1. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Do You use maps as part of your setting development?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by IlaridaArch, Jan 31, 2016.

    Hey all,

    I wanted to discuss about this topic as I don't see too much talk about maps!

    Personally, maps are very important for me to figure out locations and things like that (I seem to be unable to do that without). It also allows me mix my drawing habit into writing projects, even though I admit my skills in map drawing are fairly limited...

    I have also discovered that when I draw the map, I get new ideas regarding backstories so to me, maps indeed are essential part of the process. How you guys feel about it?

    Shamelessly, I shall show you guys a map I drew couple of days back.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. AdalindRose
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    AdalindRose New Member

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    First of all, your map drawing skills are amazing! I do enjoy seeing maps in books, it definitely helps sometimes to look at and refer back too when reading or when you've just finished. I've not yet had any needs for maps but it is an option I'd explore if my work called for one.
     
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  3. Necronox
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    Necronox Active Member

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    I've found them useful and have done multiple iteration of my maps, each time adding more details or changing things for various reasons.

    On a side note, nice map, i did mine on the computer and not on paper, except for some rough ideas and drafts.

    As a whole, I definitely enjoy using maps, gives me plenty of ideas and it helps me with distances and travel times, It also helps with borders of countries or military actions taken because of the geography and tactical or strategically important places.
     
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  4. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I plan on using an existing town so I am going to print out a birds eye view of the town and use that changing the store names as I go.
     
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  5. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm writing a war story, so a lot of the plot and setting derives from the physical locations of all the soldiers, objectives, etc. I personally find the idea of developing a map, or before hand, important to my setting.

    However, I can see certain types of stories not requiring a map.
     
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  6. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nice map, I am guessing you have not finished it yet since there is no compass rose on the map or coordinates, etc. but so far it is impressive - of course I can't draw a lick so I am easily impressed. I like maps in a book to help with the overall setting and add to the understanding of the story. If your work is a fantasy or sci-fi then it might be interesting to have a planet with two magnetic norths and have it affect the story by leading a group to the wrong location, etc. I do prefer a map where North is up and find it confusing when they orient differently.
     
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  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Nope, I have no idea about this map thing you speak of :D
    Yes I use maps, going to need a full global map of Earth, but I needed to find a spot in Siberia for a small important piece of information about a secondary character. And Mars, because I have a settlement there. Not going to post all the 'maps' of the other planets or their mini systems where bases are/were. :p mars-map-whole1.jpg Siberia_topo1441.jpg
     
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  8. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    I'm a total nerd when it comes to maps--I love them, both real and fictional. They're pretty indispensable to the way I write; again, it doesn't matter if it's realistic or speculative, I find that nothing helps me visualize a setting so much as a map. It just seems to spur my imagination in a way not much else does.

    Question, I think on topic: how important do you think it is to include a map for readers, i.e not just as a world-building tool but as a reference to help readers follow along? I think most fantasy books do this (sci-fi to a lesser extent), but I'm in the middle of a fantasy WIP now and I really wanted to include a map that was more like something that would exist in-universe (think early European medieval, like a T-and-O map). But that sort of thing is more symbolic than practical, and might just confuse readers. Any thoughts?
     
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  9. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    "It also allows me mix my drawing habit into writing projects, even though I admit my skills in map drawing are fairly limited..."

    Alright, cut the humility crap Illarida. That is one black-and-white piece of awesomeness you got there. Seriously, this map is beautiful. The detail, the form of the islands, it's good at the very least. Best thing I like about it is the realism. Rivers springing in mountains and exiting in the ocean, collections of smaller, breakaway islands surrounding larger ones and the continent, lakes having formed where multiple rivers meet. Great job. I'm not nearly as good at this. I mainly use photoshop when making a map because my hand can't translate onto paper what my mind imagines when drawing :D

