An ongoing trend for fiction and fantasy novels is having a map for the reader to follow along with, just after the title page in the book. It is also very helpful for the author and the development of their fictional world.
When I first started writing my young adult fantasy novel, MER, I was like “A map seems way too difficult.” But I REALLY wanted one. And despite my inhibitions, I dove in head first. Hell or high-water I was going to have a map for my book, even if it meant handing my two-year-old a paper and crayons, and calling the scribbles my map. (Hey that’s not such a bad idea! Hahaha!)
I’m going to talk a little about my experience with creating my map for MER, soon to be released in late December, along with other methods of either creating or obtaining your map. And don’t worry, you absolutely do not have to be Michelangelo to create a map. I am no artist, believe me! Here is a step-by-step how I created mine.
METHOD #1 HAND-DRAWN MAP (This is always the first step, even in the following methods)
*tracing paper or vellum
*pencil and eraser
*Markers, colored pencils, or crayons (I was only half-joking about the crayons. That is actually what I used to color my map.) 🙂
*Reference Maps (Atlas, globe, print-outs of real life maps, your favorite fantasy book with a map.)
How I started was by picking a continent (fantasy novels, for some reason, usually have one super continent as their world to start out.) My inspiration was Greece. Don’t ask me why. I think I just liked the way it looked and it was surrounded on three sides by water and islands (which I needed lots of.) 😀
I started out with just a bunch of circles, squiggles, and lines. It looked terrible! (That’s the way it’s supposed to look at first.)
Once you’ve got something that you generally like as your footprint (the outline of the continent and maybe some general towns from you story etc…) then it is time to start adding lakes, castles, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, roads etc. Now this is where the tracing paper or vellum comes in. As you refer back to your story and start transferring landmarks to your map, you will need to make changes (more than likely, A LOT of them, LOL!) Like, “Wait! I need a castle here, and this river needs to move.” And instead if erasing your little heart out, place the tracing paper over your original drawing, copying what you like and changing what you don’t. This is tedious and, in my opinion, the least fun part. But the fun part is, as you do more and more drafts, your map will start to clean itself up and start to look more like a map!
Then after adding what towns, castles, and rivers that are in your story, you will need to start filling in the dead space, otherwise your map might look a little barren. Make a list of names that you might like for your landmarks.
I referred to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire maps, and (not ever copying) took inspiration from his name styles, but putting in my own twist and keeping true to the theme of my story. I came up with some cool names like Castlebridge, Saltstone, Duskenford, Eve’s Port, Dawn’s Port, Fish Eye Lake, Frozen River, etc… Adding these extras is also super beneficial in the development of furthering your story (say you are doing a second book in the series.) You can refer back to your own map to see where your character’s journey might take them, (and not have to break from your writing to come up with the perfect name for that dumb river they have to cross!! Haha!)
Here is a list of Landmarks your map may have.
- Churches (I use very little religion in mine, so I have no marked churches.)
Don’t limit yourself to this list (as I’ve probably forgotten some things LOL!), but reach for the sky! This is your masterpiece, your creation, do with it what you want. There are no limits. This is fiction we are talking about here!
Once you’ve finished matching the map to your story, filling in dead space, and naming all of your landmarks, it’s time to color in your map. If you only want black and white (which will be one-dimensional) you probably won’t want to color it, but if you want color or even grey scale, you will want to, to help differentiate water from land, etc.
Now if you are an artist and feel that you have a masterpiece, by all means, use this as your map. I definitely couldn’t, Haha! You will just need to format it to size, according to your publishers guidelines, or have it formatted for you. There are many low-cost formatters out there on google. The one I used is April Martinez, firstname.lastname@example.org. She formatted my book (and map image). Just e-mail an inquiry and she will send you back a list of prices.
METHOD #2 HAVE IT PROFESSIONALLY RENDERED
Now that you have your rough draft, you could always contact a Graphic Artist or Cartographer to have the drawing digitally and professionally rendered for you. This is what I did.
I scanned my wanna-be-map into my computer (if you don’t have a scanner go to Kinkos and get it put on a jump-drive or disk). I then sent it (along with a list of all of my towns, castles, rivers, mountains, etc..and their correct spellings) to my Graphic Designer/Artist friend, Juan, as a rough draft. From there he worked his magic and Wallah! A beautiful map! (Soooo glad I didn’t have to do that part. I’m techie-illiterate. LOL!) Find Juan C. Heinrich here on facebook http://www.facebook.com/jchstudio. There is also a guild of cartographers who use various software to create fictional maps for a commission. You can find them here http://www.cartographersguild.com/
And here it is again! Woo hoo! MER‘s Map of Merenia! I had no idea my book could have such an amazing map!
METHOD #3 DO IT YOURSELF DIGITALLY
Now I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about this, as I said earlier I’m computer illiterate when it comes to stuff like this. BUT I will tell you some software you may use if you would like to try it yourself.
You will still want to do METHOD #1 and create a hand-drawn draft of your map.
A. PHOTOSHOP/ MS PAINT
You can scan your map into Photoshop or Microsoft paint and digitally manipulate it to insert text (landmark names), do a cool watery effect, create mountains, city and castle symbols, etc… Here is a good blog post on doing your map via Photoshop http://www.brodt.dk/peter/maps.html.
B. SPECIALIST MAP-MAKING PROGRAMS
AutoREALM, which is a super cool software created by Fantasy and RPG geeks to create maps. (No offense, I am one of those too. Not the kind of geek that creates software, of course, but the kind that plays Final Fantasy and does ALL of the side quests.) Haha! Download AutoREALM for free here http://autorealm.sourceforge.net/
Now, after that information overload, let’s take a break and look at some well-known authors who used maps in their novels.It all started with the grandfather of fantasy maps/ fictional world development, Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings. This is the Map from The Hobbit, the prelude to the Lord of the Rings.
A few other well known’s are…
George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (HBO Series A Game of Thrones)
Robert Jordan’s A Wheel of Time. (One of my favorite series!)
C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia (LOVE!)
As an author or author-to-be of a fantasy series, you more than likely will have one of these in your home library. If you don’t,which I would find hard to believe :D, I strongly urge you to get one and study it and its usage of maps.
Thank you for reading about map creation with me today! I wish you lots of luck in your writing journeys. And don’t ever, ever give up! It can be overwhelming, especially if you are self-publishing, to put all of the pieces together by yourself. Just take a deep breath and keep on plugging on!
Please leave a comment if you have any other helpful information on map creation for your novel. Or even if you don’t I’d love to hear from you!
Please LIKE my book, MER on facebook here http://www.facebook.com/merbook1 to read cool snippets and get updated info on the book release!
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Thanks! And may the power of words be with you!