Last post I talked about world-building in general, and I got to thinking of one part of world-building in fantasy that I love. In high fantasy, it’s common to find a map in the front of the book to use as a reference for when you inevitably get lost in the world. Many writers ask whether a map is necessary for their story, to which I say maybe not, but they sure are cool, so why not?
I know, infallible expert writing advice. Also, having someone with actual map-making skills might be better to go with when actually publishing the book. But I’ve found that having a rough outline map has really helped me keep track of things when I’m drafting. So today, I’m going to show you all how I make maps.
I came across this method on Pinterest, of all places, though sadly I have lost the original post to the sea of the internet 😦 . I’ve used it, and I can say that it is pure genius. I’d never even thought about how one would go about making a map, but when I started my first high fantasy novel, I quickly realized how important it is to know your bearings in your world. And having a visual representation is so helpful. There are, of course, other methods for making a map, but this one is far easier in my opinion, as well as being more hands-on. It’s like an arts-and-crafts project, in a way 😄. It’s also a great way to make sure that your map doesn’t look like an existing country, which isn’t terrible but I wouldn’t want all of my readers saying, “Hey, you know your map looks just like ____ .”
For this you’ll need:
- A sheet of paper
- A pencil
- Some pens or markers
- Some dry rice (or any small objects, like dry pasta beans, cereal, or beads. Whatever you have around the house).
- Some slightly larger little objects (like buttons or pebbles, or even some dice).
1. Take your piece of paper and make sure it’s on a flat surface. Then you’re going to lay the rice down on the paper into whatever shape you want.
2. Once it’s the way you want it, take your pencil and trace around the shape. If there are little pieces of rice floating off, you can trace those too, and those will be islands.
3. Remove the rice, and there you have your continent. You can alter the shape of the land masses and add/remove islands as you see fit here. Then you can make mountain ranges and bodies of water. I used buttons for the mountains so that I could move them around without having to worry about erasing a bunch of pencil lines.
4. When you think it’s good, go over the whole thing in pen and/or marker (I used thicker lines for the mountains just so they’d stand out more in the picture, and I also like to use blue for bodies of water).
A few things to keep in mind with this step:
- Things like mountains and rivers make excellent natural borders.
- Rivers generally flow southwards, and they have to have a source. (Like a larger body of water, or the mountains)
5. Now comes the fun part – naming stuff. This is where you can mark nation boundaries, name kingdoms, and experiment with what kinds of peoples and societies you want in your world. I went a little crazy with this part. You can add as much or as little detail as you want. But maybe you want to use more creative labels and names than I did here. XD
If you haven’t done a whole lot of world-building on your own yet, this is where you can pull a lot of ideas. It wasn’t until filling this out that I got the idea of a world where there are two opposing empires, each trying to conquer the other. I imagine that in this world, that little land mass in the south east would be the main area for a war, where there used to be a kingdom, but now the two empires are constantly trying to take the whole place over.
(Look at that creative land name. Also, I tried so hard to find a place to put pirates, assassins, and the rebellion.)
Now when you’re writing and you need to reference where things are, you can just look on your handy-dandy map! And it’s completely unique! Obviously, I am not a master cartographer, and I definitely don’t even know if all the mountains and rivers and stuff are exactly geographically correct. But it’s been so helpful to me in writing to have a rough reference.
As always, have a lovely day and I’ll see you again soon. 🙂