Charting new territory… literally

Who loves maps here?

Who loves to soak in the location in which a story takes place? Read over the locales and cities and countries?

I do.

I love fantasy maps. I think they’re not only beautiful and fun, but an invaluable tool for both writers and readers. For readers they help orient you in this new and unfamiliar world. For authors, they ensure your tale is consistent, cohesive, and makes sense. For me, I drew several maps when planning Seregn, to get a feel for the layout of cities, palaces, and countries. Also, to make sure I was giving realistic times and distances for my characters’ travels.

But I realised recently I didn’t have a final, complete, ‘locked-in’ map for the main country in which my story takes place. Oh I had rough sketches mapping out the geography, distances, and landmarks, but not the kind of map I could place in the front of a book and call a finished product.

So that has been part of my quest this weekend. It’s been both fun and challenging. Fun because I get to be creative, challenging because I need to learn to draw a map well, while also figuring out more detail to add in.

I was *quite pleased* when I had my first draft of the final map locked in yesterday!

You see, while I know roughly the ‘big-picture’ of my world, what countries are where, some of the history and such, I haven’t filled in a lot of detail, except for exactly where my story takes place. Why? Because, while it would be fun to know everything there is to know about this world, I don’t yet. There could be plenty of other tales set here that I haven’t fully crystallised in my mind, and might not for some time.

I believe setting – especially in fantasy – should be deliberately constructed to serve the plot, the theme, the characters… and I don’t want to be locked into a strict geography that could constrict some of that narrative freedom for stories I haven’t even told.

Overall it’s really not a worry, my map will really be focussed on the story of Seregn anyway, and I know enough of that area to fill in some detail and come up with more interesting features. But it was a new moment to realise I need to come up with this sort of detail – walking the fine line of creating enough to make the map realistic and interesting, but not too much that it didn’t make sense geographically or would impact future story-telling.

It’s been fun! And I’m fairly confident I’ve got it pretty well mapped out, and very soon will be able to start drawing the final version. I can’t wait to share the completed map with all of you!

Who else here loves maps – fantastical or otherwise? Or even world-building in general?

What is your approach to building a world? Or, what is your favourite fantasy world and why?

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