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Creating the landscape – part two

When I was first developing the maps of Bremmand (see my blog from last week) I needed to consider geography. It isn’t a topic I know a vast amount about (I dropped the subject at school when I was 13) but when it comes to political boundaries, I know a enough to get by.

For example, two nations will often meet at a natural feature – such as a river – and if it changes through conquest, the new borders will often be at a defensible point. In the UK, Hadrian’s Wall (much of which stands along a ridge of high ground) was once the dividing point between the Roman Empire and the Scottish tribes – something many of us are familiar with. Whether it was truly intended to keep the Scots out isn’t certain, but it serves as a clear boundary between two nations. So in Bremmand, the map I first developed before expanding out across the continent, I put rivers in logical locations around the borders.

The consideration of geography led me naturally to consider geology. What else might give me natural borders? As a result, I placed a mountain range in the south-east – which happily has given me some pleasing opportunities for my Hidden Army to frustrate the invaders by making the mountain passes perfect ambush territory. The north west has wide open lands which makes it harder to find a division between kingdoms – so a bit of marshland solved that problem! And, of course, there is always an ocean one can create to create the most obvious of divisions between one land mass and the next. An entire continent was shifted for that reason!

The interior landscape matters too. I knew that I wanted Bremmand to be predominantly covered in dense forest. I love trees and from a plot perspective, it makes it plausible for the Hidden Army to remain hidden and to be successful in such covered land. That presented a few problems however, as I was working out how my army would feed itself. Trees take up a lot of nutrients and water from the soil so growing enough to feed an army would be difficult in that terrain. As a kingdom, Bremmand may well have been able to trade its wood for food but that wouldn’t be so easy once the invaders arrived. So I cleared the middle ground of the kingdom to become farm land to give my freedom fighters access to grain.

Over time I’ve made other adjustments. For the benefit of Balance of Betrayal I placed an island in the course of the main river to use as a site for Sallent’s citadel, for example. Sometimes, however, I’ve had to adjust the plot to fit the landscape. In Bremmand Lives I originally wanted Olwin and his men to be in the west and then, in the editing process, realised the land was too open for them to survive and be effective in such circumstances, so I moved them to Amert which has more suitable terrain.

And that’s how it will doubtless continue. It gets easier of course. I have now been writing in this setting for over ten years, which means I know it well and make fewer mistakes in terms of the geography. It’s fun though. Every now and again I visit somewhere new and see features in the landscape which I’ve not come across before.

And before you know it, Bremmand has a new geographical feature!

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