Monday Musing #2 – Visualizing

“I’m just thinking about, for my novel, all this would be underwater.” ~ Me, riding through San Francisco


My novel, Growing Magic, is set far enough into the future where magic has replaced technology that people have more or less forgotten what the world was like. Now, geography is not my strong suit  but I’ve sketched out some maps. One of the features of this “new” world is that the sea level is much higher. I don’t know if this is what the Earth will look like in a thousand years according to science’s best guess, but I was looking at a topographical map while drawing it and the rest I’m chalking up to “because magic.” This includes the two new continents I threw in on a whim.

South America didn’t crack in half, the one on the left is something else entirely. Maybe it even floats around, I haven’t decided yet! The story takes place on the North American continent, as does the prequel lurking in the back of my brain, so that’s my focus for now.

The dots in the following drawing are reference points. There are still towns on the sites of some old cities, like Salt Lake, Detroit, and Houston, but other places are lost to the merpeople and sea dragons — Montreal, New York, DC, Atlanta, Mexico City, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. Up north, Fairbanks is still above the waterline but Anchorage is not.

I recommend map-making to anyone doing fantasy world-building (x), partly because it’s fun and partly as an aid to thinking about the world your characters are going to inhabit. From there I’ve moved on to the struggle with determining climates and vegetation in different regions, what people in certain areas typically eat, that sort of thing… Since this was a NaNoWriMo project I ended up trying to think about while writing the first draft, and naturally it’s still a work in progress.

But my characters also travel underwater for a part of the novel, “because magic,” and that part of their adventure is set in San Francisco. What can I say, I’m a California girl and I like to write what I know. Whenever I visit family I drive through the city along the Great Highway, half watching the surf to the west and imagining what it might be like to look up and see the waves from below. Or taking 101, looking around at the houses on the hills and imagining the trees as underwater plants swaying gently in the current. Picturing Alcatraz converted into a sea witch’s fortress and surrounded by vibrant underwater gardens — a combination of my memories of touring there and many visits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

As a writer my comfort zones are more in character development and storyline, so I’ve thought a lot about settings a lot lately because they don’t come naturally. How do you create a world for a story to live? How do the places you’ve been to and seen creep into your settings?

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