July 29, 2020

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But more than pure illustration, a map can be a plotted and deliberate literary device. And he found, as Tolkien did, that implementing such a visual at the right point in the writing process can both influence and add to a narrative.

Here, Paolini shares some advice for how to get started charting your own fantasy map.

For stories that take place on a smaller scale, a map may not be necessary. But for fantasy tales that involve numerous locations, extensive travel or concurrent events, a map can be a useful organizational device. Paolini realized he needed one about a third of the way through writing Eragonthe first novel in his series. Up until that point, the majority of the plot had taken place in a small town, where he could easily keep things straight in his mind.


But then the story started to expand. For the story to move forward, he needed mpa better idea of how long it would take to travel from city to city, and where important locations in the narrative stood in proximity to each other.

It may sound obvious, but the stature of your map depends heavily upon the breadth of the story you want alagaesoa tell—which, initially, may not be as evident as you think.

He drew it on an 8. But over time, he realized the proportions were too confining. As the tale continued to grow and he began to flirt with the idea of a series, expansion seemed natural. Populating multiple books would require a greater variety of settings, and mwp any single area of the map would feel unrealistic and limiting.

Often in fantasy novels topographical features hold significance—dwarves live in mountains, elves live in forests—and if you plan to stick to such staples of the genre, they can help dictate the landscape of your map.

Beyond that, if brainstorming unique elements proves difficult, Paolini recommends turning to nature for points of reference. As you sketch the boundaries of your land, consider consulting an atlas for examples of geographical irregularities that will make your world appear more natural.

Cities and towns, flora and fauna, physical features—all of these details will have an impact. The journey itself might become a plot point.


How to Map Your Fantasy World |

What if something were to happen there? Look at your map and ask: Would this river be a good shipping route? Would these plains make rich farmland?

Questions are the basis of stories. What started as an inconsequential adornment may end up becoming a prompt for your narrative. But if you find, as Paolini and Tolkien did, that the map is a worthwhile guide, explore it to whatever extent you find best nurtures your process.

At its most basic, a map is an artistic accompaniment to a book. But it also keeps readers from getting confused in the story. When wondering where a city is in relation to another, they can quickly flip to the map and acclimate. Tyler Moss is the managing editor of WD.

How to Map Your Fantasy World

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