Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Creating a Map for a New Storyworld

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 has a podcast/vlog at www.StoryworldFirst.com. You can also find Jill on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. Tagboth (Tag for short) is a goldhorn dragon from Belfaylinn, a hidden fantasy realm on the western end of the Sargasso Sea. Jill is working on the first book of this tale for this year's Grow an Author series.

I'm now at the point where I would start drawing a map for my storyworld. I did that years ago for the Belfaylinn story. Here it is.



Click here to see a larger version.

I've spent a lot of time looking at this map over the past few weeks. It's fun. I like it. But I'm not sure it fits the feel of my story, which is YA fantasy. This map looks to be for a younger age, like a children's chapter book or a middle grade book. So I'm toying around with the idea of re-drawing it. We'll see. What do you think?

Along with creating a map, I usually spend a lot of time world building the culture of each country, kingdom, or realm on the map. For the Belfaylinn stories, I have three kingdoms. The aerial fairies live in Tarafoyle, up on the top of the highest mountain. The grounders live in Glasderry, in the thickest forest in all of Belfaylinn. And the merrows live among the islands and rocks of the Glassloch Sea in the kingdom of Kenmare.

I spent a lot of time carefully naming the places on this map. I was trying to come up with quaint titles, and I'm happy with the way all of that turned out with places like Cloudbright, Petal Fog, Tarrelton, Ballinloch, and Novahorn.

I've spent a lot of time in my research and world lately, and I'm specifically trying to create unique culture for the fairy people as a whole and for each of the three races. Those are my biggest concerns for my storyworld and I think the map I have now shows the differences in each environment quite well.

I've written several thorough posts on the topic of creating a map for your storyworld, so I won't go over all of that again. If you need help creating the map itself, check out these posts: 


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

A map a snapshot of your world, and you want that to be a good one. You want it to grab the reader's eye and keep them there, exploring. Here is a short list of questions to ask yourself or tasks to do before or while you are map-making.

1. What is the purpose of this map?
2. What do you want to show? (An entire world? One city? Something else?)
3. List some interesting places or landmarks you can add to your map.
4. Make a list of places mentioned in your story and make sure to put them all on your map.
5. Don't put very many other places on your map--places that your characters won't go. Such places will only clog up your map and make your reader wonder when the characters will go there. And then they never will.

Anyone map-making? Share a link to your map in the comments. And if you have map questions, ask away!

15 comments:

  1. I love to draw maps. They tend to change way too much for my taste, so I don't throw as much weight on them as maybe I should, but I still adore making them. <3 Yours looks super cool. I love it!

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    1. Thanks! Mind do tend to change a lot, especially in the beginning.

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  2. I have a rough map for my land (meaning I can't draw well, but it works for its purpose), which is super helpful when I'm working on deciding how long it will take my characters to travel across it. It's helped with my world building as well, especially with the different obstacles my characters will face. Nature provides some interesting conflict in stories. Often rather unpredictable conflict, too, which is very fun.

    I'll have to go reread your posts on drawing maps. I need to work on my skills a great deal.

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    1. Maps are great for all of that, Sarah. So clever of you to use them that way.

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  3. I always draw maps for my fantasy stories! I've got a new idea that I'm planning on writing this year (holding off on starting till I finish revising last years NaNoWriMo story). I've got a rough map drawn (that my baby promptly tried to chew up and tear to pieces) but I will need to draw a better one once I get the story rolling. I have one map that shows the whole kingdom, and one that shows the city where my MC lives.

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    1. Oh no! Baby needs teething ring, fast! At least it was only a rough one. :-)

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  4. I love drawing maps, even though my map-making skills are particularly horrendous. If nothing else, they're fun, and they help me out.

    I'll have to check out those map-making posts and get to work on a couple maps for my current WIP, I keep needing to go back to remember where things are in relation to all the other things, haha.

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  5. There was one story I came across where the map was actually an integral part of the plot. I thought that was kind of cool.

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    1. That does sound cool. Do you remember what story?

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    2. This is going to sound so nerdy, but it was an anime named Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. The whole point of the map in the story was that the country was set up to form a giant magic circle so the villians could get ultimate power.

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  6. This is absolutely not what I needed...I've been avoiding making a map for so long, and this isn't helping me!

    *attempts to crawl under keyboard and hide in shame*

    I literally have a vague "map" in my head. When a character starts traveling, I just squint into the distance, mouth out "North, South, East, West" while pointing in general directions, and then see which direction said character will be traveling to get to their destination. And then I just know that Ristor is at the top, Raybir is below, and the Rochen lands are to the top left.

    But my drawing skills are so bad, I've been putting off a map for so long.

    Guess I know what I should put to the top of my to-do list...

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    1. Ha! That is funny. I say, "Hey, whatever works for you, do it!" But you don't need to make a pretty map. Just scratch out notes to your self. A circle here. A square there. An "X" to mark the spot, etc. That way, in case you or your characters forget the directions, you'll have jotted them down. ;-)

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    2. Haha! I love that description of your method, Julian. I have drawn out my pair of islands but am keeping my local map in my head for now, as well. Directions are the biggest things I keep in mind, especially since my characters are at war, and maneuvers depend on geographic relationships among locations. My excuse for not having drawn one yet is because my draft will soon take me into the eastern wilderness areas, which I will adapt to plot purposes as I write.
      Best of luck with your procrastination, Julian!

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  7. I really need to make a map of my WORLD at least. Not country, land or just one place, but the BASIC overview of more than one continent. *Ambitious teen writer*
    The map in this post is SUPER adorable!!!

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