Building a World for a Novel – Part 12
New to this project: Start with Part 1
Part 12: The Map IS the Territory
You have perhaps heard the adage, “The Map is not the Territory”. Here on Earth, in our daily lives, this is true. Well, pretty much true, anyway.
But when it comes to a world you create, the map is indeed the territory. Unless you’ve found a way to build a real planet, that is.
Once you have drawn your maps, and perhaps sketched out landmarks, outstanding features, villages, cities, oceans, mountains, deserts and the like, your world becomes real, to you initially, but to all your readers eventually. The more real it is to you, the more consistent and believable your stories will be.
What kind of maps will you need?
When I began World-Making I would always try to start with a globe. I found this to be very difficult and would like to discourage the effort, especially if accuracy is important to you.
If you have ever studied cartography, you’ll remember that projecting a spherical world on a flat surface is difficult to say the least. I eventually gave up on the idea, and decided to stay with maps that could be represented on a flat sheet without distortion. I figure that if one of my books gets popular enough, I can hire someone to make a globe.
I typically start with a map of the place where the action of my story starts. Seeing the “lay of the land” really sparks the creative juices. Often the starting location is a village or city.
I recommend that your first maps be done by hand, soft pencil on drawing paper. The chances are good that as you develop your story you will discover that the wall around the city needed to have an extra gate, access to fields was missing, or the town hall was in the wrong spot for important gatherings.
Once you’ve worked out the maps to your satisfaction, consider using some of the free map-design tools referenced in Part 6 of this series.
The value of map making for your new world cannot be exaggerated. Seeing your world, holding it in your hand, is a special feeling. Oh, and if you bake your continents, mountains, oceans and all—as suggested elsewhere—being able to run your hands over the hills and valleys brings it all to life.
Continued in Part 13