Mapping Unreal Places

Map of Wharfton and the Enclave

A summer ago, in Minnesota, I sat in my Aunt Rosemary’s lodge overlooking Island Lake and prepared to draw the map of Wharfton and the Enclave.  My son Michael and niece Maura offered to help.  I had the places all in my head, visually, but it was harder to set them down than I expected.  Logistics intruded.  It was important, for instance, that Gaia would be unlikely to stumble upon Mace’s bakery on her first trip to the prison, but the chimney of said bakery needed to be visible from a prison window.

We started with one piece of paper, and I sketched in Gaia’s home, the southern perimeter of the wall, and the Square of the Bastion.  As I tried to estimate the size of the Enclave and include the complete circumference of the wall, we had to add another sheet of paper, taping it on to the north.  As I expanded Wharfton, we added a third piece of paper on the south.  We penciled in squares for key locations: Ernie’s Café (named for Hemingway in honor of “A Clean Well-Lighted Place”), the Quirk Home (named for a teacher friend), the Corpse Shed, the Nursery and the Honey Farm (originally a graveyard).

It started getting more complicated. Ernie’s Café needed to be on a convergence of corners far enough from the Square of the Bastion that walking there could take a while and stopping by Mace’s Bakery spontaneously would make sense.  For safety reasons, certain people could not pass the Bastion on their way between the Nursery and the Quirk Home. I paced carefully through each walk in the story, including one in an underground tunnel, making sure I had a consistent layout of sites.

I also had class distinctions to think of, even within the wall.  The city was built on a hill, and the wealthier people lived in the higher neighborhoods, so there I made the roads farther apart and added Summit Park, a place where Leon could have played soccer as a kid.  I put more tightly spaced roads and long, narrow blocks in the steeper, lower parts of the city near the Corpse Shed, the Solar Grid Plant, and the Mycoprotein Plant.

Outside the wall, I needed the sectors laid out so that Gaia’s home in Western Sector Three would be at the edge of the unlake and far from the South Gate.  I found a logical place for the Tvaltar on the Quad, and added Derek’s Bakery and Emily’s Home.  I knew there wouldn’t be many roads outside the wall, so I indicated paths with dashed lines, starting with the ones going to the wall where water spigots would be located.

Certaldo, Italy

Finally, I reshaped the wall, drawing on my memories of walled cities in Italy like Certaldo and Ferrara, where the walls are far from perfectly circular.  I added labels and the compass face, and darkened all the lines with black ink.  In all, it took me several weeks of persistent tweaking, and I finished back home in Connecticut, August 18th, 2009.

I wasn’t certain the map would make it in the final book.  It wasn’t in the ARC, and I knew we were so short on available blank pages (books are bound in multiples of sixteen pages, so we’d bumped a limit) that we had already decided to cut the Author’s Note page, instead putting a notice about Global Greengrants on the copyright page.  Nan Mercado, my editor, suggested we could put the map behind the Contents page, facing page one of the text.  I mailed the original copy of the map, all three sheets of it taped together, down to Ann Diebel, the art director, who cleaned up the labels and made it all legible.

That’s how the map appeared in Birthmarked.

Last week, I asked Nan when she needs the map for Prized, and the answer was “Soon.”  I’d better get going.

Edited to Add:

(1/25/12) I’ve had several requests from people with e-readers for online versions of the maps in Birthmarked and Prized, and it seems the best I can manage is to scan the maps from the books to post here. If you click on the images, they enlarge, and I hope that helps.


Birthmarked Map: The Enclave and Wharfton


Prized Map: Sylum

8 Responses to Mapping Unreal Places

  • I saw Ernie’s cafe in this blog post, and I thought it stuck out, but I was not too sure why. Then when I where it was from, I remembered back in freshman year when we read it/ acted it out during class! That was in the beginning of the semester too! And then when you mentioned the ARC in the end of the post, I remembered after I had finished reading the ARC, you were raving about this map, but we could never seem to pull it up on your school computer! I have written another “short” story that was again, 9 pages for my English class. I am just about to start on my other “short” story for Creative Writing. Maybe I can make this one shorter than 9 pages. Hope you can read the stories soon! Just wanted to share a memory that brightened my day.
    Miss you.

  • Katie,
    This totally makes me smile. I’m sending you a PM.
    All best,

  • Hello! I’m currently reading your first book, Birthmarked, on my Nook. I was discouraged to find that the map opposite the Table of Contents is almost unreadable on my screen. With the Nook app, you can’t zoom in to a page, you can only make the text larger. Even when I squint, I can’t really read the map.

    I was wondering if it is accessible online somewhere for other readers who also read on alternative devices and who have poor eyesight?

    Thanks! I look forward to enjoying this book.

  • Mary ~
    Let me see what I can do about posting a map.
    All best,

  • I too couldn’t see the map of wharfton. After I read the second book and tortured I put all the clues together and used google maps to make a guess-ti-mate about where the enclave may occur but I’d like to see your map in detail. I’m looking forward to book no. three. And I vote for Leon, and I’d also like to see Gaia united with both brothers…

  • Bhindi ~
    I ran into a snag when I scanned the map, and I’ve been swamped with deadlines and travel, but I have not forgotten and I’ll try to post the map by next week.
    Thanks for your kind words about Gaia’s story. Leon’s a favorite of mine, too, and Book 3 is nearly finished.
    All best,

  • For those with e-readers, thanks for your patience. I’ve added the maps to the post above.
    All best,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Caragh's Latest Favorite Reads

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Every Day
The Dog Stars
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Fault in Our Stars
Two of a Kind
Until It Hurts to Stop

Caragh's books »
Book Trailer for Promised