S&S: Keilah Fantasy Map by Ferdinand Ladera

Look at this map, bro. Just look at it!

That’s one of my character voices from the cyberpunk project I’m about to finish up. I tend to think like my character personalities sometimes, so I can write more like they will actually speak in my fiction. In this case, it’s a street thug with a big heart. The project is book three in the Nightfish trilogy. You can read on how I first started this project by searching this blog for keyword Nightfish.

Let’s talk about this gorgeous map. I found it by doing a DD-Go search for Fantasy Maps, while looking for something topographical to inspire me for my next project. I downloaded, let’s see, 17 maps total, but this one really stuck out.

The artwork was created by Ferdinand Ladera. You can find this artist on Deviant Art and ArtStation. The map is titled Keilah. You can find a cloudy version, a cloudless version, and a map with location names on this ArtStation page. Put this on full-screen so you can really appreciate the details.

For the purposes of inspiration for world-building, I’ll refer to the less cloudy variant. I’m looking for a vast land for my upcoming sword and sorcery project, but I haven’t named any regions yet. This map is beautifully done, as far as regions go. I might stretch it out vertically in my writing, to make it more like real-world Japan. Japan is a perfect location for basing a small continent, because it has three separate climate areas: cool to cold in the north, temperate to warm in the center, and up to tropically hot in the south, with flora and fauna to match. When you throw in torrential rains and earthquakes, it can really add a lot of maneuverability for your stories, without overwhelming you with too much info.

For example, if you go with the Americas, with cold, temperate, hot, then temperate and cold again for the southern hemisphere, you really have to keep an encyclopedia handy or take a lot of notes, organized mentally, on index cards or whatever. Even using only North or South America can be tough, because they’re so wide and have so much going on. Sword and sorcery only asks for low to middle level world-building, so long and skinny Japan makes more sense. In your mind, you can visualize the continent to be as big as you want, with attributes of Japan easier to keep track of. Japan has everything except great plains and deserts, but you can add those in yourself without having to research a whole other continent.

Okay, I’m mapping out my regions in clockwise fashion. The hazy ruins in the background are going to be 12, and the big peak is dead center. The regions I’ll set up like this, with initial impressions and keywords:

12 – northern ruins, ancient civilization no one remembers, Antarctica

2 – Cthulhu ruins or landscape, giant monsters, Dagon!

3 – eastern plains, thriving societies, no war leading to social justice warriors (because when countries are not fighting other countries, they tend to fight within their borders)

5 – heavy forests, possibly giant trees, druids, tree-huggers

6 – tropical south with island cultures, Crete, Godzilla?

7 – volcanic region, possibly arid lands, deserts and plateaus to the south, Eye of Sauron fanatics, Persia, Sinbad, Arabian Nights

9 – barren lands, wasteland, possibly they were like region 5 once, this will likely be where my story begins because almost anywhere else is an upgrade

10, 11 – northern mountain range, Beowulf, Eddas, 13th Warrior, don’t go there!

dead center has multiple levels to it, with jungles at the base of the mountains and potential Machu Pichu cultures at the middle and top, or maybe the gods are rumored to be on top like Mount Olympus

between position 9 and dead center, notice the smaller mountain range and great valleys, fertile lands, thriving societies, feudal system, knights, also huge lake to the north

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I could probably expand each region into its own paragraph, but I’m going to skip that part. I like exploring exotic lands as my characters travel into them. That way I’m as surprised as they are, especially when the story comes to life and wants to move in its own directions. For now, I’m good with just the rumors my characters hear about such places.

Next, I want to look into naming my first group of characters, defining their culture, deciding how many I want in my band of heroes, and coming up with a low magic system. I will use some genre tropes, but I don’t want to only rehash what others have written before. I won’t push the genre forward, but I will stretch it out sideways with ideas I haven’t seen before, and like Robert E. Howard said about the Conan stories, I want to have fun while I’m doing it.

Be sure to check other posts with keyword S&S in the title. I’m itchy to start this project already, because it will clear my head after so much cyberpunk and I need a new genre to dive into. Maybe as soon as one or two days, I’ll start posting actual story, maybe even before I finish my research!

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