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World Map

Discussion in 'Writing Resources' started by marcmizz, May 7, 2021.

  1. marcmizz

    marcmizz Acolyte

    Hi all, I was just wondering how many of you kick off the world-building process by drawing a map (if your book has one, that is). I'm almost finished with having my first novel proofread, and before I had written a single sentence (back in 2017!), I created a world map. I find that the rest of the world falls into place much easier once you have something to look at. It also helped me with the story, particularly scenes of travel and when referring to kingdoms, towns, and other landmarks.

    Anyway, for those of you who plan to create a map but haven't done so yet, or those that are finding it challenging, have a look at this tutorial: How to Make a Fantasy Map in Photoshop

    All you need is a very basic knowledge of Photoshop.

    Cheers and happy writing!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2021
    CupofJoe likes this.
  2. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Inkling

    Guess I'll be the first to comment then... :)

    I don't draw a map first, I write first and then draw a map if I need to. I have now drawn maps for the setting I created, but I did that to help me keep my short stories and novels consistent with each other in terms of where things happened and how the characters moved between the places for each scene.

    I think my antipathy to creating maps and huge settings before writing anything stems from some of the sub-Tolkien derivative fantasy stories I read during the 1970s and early 1980s. Some of these settings were wonderfully detailed, but the stories themselves were cliched and uninspiring. It was as though the setting was the be all and end all, and the plot/story just an afterthought. So when I started writing I focussed on the story to be told and then added background details as needed to give the stories depth.
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I'm world builder at heart so I make a LOT of maps and diagrams, of all sizes and scales. Some may even be related to story ideas. I once drew out the contents of a larder to make sure my MC could find and reach for candles on a dark night...
    But I always start with pencil and paper. I find it so much faster and easier to rough out my ideas on paper. There I can move rivers or forests, even entire nations with a few movements of pencil and rubber.
    Personally I like maps that look hand drawn, so I am not really a fan of the map in the example, but I liked the article. The instructions are clear and will get you a long way down the road.
    When [but more realistically - If ] I need a map for a story I'm about to publish then I will work with an illustrator. I am in the enviable position of having friends that are artists and might just do me a favour for a few bottles of wine... Their worst attempts will be better than my best efforts.
    Vicki27 likes this.
  4. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

    In Ye Olden Days I used my school notebooks or Photoshop, but now I use Inkarnate because it makes everything look so nice and cohesive, much better than I ever could. Also it's a lot more accessible (both tech-wise and money-wise) than Photoshop. it also has the ability to randomly generate the basic shapes of a map which I really enjoy, too.

    One of the things I'm really bad at is coming up with names for people/places/things, so my maps will have a lot of dots/symbols but no labels, but they're mostly for my reference. I make a map if the story is big enough (i.e. a novel, not a short story) and I make it during the planning phase when I'm fleshing things out. For my current project, my main character is very far from home, so I'm thinking of his backstory as I pick a part of the map to put his origin. There's a lot of water in the way, his family is big and powerful, what if they ran a big trading business? What if they specialized in the special materials that are the basis of the "magic" system? Then it would make sense why he knows so much about them. My brain flows from one idea/concept to the other pretty easily so I'm taking advantage of that as I'm making the map. It's as much of a brainstorming session as it is a geography-designing session.

    My finished manuscript, I ended up making 4 maps: (most of) the world, the kingdom itself, the layout of the army base and the layout of the royal palace. The latter 2 are just for me, really, to put things in specific locations for consistency's sake (royal guards are bunked on the western side etc) or so I don't forget that things exist haha. A lot of my world map has unnamed countries, but I put down textures/colors for what biomes are there and I have a rough idea of what species live there, but since the story is so focused on one specific kingdom that stuff doesn't really matter. I like leaving myself opportunities for future ideas/projects, so there's enough to have a jumping off point.
    Vicki27 likes this.
  5. MrNybble

    MrNybble Sage

    I tried to enhance my worldbuilding by making a map. With my skill it looks like somebody sneezed ink on paper. Still gives me the rough idea of where things are. One thing about bringing your story to visual life is that you must have a story to support the art. Without the story, the art has no meaning,
    Vicki27 likes this.
  6. marcmizz

    marcmizz Acolyte

    Never heard of Inkarnate, but I'll make sure to look it up. What is its learning curve, when compared to Photoshop for example?

    Regarding map/layout-sketching, we're in the same boat — I tend to draw up lots of scene environments, be it a castle, a small village, a town, or an underground complex of caves and grottos! It makes the writing easier, and is a great way to avoid scene inconsistencies!
  7. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I’ll be honest: I really dislike how all fantasy maps just kind of default to that arial view illustrated look. After a while, they all look the same and have no real personality.

