The Making of a Fictional City–1A
My stories got lonely. That is the pith of the bloated paragraphs that follow; if you have little interest in how a 17-year-old teenager embarks on creating his own city, please—skip ahead to the next few chapters. Otherwise, I invite you to read on.
My elementary school years were mapped out in green ink on letter paper. The curves of my imagination were traced out in between carat symbol-mountains and scribbled coastline. My maps of fictional worlds had little use to the biochemist, or the lawyer—but to me, and me alone, they were reliefs of youth itself.
I drew irregularly, working off bursts of inspiration that came in all directions. The inside front covers of fantasy stories would contain a map from time to time, which I studied in great earnest—more, perhaps, than the tale it stemmed from. A visual puzzle in a children’s magazine contained a simple relief of a neighborhood; I can’t remember the question for the life of me, but can still see the bird’s-eye view of tree and asphalt that graced the two-page spread. One would think that globes and real-life reliefs captivated me even more, but something is always lost when a map bases itself in reality.
Many maps were created for their own sake; I reveled in the sight of my own pen strokes, my own… what is the word… influence, I suppose, and that was enough. But others had a purpose rooted even deeper in the world of fiction. Every so often, I would create a map with which to depict a story, either a fantasy epic (that never made it past the first page) to a smaller tale that occasionally hit the mark. Other times, the map would inspire a story. It’s the chicken and egg scenario, really; whether the map or the tale came first, I cannot say.
It was a passionate relationship. I would look at the map and see a story; likewise, I would see my mountains and plains of ink in the stories I dabbled at. What followed was a divorce so subtle that I barely noticed the separation.
By my middle year of elementary school, maps had lost their luster. The books I read at school and at home were without reliefs—let alone pictures, from time to time. The better the story, it seemed, the lesser the need for pictures or keys to complement it. I continued to write, but mapmaking—for all the memories it supplied me—began to fade out of the picture.
Perhaps I exaggerate. I never quite stopped making maps; my bedroom is filled with sketches or diagrams that remind me of this. Nor was it ever the norm for me to accent a story with a map, or vice versa. The only point I make is that, by the time I wove goodbye to the 6th grade, my charts and characters were isolated.
Fast forward, oh, four or five years. My years in high school had been filled with fiction, in spite of the analytical and expository focus our teachers nudged us to adopt. There was this steady accumulation of stories—some decent, some that rest at the bottom of the “My Documents” folder. I like to think that my writing improved, despite what these late-night paragraphs may attest to.
And yet, something was missing in those words that neither revision nor addition could provide. My stories needed a home. My stories needed a point of identity, something that would keep them from sinking to the bottom of My Documents over time. My stories, strange as it sounds, were lonely.
The city of Albeit didn’t come about in a single flash of inspiration. At first, the metropolis of mine was just another relief, a sentimental try at mapmaking that hearkened back to earlier attempts.
As I played with the idea in my head, though, a deeper thought surfaced. What if Albeit became the home for my writing? What if Albeit became the home for a range of short stories—a book, even? In the days that followed, the little town in my head swelled from a vague concept into a literary overworld in the making. This would not just be a fun project, but the very epicenter of my writing.
In the summer of 2007, I began to plan out the city’s street map, with important locations included. (You can see these preliminary drawings at https://schreibendepot.wordpress.com/category/albeit/maps-of-albeit/ ). These served as the reference for Albeit, the first book that I based around the city. By the time Albeit and these maps were finished, however, I began to get a sense that pencil-and-paper reliefs would not be quite enough. Foregoing tradition, I embarked on a project to map out the city on the computer, with help from Adobe In-Design—a program about which I learned a thing or two from high school journalism. The final relief, if completed, would cover a little under a square yard of paper.
This is where “The making of Albeit” reaches a dead end; at the time I write this, my mapping work has just begun. My hopes are that I’ll look back at this introduction one day and smile, knowing that all parts of the map have been filled in, labeled and explained. My hopes are that my stories, separated by their varying settings, will finally share a mutual home in the confines of Albeit.
Until then, you’ll have to excuse me. I have a little work to do.