Wednesday, February 24, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 4: Maps and Floorplans

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Welcome to week four of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays! You guys are doing so well! Keep it up. If you're new to #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, I'm doing a series on how I write a book, one week at a time. And I'm posting my novel over on my author website, one chapter a week. Chapter 2 of THIRST is up now (click here to read it). The #WeWriteBooks series will end in a BIG contest at the end of August. For information on the contest, see #WeWriteBooks Post 1.

Today's Topic: Maps and Floorplans

To recap. Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's mine:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.

Week three was Storyworld. And today we're going to talk about how you can use maps and floorplans to help you discover/learn more about your setting. Just like last week, if you're writing contemporary or historical, don't ignore this topic! There is good stuff to learn this week that can help you.

Keep in mind!

You only need to draw or research things that are important to your story. I didn't sketch or print floorplans for every character's house. Only for those that had key scenes. And if you don't need this kind of help, don't bother. I'm a visual person. If I can see a floorplan or use the house of someone I know as an example in my head, it makes it so much easier for me to describe the setting when it comes time to. But you might be different. So you need to learn what helps you and do that.

Examples of what you can do

It's no secret I am WAY into this stuff. So I'm always creating extras for my stories. If you're a little foggy on what types of maps or floorplans could help you, here are some things I've done. Some I cleaned up well and put in my books. Some I used only for my own reference. And there are others that are so messy I would never show them to you, but they helped me immensely. If I ever traced someone else's artwork to use for inspiration, that always remained for me alone because to print such things in a novel with my name on it would be an infringement of copyright. (The sample castle sketch of Sitna Manor below I partly traced from old drawings of castles, then added in my own details.) But that doesn't mean I can't use such drawings as inspiration as I describe the places in my books. Also, Google is your friend. You can spend hours Googling all types of maps and floorplans to get inspiration. Here is a link to many of the maps and floorplans I've created, though a good sampling is pasted below.

Sample fantasy land map
This one is from By Darkness Hid.

Sample facility floor plan
This one is from Replication.

Sample apartment floorplan
This one is from The New Recruit.

Sample house floor plan
This I used for The New Recruit and all the Mission League books, though I never printed it in a book. This is Spencer's house where he lives with his grandma. I made this one to help me describe his home.

Sample castle sketch
This is Sitna Manor from By Darkness Hid. I wanted to draw this one because medieval fantasy was totally new to me and I wanted to see the whole place Achan lived and worked. It really helped me when I was trying to describe Achan moving around inside and where everything was. And it also helped me with the scene when Achan is pushed into the river and eventually comes in through the moat.

Sample castle floor plan
This I drew in Photoshop for To Darkness Fled and From Darkness Won. This is Granton Castle, where Vrell grew up. This helped me a little when describing people moving through the walls and meeting in the secret room, but truly---this was utter procrastination. It took me a really long time (I made three of the five levels). A pencil sketch would have been all the help I needed on this one, but it was lots of fun to make. *wink*

Sample map for plan of attack
This I put in the book To Darkness Fled. This is the map of the Ice Island prison that Sir Gavin and company are looking at before they go in to rescue an army to help Achan. There's not much to it, but since I felt the description of the prison might be confusing, I wanted to draw it to help readers picture it correctly in their minds during that rescue scene.

Sample solar system map
This is the map of the solar system my son and I created for the RoboTales series. If you're wanting to create interesting space maps, I recommend you Google some to see what others have done.

Archived posts for creating a fantasy or science fiction map:

If you want to draw your own map, I wrote a few posts on the subject. When I'm writing fantasy, I must have a map, whether or not I put it in my book. Having a map helps me see the world and add to it. If you've never done this before, I think you will find these posts really helpful.

