Are We There Yet? Creating My Own Maps!

by Christyne Butler

I love maps.

Maybe it’s because I spent many Sunday afternoons growing up with Dad behind the wheel, me and my sister curled up in the backseat with pillows and books while Mom road shotgun, usually with a map spread out across her lap.

“Let take this road and see where we end up.”

My mom, as navigator, would point to a back road, be it in Pennsylvania, Turkey or New Hampshire and my dad would dutifully make the turn. We would ride along, admiring the homes, finding neat places to stop (Mom never met an antique store she didn’t like) and soon the cries of “we’re hungry” from the back seat meant finding a local place to eat. It didn’t matter where we were heading or where we ended up because the map, and Mom, always got us home again.

One of the neatest thing to me about being an author is not only creating a happily ever after for two people who need it most, but also creating the world in which they live. When using a real location, be it a big city or a small town I always keep a map close by so I know the streets, neighborhoods and businesses in which my characters will live out their story. When I started by “Welcome to Destiny” series I already had an idea in my head of what my fictional Wyoming town would look like and in order to make sure I kept location of character’s homes and local businesses straight I created a map (you can click on the picture above to see it larger if you like).

A map I am always adding to as my town grows. It’s so much fun to see my fictional world expand as the number of books set in this town grows too.

When I was asked to participate the first time in the “Montana Mavericks” continuity I was very happy to find a map, created by RaeAnne Thayne, for the fictional town of Thunder Canyon, Montana. Since continuities are a series of six books written by six different authors and with the “Montana Mavericks” having been around for years with so many wonderful books, it’s important for all of us authors to know where the character’s home and local businesses have been located over the years.

In the 2012 “Montana Mavericks – Back in the Saddle” continuity books that are out from July to December, we are meeting some members of a new family, The Traubs, who come from brand new town, Rust Creek Falls, Montana. And next year there will be six new stories in the “Montana Mavericks” continuity saga all set in that same small town.

A town that we authors didn’t really know much about.

“Rust Creek Falls — is a rural Montana town nearly 300 miles from Thunder Canyon; it is what Thunder Canyon used to be before the ski resort and oil exploration.  The town is named for its waterfall and the river that runs through it. Rust Creek Falls is inhabited by ranchers and mill workers as RCF Lumber Mill is the major employer in the town.”

That’s the official description of the town. Hmmm, not much to go on but for six authors it was a chance to get creative. We were also told there of a few of the local businesses, the Ace in the Hole Bar, Crawford’s General Store and Strickland’s Boarding House in town, but we knew we needed more than that to work with.

So what did we decide was needed first? Yep, a map.

We discussed the layout of the town and the terrific Christine Rimmer came up with an original map of street names and the location of the Rust Creek that runs through the center of town (spoiler — that creek is going to be very important in the books!)

When she showed us her creation I asked if she minded if I took her sketch and played with it (thanks to PowerPoint), adding the businesses and homes in locations around town that the six of us decided (and are still deciding) that Rust Creek Falls needs to make it a real town.

Here’s the final result.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, sort of final as we are still adding and moving things around but I think Rust Creek Falls is going to be a pretty special place to live and visit for the readers of the “Montana Mavericks” series!

So how about you all? Do you still use the trusty paper maps or are you are a GPS convert?

Personally, I like the GPS when I’m traveling alone (hard to read a  map and drive at the same time!) but I still like to view the world via a map every once in a while (be it the real world or one of my creation) to see what might be around the next bend in the road!

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31 Responses to Are We There Yet? Creating My Own Maps!

  1. What an interesting blog! I love the importance of making a map for stories – especially continuities. I took a workshop at National conference about writing a series and they stressed the importance of making a map, too.

    My husband and I are definite GPS converts and have gotten lost to prove it! :)
    I tell my husband to think of the GPS as the Bible of the road, you either believe in it or you don’t – because picking and choosing from the directions because they don’t “feel” right gets you lost! LOL.

  2. Chris! I was hoping you’d blog about your mapmaking genius. I do love your beautemous maps! Have the Rust Creek Falls ones right here on my work corkboard right now! Wonderful.

    As to real life, your tales of travels with your family sound so idyllic. Your mom was clearly a good navigator and your dad willing to go with the flow. My dad was more the pedal-to-the-medal and get there as fast as I can type of guy, so I missed the whole having the trip be a destination of its own. And my husband? Kinda like my dad. And I’m a terrible navigator.

    We finally bought a Garmin a few months back. Changed our lives. We always get where we’re going now with a minimum of argument. It’s fabulous!

    • Oh, my mom says it took a long time to train my dad to get off the highway and lay off the gas pedal…LOL! So by the time my sister and I were old enough to enjoy those Sundays she’d been working on him for years! I’m still trying to convince my hubby to slow down and enjoy the backroads…getting there is half the fun!

  3. Abby Niles says:

    I think these are awesome maps of your towns, Christyne! Really cool seeing this!

