Becomes One Hundred Stories #40: Makes a Concept Map

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Makes a Concept Map

I told the young man I needed a map. I needed a map for my latest book.

The young man said what happened to my girl who had said she would draw one for me.

I told him she was not my girl anymore.

The young man continued preparing his morning meal. He looked deep in thought. We had been roommates in the big city of our homeland long enough for me to know when he was deep in thought and also long enough for him not to be surprised I had changed girls yet again.

I asked the young man if he could draw.

The young man said not a bit.

I said me neither.

The young man said what about my new girl and what about our other roommate.

I said I had already asked.

The young man remained deep in thought while he finished preparing his morning meal. He finished preparing his morning meal, and then he ate it. He ate part of his morning meal and left part of his morning meal for me to eat later after I would wake up around noon. Our other roommate would likely eat it before I had a chance to, though.

The young man was silent when he sat at the table and ate his morning meal opposite me. Opposite where I sat with my early morning writing. I had almost finished editing my next book, and I needed a map to insert in the front to illustrate the world of my book.

The young man finished eating his morning meal and asked me if it had to be a map.

I said what else could it be.

The young man asked if it had to be an illustration, a drawn map.

I said again what else could it be.

The young man said it could be an abstract map.

I had to confess I had no idea what an abstract map was.

The young man said he didn’t know either, but he would guess it would be similar to the abstract art my friends had left after one of my Saturday parties a few weeks before.

I thought for a moment about what exactly an abstract map in the style of my friends’ abstract art would look like. I told the young man that such a map might be interesting and even artistic, but I didn’t see how it would be useful to readers to understand the relative locations of the places I mentioned in my book.

The young man said the words would describe the places.

I asked the young man if he meant the captions to the art.

The young man looked at me like he was confused. Then he looked at me like I was confused. He said not captions but the words. The whole map would be words that readers would read to reconstruct the map at any time while reading.

I then understood what he was talking about.

I told the young man he must be talking about concept art not abstract art. I said there was a big difference.

The young man said so what was abstract art then.

I reminded him of the girl I had been with who had been an abstract artist. We had been to her gallery in the center of the big city of our homeland, and she had brought her art to a Saturday party around the time my other friends had brought their concept art to a Saturday party. I could understand his confusion.

The young man said yes, the concept art was what he meant. He said for such different types of art, they shouldn’t have such similar names.

I couldn’t speak about the names, not having had a hand in creating them nor having any means to change them.

I asked the young man what a concept map would look like.

The young man said it would look like words.

I said yes, but what would the words say.

The young man thought for a moment and then he said imagine he were writing a book that took place in our world. He said on the page before the first chapter he would put a paragraph or two about what our world looked like. Then he paused for a moment, in thought, and said and he would make it interactive so readers could do something to recreate the map no matter where they were in the book. In fact no matter what device they were reading on.

I asked him to give me an example.

The young man said he would tell readers to draw an “X” across the book from the upper-left corner to the bottom-right and from the bottom-left to the upper-right, across both pages.

I said readers could do that on any page.

The young man said the reader didn’t even have to draw it on a page. They could draw it in the air or even just imagine it.

I said that would give some structure to the map, but what about the details.

The young man said our homeland would be roughly a circle around the center of the “X” where the two lines intersect. He said he would tell readers to put a thumb on the center of the “X” and the distance from the center of the “X” to the top of the thumb would be the radius of the circle. Just turn the book in a complete circle, and readers could imagine a complete circle.

I said and what about the land of our enemies to the north, the land of snow and ice.

The young man said roughly all the way across the top, but in the crease of the book, where the two pages meet, it drops down about the width of a thumb, and at the end of that promontory were a bunch of islands.

I said an archipelago.

He looked at me and nodded.

The young man said our allies to the south lived in a land that was roughly a rectangle half as high as it was wide. That rectangle would inscribe the bottom triangle of the “X”. The distance below our homeland’s circle to their rectangle would be about the diameter of our homeland’s circle.

I told him that was not too far from reality.

The young man said it was close enough for the purpose of a concept map in a book.

I said what about the neutral land that lay to the east, in the right side of the “X”. I said it was not a regular shape at all.

The young man said it would depend on which cities or geographical features were important in the book. The port city on the western boundary would be important, then the big, barren desert would extend all the way to the edge of the book.

I told him there was more of our world to the east of the neutral land.

The young man said that would go on the next page.

I asked the young man about the small land mass to the west of our allies to the south.

The young man said it would be the size of our smallest coin in the bottom of the left triangle of the “X”.

I said that was far from a complete picture of our world.

The young man said the map would scale for any new lands or to describe any specific part of the existing map for detail.

I said if I had a clear picture of what the world of my book looked like, I could describe it in detail.

The young man said that’s what he would do anyway, considering that he could not draw.

I asked him if he would do it for me.

The young man rose from the table and prepared to go to work. Again he was deep in thought.

I smiled as he moved across the room. I expected he was creating the concept map for my book at that moment.

But he surprised me when he took a piece of paper from his work bag and he handed it to me.

The young man said he had already made one up when he had read the first draft. He said he had made it up for his own reference, and then he went off to work.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.