Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Maps and World Building

Lately, when I'm not busy with regular life, or revising The Crystal Sword, I've been world-building, and map-making for my next novel, On One Wing.

My amazing, enthusiastic, and highly knowledgeable teen Creative Writers' Club class at the homeschool co-op we attend, has pushed me to re-think my map-making and world building. I really didn't do a very good job of either before I started The Crystal Sword, and I now regret it.

There is a benefit of map-making if you are writing a fantasy novel that is set in a pre-industrial world with old world transportaion abilities. To get anywhere, my characters have to take a boat, a horse, a sea serpent, or a griffin, and the sea serpents aren't friendly. The roads are rough, and the forests can be dense. Weather patterns matter when my characters are slogging along outside trying to get from point A to point B in the story.

I thought I had a pretty good map of my character's country in The Crystal Sword, but it didn't really have enough information on it - like topography, or waterways, or blown up maps of Skycliff (the main city featured in the story). I had a pretty good handle on the underground section of the city where the characters' escape from the onslaught of war, but when they try to return over sea and land, I don't have those maps figured out well enough. It's taken me some time to fix.

So yesterday I mapped out my the area my main characters in One One Wing will be traversing three times, and I'm still not satisfied. I need more of an understanding of the topography, and the weather patterns and how it will affect their journey.

The interesting thing is that even though I don't draw all that well, I enjoy map making in the writing process, or pouring over real world maps to understand key locations for a story.

Have you ever considered making maps in the world building process for your writing?

Even for non-fiction, or fiction set in the "real" world, I think that maps can come in handy. In a book I recently read where the characters stopped in Portland . . . the author didn't know the downtown area that well, and mistakenly thought the biggest and best place for books was the library. He obviously didn't know about Powells. Oops. (BTW more info about Powells can be found at my post Biggest Bookstore in the World, or at the Powells' website )

So, Maps Anyone?


Karen Lange said...

I have not considered this, but I can see where it would come in handy. I may try this with my historical WIP. Thanks Tyrean! :)

Carol Riggs said...

I've made a map before!! For a fantasy novel of mine years ago. For a lot of my other novels, I make a rough "map" of where things are just so I don't make writerly boo-boos in my manuscript.

Angie said...

I didn't draw a map for my novel, since it takes place on Earth, but I did get a big world map to look at and mark up. It helps. And it's fun!

Pam Williams said...

This was very interesting Tyrean! My friend, Dawn is writing a novel that includes another world and she was just talking about this very same thing. I know Jan Karon's Mitford series (Father Tim) had a map of Mitford on the inside of the front cover and it was very helpful to me as a reader to be able to visualize how the diner was from the church and where the barber shop was located. It seems it would be especially helpful in a fantasy world. Thanks for tip!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If my characters ever venture far on land, I'll have to map.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Karen - Glad it might be helpful! Happy Writing!

Carol - I think maps can help unless we have a very firm grasp of the area we are writing about.

Angie - Cool! I agree - it is fun! It seems strange to me now that I disliked geography in school - I think if we could have just played with maps, or learned about them in historical context it would have worked better for me.

Pam - You're welcome! I agree as a reader that it helps to see a map sometimes too.

Alex - Isn't it amazing that we don't need maps when writing sci-fi?
I have a sci-fi novel lurking in one of my closets that has no maps worked out for it, because most of it took place on a space station, or at space ports. I didn't bother with knowing the geography of most of the planets they stopped at, unless they ventured out of the space port, and they only did that once, and of course half the team died - and they weren't even wearing red shirts.

Melissa Sugar said...

This is amazing. I have never created a map, but I have also never created an entire new world. I can see how helpful this would be. You are quite creative

Unknown said...

Great read. I have not yet tried this but maybe i will. I am new follower. :)

Golden Eagle said...

I've actually thought about creating maps/sky charts for a Science Fiction novel I finished early this year, and I might just draw something for a story idea I've been thinking about.

Great post!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Murugi - Thanks! Nice to meet you!

Golden Eagle - I've thought about creating sky charts for Sci-Fi, but never spent the time to do it. Let me know how it works out!