    Sadly, maps and I do not not get along. I get lost every time I try to use one, of course, I could get lost in my house if I wasn’t careful, so I think the problem is with me and not maps. LOL.

    I don’t have a GPS either. I go to one of those websites where you put in your address and then the destination address and it gives you step-by-step instructions on how to get there. Then I print it out and somehow still tend to get lost at least once before I reach my final destination.

    I blame my inability to use a map on growing up in a town where you had 4 different 3rd Ave, 1st Street, 2nd Drive, etc. When you asked for directions you were never told street names, it was “you know where that big tree is front of so and so church? That’s the side of town you need to be on.” LOL.

    Great post!
    Abby

    • I love those kind of directions, Abby and the kind I usually give…especially to other females who are more likely to know the shops, the color and style of homes and the schools!

      And I must say you and my sister could be twins when it comes to directions. I’m always saying (with love!) that she can’t find her way out of a paper bag! :::grin:::

  4. Maggie says:

    I love your graphics! Oh, to be so creative.

    I would be lost without my GPS…well, actually, I’m pretty lost with it. If there is a way to get lost, I’ll find it :) but Destiny looks like it’s easy to get around

    • Yes, it is possible to still get lost with a GPS, Maggie, but I know you’re not one of those people who would turn onto the railroad tracks or into a pond just because the GPS told you to take that turn! :-)

  5. Sandra Jones says:

    Great post! I love GPS, but I take the “voice” too literally. One time while navigating in Birmingham, I nearly ran into a wall following Tomtom’s directions! They lie, people! LOL. I’ll stick to the visuals.

  6. Ruth A. Chestnut says:

    Christyne, love your maps. I used to use maps and still do if planning a road trip, if going somewhere close I just map it on the computer. I love my AAA membership for the directions and maps I can get from them. I do not have GPS in the car, but my daughter has given me directions from the one on her phone when we were going to her friends house for the first time. Harlequin used to put maps and family tree’s in the front of some of their books many years ago. I don’t know how many people still remember that fact. It’s a shame they stopped because I would love to see all of the maps for the towns used in the books.

    • I remember those maps in the old Harlequins too Ruth! They were great! I plan to include my maps during my next round of website updates because I used to refer to the author’s map all the time while reading!

  7. MarcieR says:

    MapQuest. I’d prefer a map with landmarks instead of street signs. Landmarks are easier to see.

    Awesome post and great maps!

  8. Susan Crosby says:

    I love maps, too. I can’t orient myself to a new area unless I see the whole space relative to where I am. I adore my GPS, which as saved me from “never returning,” as the old song says, many times, but there’s something magical about maps. I create one for my fictional towns, too, but yours looks SO MUCH BETTER. I’m super impressed.

    Susan

  9. Thanks, Susan! I used PowerPoint all the time during my former day job so creating maps in that program is easy…and fun!! I too like to see the “big picture” when it comes to any area, something my GPS doesn’t really provide.

  10. I love your Destiny, Wyoming map! Are you sure it’s not a real town?! LOL – thanks for sharing. I’ve sketched out a map for my fictional Scottish town of Ballacrae, but after seeing your masterpieces I think I’ll look in to PowerPoint. It must be so much easier to move things around.
    I use my GPS, but am a map girl at heart. Kind of like how I use my Kindle, but am a paperback girl at heart. :)

    • Jennifer, Powerpoint is very easy to use — just straight lines for streets, shapes for the buildings, trees, mountains…just don’t let it distract it from the writing! (Not that I’m speaking from experience! LOL!)

  11. Such an interesting post, Christyne! I am a map-lover. When I’m bored (which isn’t very often, but sometimes when I’m waiting in the car), I’ll get out a map and study it. Been fascinated with them since childhood. Seeing yours was a real treat. Now I know where everything in Destiny is located:-)

  12. Thanks Pamela! Yes, its nice to have something to read in the car…but I bet you always have a book in the car too, right? LOL!

  13. Jane Squires says:

    Love this – I remember doing that when Ron and I first got married. We’d use a map and find new places to visit every week when we moved to a new place. I loved adventure back then.

    • Growing up in a military family meant my mom always got a local map as soon as we moved to a new location to check the area, Jane!! Finding new places helped us to feel like we weren’t totally strangers there!

  14. I love it!! I mastered land navigation when I was in the Army – no map needed! Then I worked at TomTom for 3 years and really learned about map data for GPS. I’m in the process of creating my own fictional town for a series I’m developing and I’ll be making a map in PowerPoint much like you did! I might have to pick your brain a little!! :-)

  15. Boy, you are a master at navigation aren’t you, Susan? And I’ll help ya any way I can with your maps…just give me a yell!

  16. Leanne Banks says:

    Christyne, you are a genius! I don’t even know how to fold a map correctly let alone read one!:)

  17. Lilian Darcy says:

    I love maps, too, Christyne! If there’s a real place name mentioned in a story, I always have to look it up and get a feel for its location.

    Gorgeous post!

  18. I will noted and shared.

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