Writing and Mapping – Building your Fantasy World Part 1

Every writer should know that the more your research, the more realistic and accurate your story will become. I’m going to jump on the assumption wagon and conclude that you already know that and are, therefore, practicing on that knowledge.

When I first designed my world Osois, for Black Wings, I wasn’t sweating it. (This is a world I won’t be writing about for a while) but for the sake of The Birth, I had to know what it was, and who the Lenur are. As I’m working on Volume 3 The Deceit, I’m also working on a side story, The Hunted Prince. This is where I cannot evade world-building. My previous protagonist live on  Earth 80 years from now. (Personally, I don’t believe technology would improve drastically considering global warming and the fact that everyone still drives on gas)

In The Hunted Prince, Ryth is in the Dragon world, known by everyone (except the Dragons) as Asylum. I wrote the first 10,000 words of The Hunted Prince while I was writing Lola until I came to a screeching stop.

I need a map.

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t pay much attention during grade school. I spent it drawing and writing my stories during lecture. (Oh, how I wish I paid more attention now.) Luckily I took World Geography in college because I absolutely fell in love with it. I learned about its rich cultures, rough terrains, dry and wet seasons, and how war affects them both at a micro and macro level. I was so into it that I impressed my math teacher because I was casually talking about Sri Lanka and the historical conflicts in that region.

But no mandatory class of World Geography would prepare me for creating the world map of Asylum. In its defense, I started liking maps but creating them? That’s a different story. I got a little scared. Scared because my senpai Tolkien did it so effectively that I figured. “Hah, I’ll never be that good, so why try?” But my fellow fantasy writers, you can only be as good as your abilities and improve.

Concerning Maps

If you’re reading this. Scoffing. Knowing you will NOT be creating maps because your attention to detail is so great, visual representation and nitpicking every single little thing like you’re a Dungeons and Dragons master is a waste of time. I congratulate you. But you might also be missing out on seeing your map on your wall.

I’m a visual learner. Tell me how something can be done, and I can’t process it well, show me, and I’ll do a lot better. This is why I’m a self-taught artist, but I am no Kim Jung Gi.  (I did take a mandatory drawing 101 class, but I was not paying attention then too.) Now I’m searching the web, geeking out at how other people create maps/

So, should you draw a map?

After I finished Lola, I went back to The Hunted Prince and resumed my tale of the second-born prince of a tyrant ruled kingdom. Thing is, in my mind, I knew where in the world the kingdom rests in Asylum, but what is it surrounded by? What kind of seasons does it have? Here is a sketch of my first map.

A picture containing rain

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Note: This map is subject to change, be added, or moved around.

Unlike Osois and it’s 9 years of winter. Asylum shares the same seasons and has the same axis tilt of 23.5 degrees as Earth. My challenge is the new terrain, are the plates moving? How is the current and wind shifts affecting this lovely world? I’ll write more on that on my part 2 post. For now, let’s have you create a map!

Rice and Beans

If you want to create a new map, there are many ways you can start. One of my recommendations is to work on it without adding the regions you do want to add. Create your world then add a few changes as you move the rice, beans, around.

When I created Osois, I used beans. It’s great if you want to add roundness and curves, but I recommend adding rice. I did that with Asylum, and it was much more comfortable moving the ‘land’ around.

If you want to get creative, add both beans and rice, or other tiny particles! (just as long as they’re not oily)

Once I drew my map, I named a  forest, the mountains following after, and after that, everything became a blur. I wrote 30,000+ words in less than a week because I was able to create the next step without pausing to think about what Ryth is facing, or what ordeals neighboring countries are facing.

Note: All characters and scenes were planned before I created the map.

The end result for me was that I wore in shorter time than I did with Lola by glancing over the kingdoms, villages, lands, and borders. And I stopped depending on my outline and pantsed my way through. This is why I love first drafts, you can get messy and get everything out of your head so can come back and think of it critically.

For great map-making advice on YouTube. I recommend Edgar’s channel Artifexian! Mind you, Edgar breaks down map making, world-building like a pro! He has a flood of knowledge, so I advise you to listen first, then start practicing what he’s saying.

I’m waiting for the charger of my drawing tablet to come in the mail. (I lost it when I moved) After that I will show you the progress of my completed map of Asylum.

I will see you for part 2!