Map-Making 101: Drawing The Map
Map-Making 201: Naming Things on Your Map
The Evolution of a Fantasy Map

Great site for house floorplans:

If you want to print out a floor plan for a house, this is a fabulous website. You can choose your house type, number of floors, bedrooms, and bathrooms, and other features. Check it out:

Maps And Floorplans For THIRST

At this time, THIRST doesn't have a map. The story takes place in Arizona (Phoenix and Flagstaff) and Crested Butte, Colorado. I do have the map of The Safe Lands, which will exist in Crested Butte, Colorado some eighty years into the future. And I'm thinking I might need to draw a map or two when my characters reach Crested Butte. But I will do that later, if I need to. For now, I'll show you what I've done, map and floorplan-wise, for THIRST.

City Maps
Since my guys are headed home to Phoenix, Arizona, I needed to know where they lived. I spent a lot of time researching this. I looked at rich/middle class/poor areas of the city, school districts, and churches to find a place where my characters could live and might realistically attend the same church, even if they lived in different neighborhoods and went to different schools. I went onto real estate websites, looking for houses for sale, comparing size and location, until I found the right house for each character.

Here is the map I printed off Google Maps for my own reference. I know the physical address for each house/apartment, though when I looked for pictures of houses, I picked a random one for Zaq's house and pretended it was the one right next door to Logan's, when in reality, it is not. (Sorry about the blurriness. I don't have a scanner at present.)

Pictures of Houses (Inside and Out)
Here are pictures I found of the houses, either from real estate sites or from Google Street View. The first house, the brown one, is Eli's house. The second is Jaylee's apartment complex, and the third and fourth houses are Logan's and Zaq's. I found this process helpful since I'd only been to Phoenix one time ages ago and couldn't remember how things looked. This way I was able to describe houses, yards, and the inside of Riggs's mansion house.

Since there is a longer scene inside Riggs's house, and I haven't been in a house like that, I didn't know how to describe it. Finding this house that was for sale within the area I wanted helped me immensely. Fancy place, eh? I wouldn't mind that walk-in closet or that pool.

Assignment Time

1. Create a list of important places and buildings in your story. Here are some examples of how lists might look for different genres:

-epic fantasy: world map, city map, castle floorplan

-contemporary high school romance: town map, school floorplan, pictures of boy and girl's houses, floorplan of girl's house

-historical: map of town, map of country area, map of grounds of the house that shows important locations (roads, lake, greenhouse, hunting grounds, creek), floorplan of manor house with assignments for each room (character bedrooms, servant rooms, drawing room, kitchen, etc)

2. Make a plan of attack for each. Maybe you want to Google places and print them out. Maybe you want to check out Maybe you want to draw it yourself. Or maybe you need to do a little of all three. Having a plan will help you stay organized.

Post your plans in the comments. If you've drawn a map or floorplan and want to share it, feel free to post a link. And if you're stuck, ask for help!


  1. I actually did this last week along with the assignment then (and yes, maps are so much fun to make)! Another floorplan site that I use a lot is (it's pretty much the same as

    Thanks so much for the post, Mrs. Williamson!

    1. Ooh, thanks for sharing, Linea! Awesome to have more resources!

  2. Hey Jill, Great post, as always! I'll definitely be making some floor plans, and I'm also going to make a board on Pinterest with some pictures. I might need to just print out a map, since my story takes place in real-life-modern-day-Hawaii, though...
    Also, I ended up changing my mind on what I want to write...should I post my new premise?

    1. Oops...just remembered! I saw that you're going to be at this year's Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference. Would that conference be a good one for me to look into? Thanks for your help!

    2. You can post your new premise if you'd like, Taylor. Sounds like you've got a solid plan. And OCW is a wonderful conference. There are a lot of good ones I can recommend. If you want to email me privately, I can give you more specific advice.

    3.'s the new premise. Keep in mind that it's rather rough...I haven't COMPLETELY developed the idea yet. (I just got the idea yesterday morning!!)

