Tag Archives: pirates

The Treasure Island Map Doesn’t Skimp on the Details

Treasure Island’s Map Doesn’t Skimp on the Details

A big reason I put together my brush sets was to help my fellow authors create authentic maps to enhance a reader’s experience. (I wrote a whole post about it.) The design of a book, from chapter headers to the breaks between scenes, can all be utilized in ways to add details to a world. The map is no different.

Understanding details matter and when they’re ignored, they can often have the opposite effect. Usually, it’s helpful to see this in practice and I want to do that today. Take Robert Louis Stevenson’s map for his classic Treasure Island; it’s a masterclass in getting the details right. Check it out below, click to view it larger.

Stevenson's map of Treasure Island
Stevenson’s map of Treasure Island

If you’re writing a book on piracy, creating a nautical chart that fits its era is clearly the correct visual direction. But Stevenson goes much further pushing past style and into a faux-authenticity that enlivens the imagination. It does this by paying close attention to its details. Note the sounding markers scattered around the coast or the anchorage label in the North Inlet. Those are important for sailors, yes, but for the story? Not so much. He even goes as far as marking rocks along the shores (the little cross symbols along the coasts) and labeling the direction of the current (the arrow floating off the eastern side.) Style can get you halfway there—but details are what brings this sort of ephemera alive.

Details of Robert Louis Stevenson’s map of Treasure Island

The map does more than just clarify information; it becomes an extension of the world. It creates its place within the context of the story. The details establish its purpose within the fiction. This chart could be real which is why it’s so brilliant. One can look at this map and forget that Treasure Island isn’t an actual island. You can easily imagine that this map came from Captain Flint himself with his small details pointing out strong tides, strange landmarks, springs, swamps, and other bits and pieces. You can picture it folded away in its chest, waiting for Jim Hawkins to come along. You can visualize it in use.

This should be what we strive for with our fantasy cartography. It’s what I aim to empower. We shouldn’t settle with just the informative, we should strive for the authentic—one that enhances the overall experience and delights our readers. The details matter and they’re a treasure that’s worth it.

Robert Newton is still the best Long John Silver


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Matt Nelson's Catbeard Book V: Poopdeck & Pawprints

Catbeard Book Five is Here!

The latest in Matt Nelson’s hilarious piratey comic series has arrived with Catbeard Book Five: Poopdecks & Pawprints! Once again we can all set sail with Catbeard and the crew of the Fearsome Roar, and I couldn’t be more excited. If you haven’t read Catbeard, you should rectify that immediately. (New storyline begins November 17th.) It’s hilarious, and these days it’s a nice respite from the absurd chaos reality throws at us.

Matt Nelson's Catbeard Book V: Poopdeck & Pawprints
Matt Nelson’s Catbeard Book V: Poopdeck & Pawprints

I’m also in this book! I was honored to be asked to write the forward for this one and I jumped at the chance. Plus it meant Matt would do an illustration of me! He gave me the option to have a standard portrait, or he offered to draw me as a gibbering Lovecraftian monstrosity. Clearly, I made the correct choice.

It's me as an elder...uh, thing. Credit to Matt Nelson.
It’s me as an elder…uh, thing. Credit to Matt Nelson.

Want to know what I wrote? Well, you’re going to have to pick up the book. You can buy them directly from Matt or pick them up for your Kindle over on Amazon. Catbeard always starts life as a free webcomic, and you can follow along at catbeardthepirate.com. If you want to support Matt’s work (and you should) you can join me in supporting him on Patreon.


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

H. P. Lovecraft

Friday Link Pack 09/19/2014

Friday has arrived! That means it’s time to share a few interesting links I’ve found throughout the week. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Let me know!

Writing:

It’s OK To Admit That H.P. Lovecraft Was Racist
Can we appreciate a writer’s work while disdaining their offensive beliefs?  Laura Miller examines. (Thanks to Josh for this one.)

5 Things You Should Know About Working With Beta Readers
It’s always good to get insight as you work on your manuscript. Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas offer some simple advice on working with beta readers.

The New Kindle Voyage e-Reader Is Shockingly Good
I love my Kindle. Love. It. It’s revolutionized the way I read. However, after reading this review on the latest offering from Amazon… it might be time for an upgrade.

Your Paper Brain And Your Kindle Brain Aren’t The Same Thing
Study’s show our brains approach reading on digital devices differently from reading physical books. Are we losing something because of our bi-literate brains?

Writer’s Toolkit: Old Maps Online
My post from Wednesday highlights a handy resource for your research.

Art:

Sergey Kolesov
Digging this work. Amazing colors, incredible lights, and a loose fresh style. (Thanks to Bryan for sharing it with me.)

Byronic Series By Boris Pelcer
I am a sucker for limited palettes, so when I saw this work by Boris Pelcer it wasn’t hard for me to fall in love.

Random:

Amazing Map Shows Every Tree In The United States
This tree density map shows the location of forests throughout America. See the larger version here.

Famous Paintings Of Jacob Wrestling With The Angel, Ranked By How Much Their Actions Resemble Slow-Dancing
I love the internet. (Thanks to Gus for sharing this.)

5 Little-Known Pirate Stories
It’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day today. In celebration Neatorama has compiled a list of interesting and a bit strange pirate facts.

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Mound
A strange mound in Oklahoma hides a gateway to a subterranean civilization. Fun fact: this is the story from which the title Red Litten World was taken.

Gif of the Week:

Screamin'