Author Topic: World Building & Map Creation  (Read 1325 times)


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World Building & Map Creation
« on: December 04, 2009, 06:15:53 AM »
After reading many of the awesome forum posts here, and searching for specific things, I've found a *lot* of great information. I've had the desire to try to write a book for a long time. I've had idea after idea pop in and out, and I really enjoy the process of writing. I've been dumping my thoughts into notes, and I've compiled a few dozen pages, and I am starting to feel the world I am working on form and take shape. I've found a lot of great resources here, and they've all helped me make more progress in a few short days than weeks and weeks of just thinking.

There is one topic, however, I haven't really found an answer to: maps creations & geography. I'm starting to have ideas on different areas of the world, how to piece them together, how different people would react to each other. How do I help document these layouts so they aren't lost in the voids of mind forever? Do you just make *really* crude sketches of a world on paper? How do you ensure that your world seems realistic from a more scientific manner? (climates, wind patterns, weather, etc) Where do you think its a good place to draw the line of "outlining your world" and "obsessing of the little details of migrating swallows, and whether or not the shapes and locations of my continents are realistic in regards to migratory paths"? (Yeah, that's a little extreme, but I need to show a little humor now and then?  ;)).

To give a little background, I'm a web designer and developer, and I am completely deprived of any drawing capabilities, but the perfectionist in me loathes looking at terribly sketched "shapes" of what I know looks better in my head. So any thoughts on this, tips or pointers, would be highly appreciated.

Thanks, and I look forward to being a member for the forums. :)

Bookstore Guy

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Re: World Building & Map Creation
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2009, 05:25:31 PM »
It's up to you.  Some authors don't even have maps other than the one that is in their head.  I personally think having a crude map is great just for your own reference.  Sometimes it can help with seeing where conflict would arise by just piecing together a map (especially in terms of war, travel, and economics).  It doesn't have to be good.  In fact, I don't see the point of making it good--if the novel ever gets published, they will hire out an artist to make the map anyway.

If you are writing hard SF you may want to worry about climate patterns and the like, but for fantasy, it isn't as essential.  Be realistic, but don't agonize over whether the wind should be blowing a certain way unless is is essential to your plot.

In essence, focus your effort on the writing, but if you want a visual representation of the world you are creating for reference (aka - a map), treat it like a rough outline.  Just get the basic crap down.  Don't stress over is not looking good.  The map is where you need to NOT be a perfectionist.  Leave that to the professionals.
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The Jade Knight

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Re: World Building & Map Creation
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2010, 08:18:40 AM »
Yeah, don't worry about whether or not you can draw—I certainly can't.

However, the more you learn about geography, climate, etc., the more realistic your world will be, and the more natural the stories which take place in it will be; your own knowledge will naturally affect your worldbuilding.  However, if it becomes a chore, don't worry about it—I find the entire process enjoyable, myself.

I should mention that there are two approaches to worldbuilding—the Tolkienesque approach, where you create a single, intricate, well-developed world, and the Brandon Sanderson (and probably many other authors who have preceded him) approach, where you simply worldbuild as much as you need to move your story along and flesh out some details.  While the Tolkienesque approach will leave you with a richer world, the Sandersonian approach is advantageous in that you aren't putting all your eggs in one basket, and you can move from setting to setting as you see fit.
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Re: World Building & Map Creation
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2010, 03:37:10 AM »
You don't have to draw a map. Diagram it. You can place little circles with words in them if you want, colour areas green for trees, blue for water, grey for mountains, etc... It really helps to have something to look at to go: "Oh, Verelas is north of my characters." or "So, to get to Gedaine, they'll need to pass through Qued."

Researching a little about geology, tectonics, and climate first is an excellent idea, but even if you don't, it's important that you keep your sense of space consistent.


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Re: World Building & Map Creation
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2010, 12:44:48 AM »
I enjoy drawing out my worlds, adding in the important and unimportant landmarks, nations, cities, mountains - everything. For me, it helps a lot with my writing if I have an actual, physical representation of my world. That, and it's fun. Sometimes I'll create a world for no other reason than to do so. Some of these worlds have made their way into stories I later wrote, or been matched with stories I'd previously written.

As mentioned above by others, there should be a limit to how much you create. For example, the question about migratory patterns: does the migratory pattern of swallow have an effect on the plot? Do the characters follow this path for whatever reason, is there a swallow that has something they need, etc.

The detail to which I go into is a bit more than most, I think. I like my worlds to seem real. I've researched things on continental drift and the effects of local climate on certain terrains, etc. Some of this stuff is self-evident and doesn't require research - rivers follow most direct downward path they can, for example. However, I did not know until recently that deserts are created by rainshadows caused by nearby mountain ranges preventing rain from reaching the area as much as it does more fertile land. Now, because of this, I tend to cringe when I see maps that are environmentally inaccurate, and sometimes can cause my suspension of disbelief to waver. (If there is something inaccurate, though, like a river flowing uphill, it will stand out. This can be used to the advantage of the story.)

I've sort of lost my train of thought... basically, if it's important to the story, develop it. If not, it's not completely necessary - but it can still be fun.  Is it especially important to you? If not, I think the diagramming idea mentioned above is a great one. If it is, draw it out to as much detail as you want.

Just beware of World-Builder's disease...
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