World Building Post #5 – Maps and Pulling it Together

Phew. What a lot of work this is. Now is the time for the writer to become an artist. Don’t panic. Drawing maps is easy, trust me. Let’s look at our example cultures.

Southern Race lives near water, lots of water. Northern Race lives in a heavily treed area but still has room for farming. Northern Race has access to metals, which probably means mountains for mining, the Southern Race does not. These two races share their magical ability and have similar cultures so they must live relatively close together. There are no other races outlined so either these are the only two on the planet or the others live too far away to be of any consequence.

We know we need a coast line, probably some inland water sources, a division of some kind, light forests in the south for hunting, heavy forests in the north, and mountains that don’t stretch south of the divider.

A sample map based on known cultural criteria for Southern Race and Northern Race

A sample map based on known cultural criteria for Southern Race and Northern Race

Here’s a quick map done in paint. You can see the mountain border cutting these two races off from the rest of the continent. You can see that the Southern Race has more water and the Northern Race has more trees. You can see the big cities and the small cities. Use this as approximate for deciding distances, and for naming places. This map took me five minutes. It’s basic. You can’t use it for a reference in a published book because it’s crap. But it will serve its purpose well. And, if I don’t like it or it doesn’t suit later tweaks and adjustments to the plot or cultures, I’m out five minutes of time. You can do this on computer or by hand but keep a physical paper copy on hand so you can make quick notes.

Pulling it together – you still have to cover interactions – do they trade with each other, do they intermarry, are they at war, were they ever at war? As you sort out these questions, and start laying out your plot in greater detail you may discover things that don’t work. Maybe you need to introduce more possible hair colours to help distinguish between characters. Maybe you need to shift the locations of cities, or change the number of deities. That’s fine. I spend months shuffling details, trying out new combinations, and adapting my cultures as I mesh world and story together. This is a fluid and dynamic process that should be entertaining and a challenge.

Oh, one last note on language. Though you’ve chosen a language frame for your naming system it’s easier for you and the reader if the people all speak the same language, and that they all speak the same language you speak. If they have a separate language let them use that for official or religious purposes – or have a handful of characters who can translate or speak both languages. If your story takes place primarily in the Northern Country have them speak “English” and have the Southern Race speak a foreign language, but have enough people who speak both, and spend as little time as possible in the Southern region to avoid confusing situations.

Watch “The 13th Warrior” with Antonio Bandares for ideas on handling foreign language. Very interesting how they deal with it.

Okay, that’s my series on World Building. Tomorrow I start Camp Nano so my July posts will focus on my Camp progress and stories. Any questions about this process? Just ask in the comments, I’ll answer as best I can.

Signing off …



3 thoughts on “World Building Post #5 – Maps and Pulling it Together

  1. Came across this series yesterday and went back to read the previous posts too. Very much enjoyed this, some very helpful points in here; good food for thought when world building! Thanks very much, and good luck with your Camp.


  2. Thank you for this series of blogs. I am attempting to world build this July camp for the fantasy world featured in my November Novel. It is my first attempt at a fantasy writing since I normally stick with modern day drama’s. I think I will be returning to these posts several times to help me find my way! Thanks!


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