Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Map of the World

Yesterday I finished the maps of main Mercurian mine that is a central location in my novel. I'm pleased with how they turned out, but I'm even more pleased at the effect they will have on my writing. I now know exactly where everything is in the mine, but more importantly, I now see a number of places for conflict that I didn't think of before. For example, in one of the opening scenes, the main antagonist tells his secretary that he's "going out," so he heads out of his office and ends up going to a seedy strip bar. The scene read pretty much just like that, although I had some description of traffic in the corridors, the lighting getting darker as he approached the bar, etc. As a result of my map, however, I now know a lot more about the route he took and can describe it much more vividly.

There are three levels to the mine. Only the bottom level is still being actively mined, so it is largely unpressurized. The top two have been tapped out and converted to living and working space with the addition of pre-fab pressurized corridors and rooms. The top level is the "working" level, with the administration section, main power and life support sections, a recreation/dining section, and a commerical section for shopping. All of this level is comparatively up-scale (for a mining planet, anyway). The second level has been turned over to housing for the miners, with each family being given a tiny cubicle not much bigger than a bathroom in your house. Conditions are very poor, due to the need to house a large number of workers without a lot of pressurized space to go around. At the end of each tunnel are common areas that in many cases have been converted to bars. This is where the seedy locations will be, obviously. Out of the view of the mine administrators, but still tacitly acknowledged, the upper crust that wants to take a "walk on the wild side" will make their way down to the second level. The only way down to the second level is through the pressurized elevator that rides the main mine shaft. This means that our "suit" is going to have to rub elbows with the miners in the elevator -- and this gives me a chance to emphasize the inherent class differences and the conflicts that result (eventually, the miners are going to revolt and take over the planet). Perfect! Not only do I now see how to introduce the antagonist to the protagonist and dramatically highlight the inner conflict between them, I now can foreshadow the major external conflict that will be driving the events of the story later on. I love it!

If you haven't done so before, I highly recommend taking the time to map out the locations -- in complete detail -- that your characters will be visiting in your stories. Even for a short story, I think this is time well-spent. I think you'll be amazed at the richness you can convey in your stories without having to resort to a big infodump about your world. I'm going to write all this up as an article for the Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society today. If the editor buys it and you are a subscriber, you'll be able to see the maps in a few weeks.

*The title of this post comes from a book my wife has on her shelf. She loved the book, but I've never read it. Nevertheles, the title has always intrigued me. It just goes to show you how important a good title is to a story!

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