Monday, June 11, 2012

Fantasy Chat: Worldbuilding Series: The World and Maps

 

Worldbuilding Series: The World and Maps

Today we're going to talk about creating the world and maps in a fantasy series. Of course, this will work with all types of fiction writing.

So you have an idea for a novel. Characters and plot start coming at you, but where will these characters live?

Building the world can be an arduous task. There are so many things to think of. What is the climate like? How is the terrain? Is it a large world? As small as a house? Is there water nearby? Etc. The list goes on and on.

When I had the idea for The Phoenix Prophetess, I knew I wanted to place it in a secondary world similar to our own but not. As a Classics major, I knew I wanted Amora to be like ancient Rome. Even the name "Amora" backwards becomes "a roma" or "to Rome." So I began drawing a map to get the outline of not only the city but the entire Amoran Kingdom.

Please pardon my lack of drawing skills. I tried.
Although I wanted Amora to be modeled after ancient Rome, I didn't want my world to look like Italy. When I created my map, I also tried to think like a map maker living in the Kingdom of Amora.

When I want a particular climate or landscape for a novel, then I do some research. Need a desert? Look at the Sahara, the Gobi, or even Death Valley? Our own world has a lot of information we need to create new ones.

Naming places can be the tricky part. I used my language skills to create quite a few places in The Phoenix Prophetess. Find ways to change up a name. For example, the Ocean of Luquis comes from Liquid and Aqua. Sometimes a place name can crop up from a history of the place, but we'll discuss those things later in this Worldbuilding series.

Fantasy worlds don't need maps, but I'm a visual person. When I read Lord of the Rings, I often looked at the map to see where they were at in relation to where they had been. If you build a complex world, a map can really help out a reader. It doesn't have to be elaborate. A quick sketch can help.

The best thing about building the world is you don't have to know it before you write. A lot of place names, places, etc. came while I was writing. Some happen in edits. As a writer, you will also know more about the world than any reader will, but remember: not everything needs to go into the novel. So what if I know the true name of the Great Beyond in The Phoenix Prophetess. An Amoran calls it the Great Beyond. I don't need to tell a reader its true name. Same goes with all details about your world.

Do you have any questions? Have you created a secondary world before? Have you ever drawn a map for it?

Next month's Fantasy Chat: Worldbuilding: Populating the World.

24 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've not drawn a map, although I can visualize the locations. Creating names is fun. I usually do that at the end, but in my current manuscript I'm making them up as I write.

Larry Kollar said...

I've done everything *but* draw a map for Termag, and I should do that soon. I've set up a wiki on my laptop to start keeping track of history, various regions, idioms, gestures, and the like. (Seeing as I'm writing stories in three different ages of the world, it's getting harder to keep track of everything in my head!)

Francene Stanley said...

You've put this so well. Yes, my writing partner and I created a new land when we wrote our post-apocalyptic story. And it needed a map. However, I noticed that although the ebook shows it, the reader can't easily flick back on Kindle. Only readers of the paper copy have that option.

Esther Spurrill-Jones said...

I've created three worlds where I drew a map for the world. I also created languages for two of them. Yes, I'm a nerd. ;)

Callie Leuck said...

This seems perfectly sensible to me. I'm a map person too. I usually come up with the characters first, write a few scenes, and then I can go no further until I have a map. Mine usually look pretty much like yours in terms of line drawing and art style. I really just can't do anything else until I know the layout of the land, or the city (depending on the story).

Angeline Trevena said...

I write fantasy and always have to create a map for my world. Also, like you, when I read fantasy I'm always checking back to the map inside the cover.

I make complex and intricate maps in Photoshop, always adding to it with more details as I write my way through the story. I spend just about as much time map making as I do actually writing!

Allison said...

I find drawing maps helps me to visualize it better, but I'm awful at drawing them!

Allison (Geek Banter)

Jamie Gibbs said...

I love mapmaking when I create my worlds. One thing I really want to do is to create a city map so I know the ins and outs of every street and alley to be able to better tell the story. Cartography and worldbuilding make good bed fellows :)

Clare said...

I had a lot of fun with the world building in my 2010 NaNo novel Destiny's Road. I spent way longer than probably necessary designing a map on Photoshop.

I'm with you, when I'm reading, I like to track a character's progress on a map of the area. I also quite like collecting fictional/ fantasy maps from video games. One day I need to frame them all.

I think knowing details of your world is important, because a person's surroundings greatly affect how a person behaves. But you're right, sometimes a reader doesn't need to know all the details you know. It would be great to release an encyclopaedia with that information in though.

Christine Rains said...

I love drawing maps for my fantasy worlds! The ones I have look like the one you did there. :) Lots of stuff comes up naturally through my writing, but it's good to have a geological reference. Making up names is a lot of fun too!

Madeline Jane said...

I love world building! I especially love knowing more than the reader. It makes me seem like the supreme dictator queen of an imaginary world. I'll proudly take the title. ;) Great advice!

Carol Kilgore said...

It's a good thing I don't write fantasy. I have a hard enough time keeping things in the correct place as is, and they're set in familiar location - LOL. But it looks like fun :)

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

What a wonderful map! You drew the individual trees and the highways. Just staring at it makes me think...what lies in the Great Beyond? What's in that huge forest?

The Golden Eagle said...

I love your map!

No, I've never drawn a map--though I think it would be fun to do so for a Fantasy world or other setting where the characters do some traveling.

Tara Tyler said...

i love maps! i make them for every story, maps or floorplans or room layouts! i am visual too, plus it makes the scene easier to describe =)

yours is wonderful! i like to see what the author planned out! maps are awesome!

stu said...

While there's nothing inherently wrong with worldbuilding or even map drawing, I think that there is a potential danger there too. That comes when building the world becomes a separate endeavour from the rest of the novel, rather than the world being an expression of its themes, ideas and conflicts. Sometimes, the urge to draw a map can leave us with a story and a world, but the two not necessarily linked.

Heather Murphy said...

These are great tips! My current story takes place in a mixture of a place I have been and a place I am going. My vacation/research takes place in a month.

Alleged Author said...

I love that you made such a wonderful map. Reminds me of Tolkien!

Lynda R Young said...

I always check out the maps as well. I love them. I'm not very good at drawing them, though. I tried once and was told I made some geographical impossibilities. Oops.

Nissa Annakindt said...

This is a very useful post, thanks for it.

My current WIP is a zombie apocalypse set the near future in Arizona, but there are still world-building tasks to such as creating fictional towns and adding useful things to existing ones, plus changing the world-of-today into just the right near-future culture.

I'm not good at map making since I can't draw, but for one fantasy world I kind of mentally superimpose the world on a map of North America and make modifications.

Nicole said...

Wonderful post! I'm a sucker for all things world-building. I do maps all the time, with various layers for different aspects of the world (commerce, weather, etc.) It's so fun!

M Pax said...

I've drawn solar systems. :) I love world-building. I tend to build a lot of my worlds on places I've lived.

Wendy Lu said...

Are you kidding, your drawing is so cool! And you are so right about the rule, "not everything needs to go into the novel." A lot of planning and outlining consists of getting to know the world, the characters and the works - just to give yourself a better idea of what you are creating.

I have actually drawn maps of my characters' homes, complete with the blueprint rooms and features. That was a while ago though. But it was really fun :)

~Wendy Lu

The Red Angel Blog

sjp said...

This is what stumped me and became an obstacle for my WIP, I felt a need to make the perfect map otherwise nothing would make sense, but just couldnt get it. Maybe Il try later :)