Fantasy Map Madness

In a recent misguided attempt to break through some pretty persistent writing block, I cajoled my friends into creating a macaroni map with me of my world.

A little recap of my writing process: NEVER LOOK BACK.

Modern Family - Never look back
Gloria from Modern Family expressing my sentiment to the fullest.

This has made it very challenging to create a logical path of travel for my writing. I can fathom and have changed sceneries based upon a weird mindscape of possible terrain changes. My Socrates of writing, Cheri, said that we should try a popular method of creating a map for my world to try to gain a better understanding of the scenery I would be writing.

Now, as a voracious fantasy reader, I fail in one huge aspect: I never care about the maps and the lists of names that are in the beginning. I know, I know, people pour over these things and take constant mental notes about where characters are and where they travel to, but it just isn’t something that I like to focus on when reading. I’m there for the journey and if the characters know where they are, or if they don’t, it makes no difference to me.

gandalf - lost
Gandalf in Lord of the Rings being lost and making his followers lost which is where I am in my world…

Anyway, back to the present. We had just read the world-building post by Malinda Lo (see previous post here) and realized this may have been a huge oversight. My writing guru decided it was time to wade through tons of backlog on tumblr to find that macaroni post.

It seemed simple enough:

Step 1: Get big paper

Step 2: Pour on macaroni

Step 3: Trace macaroni

Step 4: Make extra squiggly

Step 5: Outline a now amazing map

macaroni Collage
The awesome examples given by zeradeth on imgur. Cool looking map deceptively difficult to obtain.

It went bad after step two.

The problems started when I stared at this large mass of macaroni and realized that I had no idea how my governing systems could apply over an entire continent. I have four distinct governing systems that I wanted played out, but staring at that landmass halted me. Yes, scenery changes, but people mingle. Where are state lines draw? Why wouldn’t there be intermingling of ideas with established roads? (There probably would be. I still have to figure this part out as well.)

So I tried to make the macaroni thinner, sort of forcing my world into a physical representation of the journey my protag goes on. In this scenario, the land sort of came out looking like Japan and I forced the countries into a layered formation, which obviously was unrealistic.

In the end, my comrades were kind enough to insist that it form a land mass and it sort of ended up looking like this:

Map of Cya Night
WIP of my world tentatively dubbed ‘Cya Night’ which is a title that has been told to me will never be accepted by my beta readers.

(I also really suck at coming up with names hence the huge swaths of unclaimed territory which I will presumably have stuff eventually.)

As I look at my map, I’m forced to face the physical realities that come with the realization that creating a world means facing the whole thing. From the craggy harbors to the mountain ranges, there needs to be thought put into every aspect.

I always thought one of the failings of the Hunger Games series was that as the world got wider — expanding beyond the individual districts —  things started to fall apart. And yet Suzanne Collins’s fans were able to create a realistic map of the districts even mapping out what they’d be able to provide for Panem as a whole. While the storyline didn’t do justice to the world, everything about the placement made perfect sense. That is admirable and something that I never accepted the importance of until this exercise.

map of panem
Fan map of Panem by tumblr user asongofwaterearthfireandair.

All in all, this was a crazy wake-up call. I know revisions are going to be a beast and I’ve been pouring over every kind of map I can get my hands on (who knew that looking at the topography had huge importance on river flows and where there is massive erosion? I guess we all know that… but it’s different when you’re making a map). I think overall it won’t change my governing systems, but I now have to think globally instead of just regionally. This is something I definitely will try to pay attention in the future. So even if I said that I do none of the recommended things from the world building list, it sure made me rethink my journey and though I’m still upholding the NEVER LOOK BACK, I think it has given me a good idea of where to start on my editing in the future.

Do you find that making maps helps you with your writing? Let us know in the comments below!

Also, as a PSA, I have changed my posting days to Mondays and Fridays and Cheri will be posting on Wednesday! Sorry for the mixup and thanks for your patience! We hope you guys stick around.



One thought on “Fantasy Map Madness

  1. I have never used maps but I do make outlines. I guess, that’s a form of mapping. I am the opposite of you in the sense that I plan too much. I’d like to find a way to stop myself from planning too far ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

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