#Second Thoughts: Maps

Maps hold an important place in fiction.  In the case of the Fantasy genre it almost feels obligatory, but there are any number of books in other genres that have been improved by the inclusion of a map, and as many again that might have been an awful lot better with a map in the front, or if the author had referred to one when they were writing a book in a real world setting.  (I can’t now remember the details, but someone who knew the area told me that Dan Brown made a pretty big faux pas in a scene in Angels and Demons because of a mistake in (urban) geography.  Mind you, Dan Brown made some pretty big faux pas in other areas too…).

Terry Pratchett famously once said that Ankh-Morpork could not be mapped – and then someone proved him wrong.  The Discworld maps are a real labour of love and are worth checking out.  In this case, the maps are a nice addition, but it doesn’t matter whether you have them or not.   On the other hand, there are some settings where you really need the map in order to keep a sense of what is going on – Middle Earth is an obvious example.  Although, that said, whilst the map helps the reader to keep track of where everything is going, anyone paying attention will spot some issues (even if we exclude the square range that surrounds Mordor).  I’m not going to go into that in detail, but if you are interested in an analysis then you might want to check out this article.

The map at the top of this post is one that I created for a story that I’m in the middle of.  It’s taken a while, but I’ve finished the first draft of something that was meant to be a quick 5k story and is now a 10k one, which might yet get bigger when I revise it.  So it goes.  Not the real point though.   On Twitter, you can come across all sorts of things.  Chris Marshall and Emma Cox  were having a conversation about Inkarnate, an online map making tool.  Chris and Emma, who are two very talented writers that you should check out, are also incredibly talented artists and used the software to produce maps of their worlds.  I’m not great at drawing.  There was this time in an art class…no, maybe I won’t tell that story.  Anyway, the point is I’ve tried to do a few maps before now, but the results are probably closer to that of Middle Earth.  Inkarnate is pretty easy to get started with though.  (There is a really good tutorial here; I spent a couple of hours on this and there is more I’d like to do to make it better, including following up on some of the tips in comments).

Where am I going with this?  Well. Chris and Emma are meticulous in their world-building; Emma has even gone so far as to create divination system based on rune-stones that she has created specially, so they have a pretty good feel for their worlds.  This is just a way of expressing what they’re doing.  Most of my writing over the last couple of years has been short fiction, or on Earth in a relatively contemporary setting, or non-fiction, so I haven’t really felt the need to create maps.  This has been fun though, and whilst I’ve based it on what I wrote, it’s been interesting to add some features.  Given the nature of the story, I could have made lake and island perfectly circular, but that wouldn’t have been very interesting.  What it has shown up though is some large empty regions.  I know some of what happens in those, I just haven’t put the details in (yet).  Even so…perhaps there should be a wizard’s tower in that bit just there. 

So.  What next?  I can see myself doing a few more of these, and who knows, perhaps they’ll spark something rather than being a reaction to a story already underway.

What about you?  How do you feel about maps?


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