers, visionaries. People like that have been verbally attacked there for being different, and their souls spiritually raped.

Aha! … again.

I returned to my writing for an hour that night and struggled to continue my story; I was empty from the time spent at my other job. I struggled as well with the desire to edit what I had written so far—a bad habit that I am trying to break myself from. A writer should not edit his first draft until the story is completed and he has had time to put the story aside for a few weeks.

I drew instead, happy to be home and filling my emptiness with all that I love.