Welcome back everyone!
Guess what? We’re going to be talking about maps!
…Now that I think about it, the title may have given that away a little…
So… Why Are We Doing This?
So I’ve mentioned before that I’m not naturally artistic. Some people draw for pleasure and they produce really inspiring work, and I’m very envious of you people! I have at best a really functional style and the last time I had any formal technical training I was fifteen.
So… why set about drawing maps for my books?
Well, for one thing maps are very interesting and beautiful works of art! Even the most prosaic maps are a fun bird’s eye view on the world and especially historical or fantasy maps have some beautiful flourishes! They also tell you a lot about the people who drew those maps and what they thought of the rest of the world, and their place within it. (Note to self: do a post on this…)
But maps can be useful as well as beautiful!
Back in Uncharted Territory, I talked a little about why I think maps-in-books are useful things. Sure, they are fun and cool for readers, who get more of a sense that your world is 3D and that things exist even when the story doesn’t go there.
But maps are absolutely fantastic tools for writers.
The advantage of drawing a map for writers is possibly not immediately obvious, but that just means it’s actually your secret weapon! In terms of world-design and -building, drawing a map of your world literally forces you to confront some of the weaker spots in your ideas, and – despite how much we all hate that at first – that’s always a good thing.
For example, if the country you are telling me about is described as being huge and prosperous and has a lot of allies and trading partners, and yet it only has one major city… Yeah, I have questions and they aren’t going to be fun ones. Alternatively, if the country is a very militarily aggressive one, but it hasn’t got a whole lot of fortifications and there isn’t a close and well-placed network of guard-houses, fortress, and assorted whatnots, that country is similarly going to give rise to some probing concerns.
It’s easy to forget about such details when you’re busy coming up with a fun story and cool characters; and that’s totally understandable because that’s what your audience is there for, after all. (See World-Building and Why It Really Does Matter for ‘The Holy Trinity of Narrative’ to discuss further.)
But if you want to make use of a larger world later then you definitely need to think about and, if you can, set up those elements as early as possible to avoid throwing your readers a googly. There’s nothing worse than being three books into a series and suddenly someone turns around and casually mentions something which is apparently intrinsic to the story’s society yet has never come up before and no one addresses this.
So as I delved more and more into various things I needed to think about for my own novels, I realised that drawing out a few maps was going to be vital in ironing out some weak spots. And as always, I will be sharing anything useful I learned with all of you lovely people.
Now, as always, this will not be a ‘How To Draw Your map’ kind of thing. If you want tips on how to draw mountains or sea-charts and things, then check out Uncharted Territory for my personal recommendations on people who’ve already produced some great guides on drawing maps and different stylistic options you can use. I’ve lent the book I talk about to several other people, and they have also found it to be helpful, so I’m sure you will too.
Nope, as always we’ll be looking at how to make choices in drawing you map; where do you put your island? What inspiration can you pull from? How do you know what to include from the start? What are you even making this map for anyway?
This page is a Masterpost (should that have be capitalised? Not sure…) for all things mapping related, for anyone who would like to come back and keep up to date without having to trek back through the rest of the series.
Next up, we’re going to be taking a close look at other people’s maps to see what we can learn from them, because as always, it’s worth taking a look at what works for other people before setting out to reinvent the wheel!
Prologue – Uncharted Territory – In which I try out drawing for the first time in forever, and recommend things that I found helpful.
Part 2 – Map Effect – Sooo… Why are we drawing this again? Taking a look at Narnia, Westeros, Middle Earth and more!
Part 3 – A Kingdom for the Oak King – Tackling the hard parts first and working with Scotch Mist
Part 4 – No Map is An Island – Sometimes all you can do is keep drawing until you get it right…