There are fantasy writers who draw maps of their make-believe kingdoms before they tell their stories, who begin by setting down the complete timeline of Misty Magic Land from the Creation of the Universe to last Thursday. I’m not that kind of writer. I mean, I’ve played enough sessions of Dungeons & Dragons to appreciate the allure of a well-plotted hexagonal grid, but laying out the isotherms of your setting as a prerequisite to telling story seems to me (to quote James Lileks on religion) like joining NASA to look at the Moon.
That being said; for The Honeythief I am following a map of sorts. It’s a big piece of posterboard, about 14"x22", that hangs from the bulletin board above my desk—above and slightly to the right, where my eyes naturally fall on it when I look up in thought.
It’s laid out like a table, and it looks something like this...
EVERY ENCOUNTER MUST...
|...Move The Narrative Forward||...Advance Character Development||...Build Up A Picture Of the World|
Hunter Into Prey
Woman In The Dunes
|The High Road|
The Fatherless Ones
|On The March|
The Gathering Storm
In the cells, there are scribbled snatches of information and inspiration, character names and traits, references to events and relationships—not reproduced here: you’ll have to find out how it all turns out the old-fashioned way.
I first heard of the technique in an article in an old issue of The Writer, wherein the late Gary Jennings talked about writing his novel Spangle with the aid of a twelve-foot long piece of brown butcher’s paper. Alan Moore did something similar for Big Numbers, and while The Honeythief isn’t near that level of complexity, it seemed like a good idea for helping me hold the whole thing in my head. I’m enough of a writer to know I should pay attention to those good ideas.
Alfred Bester used to say, “The book is the boss.” I just listen to the boss, is all.