      Deeply scarred after losing her mother to cancer and being abandoned by her father, Olive Galloway can do little but sit on her grandmother's porch swing and watch the Hawaiian tides. Eventually, intriguing and optimistic Jazz notices Olive's miserable state and takes it upon herself to bring cheer back into Olive's life. As the two girls grow closer, Olive begins to rediscover the joys of life--but her healing process grinds to a halt when she discovers a horrible secret. Jazz is fighting the same deadly disease that killed Olive's mother--and the cancer is winning.

      As always, all feedback (and constructive criticism) is appreciated!

  3. I have found world maps to be extremely helpful, even if I don't reference them all the time. Just knowing where everything is in relation to one another really helps me keep things consistent.

    1. Yes, consistency. Maps help so much with that.

  4. Fantasy world: geography map of Friel, map of Dark Forest. Also a floor plan of the castle.

    I'm planning on drawing these myself in my sketchbook, because everything's made up. I will probably look at other floor plans of castles on Google, to get an idea of how it's done.

    My story is going well! I've written three chapters already :)

  5. Awesome post!!!!! I've already done a few sketches of towns and houses but I really need to make a more detailed map of a ghost town and a plan of attack.

  6. Yay! I love maps. For me it'll be a map of my world, a map of the Vostol Forest, and a map of the Imperial Castle. I'm not quite so sure about that last one, as I'm not sure how much of my story takes place in the Castle. And my plan of attack would be to draw them out on the computer :).

  7. Real world: Boarding school, Kamri and Erin's dorm, Mason's house, forest.
    Fantasy world: There are actually a lot of different ones, so that'll be interesting to do. xD

  8. I'm planning on sketching my MC's home: a castle made of ice, and maybe a more detailed sketch of the throne room, as an important scene takes place there :D


    1. Very cool. And a castle made of ice? Awesome!

  9. I'm absolutely TERRIBLE at making maps, but I'll probably give it a shot :). I'm going to make a map of the world, and then of a few of the more important buildings/places. We'll see how this works out :).

    1. *applause* Good job for making an effort, Savannah. The map doesn't have to be beautiful. It can be just for you, to help you see your world! :-)

  10. I actually already made a map of the country my high fantasy novel takes place in, and a larger one of the entire continent. Thanks for the idea of doing a series of smaller maps -- I'm going to make a few of the cities featured in my story. I have a super visual imagination so I know exactly what they look like in my mind, but it will help to draw them out as I go back and edit! :)

    1. Good idea, Emilie! I bet that will help during edits.

  11. I love maps, and used to spend hours drawing ones of random places form my imagination just for fun.... and I still draw a lot of maps.

  12. Yay! Maps are my one true love (along with, like, ten other things). they're awesome.

    Right now, I'm making a fantasy map for a different series that I'm writing on my own. but for the #wewritebooks, my map needs to be historical. do you have any tips for finding a google street view for a time in the past or information about an area in a certain time period. my book's set in WWII. Thanks!


    1. I don't know much about that, Katie. I would try googling for maps of the era. WWII should help you. Google the city + year + the word "map" and see what comes up. You can also sometimes Google a famous building and the year and find maps of those, if that helps. But there wouldn't be any Google Street Views for history. You could Google pictures of certain events and look at the background. You'll have to get creative. Any history writers have tips?

    2. You can also look for art of an era (photographs in WWII, paintings earlier).

  13. Ah I actually need to work out some maps and floorplans for my project (which is a webcomic rather than a book).
    Most important would be the city where it's set (which is built around massive trees, which is a real pain to work out how it would work), and then the floorplan for the building where most of the major characters live.

  14. I love having maps to work from for a story, but always have trouble making worldmaps seem realistic. If anyone else is struggling with worldmaps, I'd like to share some things I've learned. I like to find maps of real islands and coastlines on google, then use paint of photoshop to cut and paste different parts into shapes that work for my story. This way I get features I wouldn't think about on my own, but it's still not a real place. Along those same lines, if you're not an artist (I'm not), you can try the map generator on In fact, the site has help for almost any step of writing. I use it almost daily!
    I hope I've helped, and happy map-making :)