    I really wish there were more tutorials on how to easily make topographic maps or clear/readable road maps and things like that. Alternatively, some advice on how to make more stylized maps would be cool too.
    Or even just some advice on how to make land masses that are aesthetically pleasing shapes. In fact, the best advice I ever got for mapmaking was in a character design tutorial that explained how to apply the golden ratio to designs to create good-looking complex shapes. Instead, every mapmaking tutorial is like “start with a ink blot and throw a mountain range on top - draw every mountain individually”.

    Anyways, the only useful map I made for my current book is a subway map. I couldn’t find a tutorial for that. I ended-up having to study a lot of metro maps and then figure-out how to recreate them in photoshop.
    I also made a globe on blender but that hasn’t been all that useful for writing.
    Last edited: May 13, 2021
  8. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

    If you know photoshop then you can figure out the tools pretty much immediately. It's got layers, opacity, and everything is geared towards map making (while photoshop can be used for so many things, it's difficult sometimes to find the thing you want without googling it).
    marcmizz likes this.
  9. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Maester

    When I first began world-building the Internet didn't exist. Any maps I drew were by hand. My usual practice was to draw the outline of a real place then, after working out how many millimetres there were in a kilometre by using the source map, I would draw up a grid across the outline map. On a separate piece of paper I would draw a series of grids that were larger or smaller than the grids I had on the other map and draw the map grid by grid. Then I would add in all the features that I would expect on a map. Of course I was only eight or nine when I first did that. It would usually take me a day or so to do it, depending on the size and detail of the map.

    These days I just draw the coastline, add lines to represent roads and note the location of key buildings. I would note what types of neighbourhoods are in a particular area and the dwellings likely to be there. For example "Mage quarters. Mostly small cottages. Approx. p. 2000. Primary function: housing for unranked mages work. nearby factory."

    On a map where cities would be represented by blocks and other built up areas by circles I'd note a few points about it like: Tieko. p. 1500. Farmers market. Racecourse. Rly Stn." Another map would outline what the main character & others did in a particular place that is mentioned in the story. As my characters use a variety of transport modes I need to also keep track of distances between places and how far they could realistically travel from place to place using those modes.
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I love maps, but I can't draw worth a pile of rotting beans. So I don't. I dodge.

    My world is an alternate Earth, so I have all the maps ready-made. Yay me! Except ....

    I change names around, using antiquated versions of names, so I can't just grab an existing map. Also, danged if I can find any maps of Europe that shows where elves live. No trace of the Orc Imperium, the Five Troll Kingdoms, or the location of the dwarf cantons. IOW, I find I still have to spend a good deal of time with maps and my imagination.

    I do tend to grapple with maps only in the context of a specific story, though. I've never tried to map out existing dwarf cantons, for example. I'd rather let story decisions drive the mapping rather than the other way round.
  11. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    used graph paper and colored pencils for maps in the old days. did a *lot* of those.

    anymore, story first, map second. mostly use MS Paint for maps. one of many backburner projects is updating those charts, which were 'just good enough' for tale telling.
    Vicki27 likes this.
  12. Gracieyorin

    Gracieyorin Acolyte

    I had a map in my head of a specific part of the fictional kingdom in my story. Should have sketched it out, because now it's not quite as clear in my mind as it was months ago. I'll have to check out the tutorial you've linked... maybe it'll come back to me! Thanks for sharing.
  13. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

    I need some sort of map from the start of I'll get lost. Details can be filled in later, to be sure, but I need something tangible to look at. That's not just world or regional maps, it's also city streets and house plans. I do those for my mainstream novels too. I want to know how many blocks my character is going to walk to get to the beach, on which floor of department store he'll buy his new gun, where his road runs over the mountains.
    Vicki27 likes this.
  14. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

    I find a map helps with world building. I need to look at compass referenced all the time and I tend to get lost if I don't have a visual aid. On saying that, all my maps, I've drawn out myself (very roughly I might add) and are on scraps of paper that I riffle through when I need to work out distances and lengths of time travelling. I would love to have an easy to use map building tool that does it all. So thanks marcmizz will try out this tutorial. And I will have a look at Inkarnate as well so thanks for the heads up Chasejxyz.
  15. S J Lee

    S J Lee Inkling

    to me, story first, maps second...BUT the story shapes the map - EG, a character must cross a desert and neither side knows about the other...so map must have no "short cuts"

    As a DnD GM, you learn - mountains FIRST, then rivers flow from mountains. Put in forests in sensible places, and the heavily populated places tend to have lots of fresh water, some wide plains, and few forests left, perhaps ...

    I use inkarnate - free, nice, easy - BUT has no "undo" so get it right in one go and take a screenshot.

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