So, you’ve started your planning for your fantasy world. Maybe you have an idea of the plot line and the location it will mainly take place. Or maybe you have a larger idea for the world, but you haven’t figured out the details yet. Either way, mapping out your world gives you a good way to keep track of the various locations on your world and where the story takes place. In this post, we’ll go over the first part of the newest section of the blog. Mapping on a global and local scale will be the introduction to world-building because it offers a good place to start. Of course, you can start anywhere, really, but if you start by establishing your terrains and main cities, you have a framework for working with the rest of your world-building. So, let’s jump right in.
Mapping on a Global Scale
First off, why map on a global scale? Well, if you have a novel that takes place in quite a few locations or a series that will be taking place in multiple places, global mapping helps. It’s a good way to determine how much space will be between the locations you’re working with, and that affects travel for characters. Not only that, having a global map allows you to mark out main locations for readers. Think about the maps you’ve seen of worlds in fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings or Eragon. Their maps give a larger view of the world where things take place, allowing the readers to orient themselves. It’s also neat for a reader to be able to see the locations of the areas where your story takes place.
On a more practical level for writers, why map on a global scale? Mapping on a global scale sets out the terrain your characters will deal with. If your country is located near the poles of a planet similar in structure to Earth, you’ll have a civilization that’s much different than one located near the equator simply because the terrain and climate is much different. Laying everything out on a global map and marking out the terrain and climate helps you in later stages of world-building as you develop civilizations and cultures.
In later posts, we’ll look at some more technical aspects that will help you to determine what kinds of climates and terrains might be found in different places, assuming a solar system and planet similar to ours. Those discussions are a bit beyond the scope of this post, which is only to help you understand how mapping affects your novel and the different areas of world-building.
Mapping on a Local Scale
Mapping on a local scale could be anything from mapping out a city to mapping out an entire region. Either way, this has more obvious uses for most writers. Having a map of the city or region where your novel takes place will help you to write descriptions and locations more vividly. It also keeps you consistent as you write, particularly if you’ve drawn maps of a city specifically. If you forget where something is located or need to know which side of the city someone’s headed for, you have it all right there. Can’t remember the name of a sector of the city? Not a problem. It’s on your map. The map you use for the city will likely be much more detailed than the one you choose to provide to readers because you’ll use it to help you remember little details as needed for the story.
Local scale won’t include things like climate or terrain since it isn’t high level like a global scale map. Instead, you’ll include more specific things such as local bodies of water, significant landmarks, and names of places. If the map is of a city, you might not have significant landmarks or bodies of water, but you might label the divisions of the city or outlying towns that are relevant to the story you’re telling. This makes local maps as important to the world-building and writing process as the global one.
With that introduction to map making and world-building, that’s today’s post. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll cover more detailed information about mapping on the global scale and about considerations for mapping on a local scale. After we’ve covered those, we’ll go into some other areas of world-building that rely on some of the information developed in the mapping stage. Until then, happy writing, everyone!