I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I will be doing the challenge here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. Today’s post is C for Cartography. Map your world.
Cartography is the study of maps. If you’ve ever read an epic fantasy with a map (even a crude one) sketched on the inside cover, you know the power of maps. They give both the writer and the reader an understanding of where everything is in the world of the book. It’s this that makes cartography so compatible with world building.
Creating a map of your world right from the start will help cement in your mind where everything is, and where your character will travel. When I read a book in which I feel I can travel around in the world without getting lost, I suspect the author created a map in his/her writing process. Hugh Howey’s Wool is like that. It was easy to envision a vertical city within a silo.
Creating a map of your world will prevent bad timing.
Hugh Howey also has great timing in Wool. Travel up and down the levels within the silo (and everywhere else in the series) was perfect. When bad timing happens, the reader is pulled out of the world and back to reality where they try to figure off what’s “off” about the story. How did she get there so fast? When my critique group read one of the chapters in my mystery novel, someone pointed out that there was no way one of the characters could see what another character was holding in her hands from where I had placed them in the scene. They were within view of each other, but they were too far to see anything that detailed. Wool brings up another subject related to Cartography…
Maps don’t need to be limited to your normal everyday street maps.
The city in your book might not be structured like the one in which you live with lots and blocks. Your map may not even be of a journey like the one taken by Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Speaking of Middle Earth… If you’re a fan, check out this beautiful tapestry of a map of Middle Earth.
You could create a map of the subway system if your main character frequently uses that mode of transportation.
Or, you may want to map out a structure. In Josh Malerman’s Bird Box several people live in one house at the same time. Often, they have to wear blindfolds, so the placement of characters and items in the house is important. He pulls the story off masterfully. You can tell that he knows exactly where everything is. Readers of the story are just as grounded. In order to get this effect, it helps to make a map.
If you’re writing about a place you don’t know intimately, a map is essential. More knowledgeable readers will quickly sniff out any mistakes if you don’t take great pains to get the details right. An American writing a story which takes place in Paris, for example, would want a map to help visualize the various neighborhoods of the city. Thankfully, we have the advantage of Google Earth and Instant Street View, to help us follow the journey our character takes.
Should you include the map in the book?
My personal preference is not to. Instead, describe the location or journey in such a way that your reader feels like they are there. Later, when your book is famous like those of JRR Tolkien or CS Lewis, you can sell your map on a tapestry as well!
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What are YOUR thoughts?
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I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.
I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.