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!

Why I decided to write a spin-off of The Birth and why more books will submerge in 2020.

When I wrote the first few chapters of my dark fantasy series, The Birth was not in the plan. Well, once again neither was Lola: Aftermath of The Birth.

Here are the following reasons why I have to write outside of my volume series, and why I triple check everything before announcing an upcoming book

The worlds in The Black Wing series are vast.

In The Birth, you learn there is another world out there, Osois, an icy planet with an entire history that has yet to be explored.

Osois and its two moons.

In The Conflict, you uncover something beyond Earth, a secret that has been held for billions of years.

I’m not writing this to complain or validate my reasons, but rather, these scenes don’t belong in the main series. So I must write them in a separate book.

Here is what would have happened if I did NOT follow my gut:


Long Flash Backs

I like them, but not if it’s going to confuse or draw out the attention of the story. I don’t want to write unnecessary scenes and conversation unless my fantasy readers are already in the loop. Granted, there will be flashbacks in several chapters, but not all can fit in one book. Not on mine at the least.

Long Explanation

It leads to more questions!

If you have read The Birth, you learn about Lenurs (A video series of my species will be coming soon ) and their way of life. Lola learned of Lenurs and Osois through Avalon, and since The Birth was written in first person, it was thrown at (you) readers. For example:

Why is the Emperor immortal? Why is Eihbohn a meatless voice who Avalon trusted to watch over Lola and yet *Spoiler*? Why are Elites known to be the best and what’s the issue with their caspedian cloth?

Unnecessary Explanations

One of the things I’m trying to avoid when I’m talking about events in the past that shape the series is flooding the book when the attention is supposed to go elsewhere.

You’re always going to move forward–into the future in volumes of The Black Wing Series. Lets stay there if we can.

Do I have answers all of these questions? Yes, and I have much to give!

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Is Your Chapter Worth It?

Do you ever read through your chapters, and ask yourself, am I adding fillers or is this moving the plot? If you’re not asking yourself that, now is the time to go back to Chapter 1!

Here is an example of what you may say to justify why you wrote what you wrote.

  • This may bore my reader but they need to know this back story so I can deliver the punch they will get at the end!
  • I have to increase my word count.
  • Too much is happening right now, my characters need a break!
  • My book is unique it is not meant to follow the norm.

Here is what I say about my book, The Birth

It is still too early for my readers know who Avalon is, what the heck an Ososi is, and how Lenurs live in Talen! Introducing Avalon early and not building on Lola’s character will draw my readers to her as she is the one who turns Lola’s life upside down! We are looking at the world through Lola’s eyes, but who is she anyway and how did she end up in a cabin on the Okanogan National Forest?

You’re writing it, but they’re reading it

Your readers can’t turn the next page unless you give them a reason to, many writers say you need to add conflict, or put some kind of struggle your character is facing in order to keep your readers hooked–well they’re right, but it’s risky to throw the first thing that comes to your mind without taking three steps back and then ten steps forward to see if it’s keeping in track of your chapter! I’m a pantser, I can write a book from Chapter 1 to end but I will also fall back on outlining when I’m taking three steps backs and then ten steps forward.

Three steps back , ten steps forward

If you’re writing a stand alone novel with no plans to make a sequel or series, you don’t need to steep too much to implement the mysterious scenes you haven’t told your readers yet. If you’re writing epics, sagas, series, chronicles–whatever you may call them, you also don’t want your chapters to be a filler! We are not making a jelly filled doughnut!

What to consider if your chapter is worth it

  • Can I bring this scene later in the chapters, or books ahead, and why is it significant?
  • Unless that red hat your character keeps describing is going to blow up or turn into a rabbit or have some other significance, you don’t need to keep grinding it on every chapter!
  • You’re describing the setting very well, but how long will your character stay there? If he or she is just passing by, make it brief or skip it (unless you’re adding symbolic messages) use description in areas they will be spending most of their time but implement it well!
  • I love dialogues but if my character keeps saying “Why?” put your picture on the wall of shame and erase it (I do this all the time).

Final Thoughts

But if you felt my advice was wrapping you up in twine, and somewhat giving you an uncomfortable squeeze, I know I have done a job well done. Remember, your story is still your story, but do you want to know who else calls it theirs? Your readers.