    On topic: Yes, I do use a map for my current WIP. I have always loved creating maps, both through drawing and with photoshop, and although I am not quite sure if I am going to include the map in the final book, it has been of a great help to me simply because of the fact that it is the manifestation of my world building ideas onto a physical thing. Kind of like a canvas on which I can get my ideas out. It helps me to see things in my story in a geographical perspective. For example, if I am to write about 2 armies on the march, with both armies marching across flatlands, if the first army takes 1 day to cross 1 inch of the map, it is only logical that the 2nd would take 5 days to cross 5. Just one example where a map can be useful. It also helps as a reminder of the geographical layout of the world in my storytelling. I can always look up what a character will see when moving around a specific region. It's a great deal of fun making it, but the map is also great in keeping my story consistent, and it can remind me of the landscapes and terrain, which in turn helps in descriptive writing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
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  10. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    My novel takes place in Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska so I have spent my fair share of time staring at Google maps. I have spent some time drawing another novel idea I have which is set in a made up world but not nearly as detailed as yours. More like the stick figure version.
     
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  11. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Your map looks awesome! I'm super jealous!

    I sketch out floorplans and I've actually built structures in minecraft just to get a slightly more concrete idea of the space, because I'm not very good at spatial reasoning stuff. I never really committed to a map until late last year, when I was planning out the small section of a fictional city where most of the story took place. Even then it mostly consisted of wobbly lines representing streets and little labeled boxes representing various important buildings. It helped a lot, but it's not the kind of thing I would share with anyone, hahah. Until then I'd never worked on quite the scale of an entire city - everything really took place in unconnected smaller sets that were a lot easier to sort of keep track of, so I just never needed to.
     
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  12. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Thanks for posting everyone, didn't expect this much interest in maps. :)

    I am with you people about checking the map as story goes on. Especially when something is starting to brew in the story (battle groups making their tactical moves, setting up somewhere etc), I check the map so I could understand it myself. The Witcher -series dropped me sometimes as the books didn't have map printed on them, so couldn't sometimes follow the plans and predict the future.

    Not all stories need it though, I mostly find myself needing one in heavy adventure stories and especially in fantasy realms. Oh and westerns, I love to understand the land characters ride through.

    Well to me, maps are 100% about information. So I think it's the matter of what kind of information (and how much) you want to pass on. It doesn't sound like a bad idea to have a themed map that fits the story, as long as the map comes out as useful. T-and-O is a tough style, I never really knew how to read them properly. You could always make more regular type of map, but the style with lines and icons can make it feel like an old styled map (or perspective)

    The map I presented in the OP is the first version of my own realm, which I made to understand the geography @tonguetied so I didn't arse myself to place down anything else. And mostly, because I knew I will draw newer version which then has everything; location names, the compass, frames. :) But I agree about compass, I always take it for granted that north is up!

    When I drew the continent, it first was just one huge land which looked boring. Then I researched what Ice Ages do to the land and many documentaries claimed the sea level rose a lot when Ice Age ended (corroded hills and melting created water). So that gave me an idea; cut through the middle(in the picture, sea expanding from downside of the map), imagining that area used to be vast lowlands which then flooded once the presumed Ice Age was over. Random hills and higher grounds then formed bunch of islands, and suddenly the map felt much cooler. :)

    Though so you guys don't make same errors regarding realism, I put these pointers down:
    - lakes rarely have two water outflows, I did this mistake in the middle
    - mountain ranges don't meet in crossroads to form letter T
     
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  13. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nice maps! Wouldn't mind having you do mine.

    I use maps extensively, because the story is set in 100AD and almost all the place names have changed or disappeared in the Indian Ocean, China and Central Asia. The reader would not have any clue where Eudaemon Arabia was, though it is modern Aden in Yemen. The major Red Sea shipping port of Myos Hormos is now the tiny and obscure fishing village of al-Qusayr in Egypt.

    The first map I introduced at the very beginning of the book is a Eurasian map showing the Roman, Parthian, Bactrian, Indian, and Chinese empires at the time. No capitals or routes, just labeled shaded areas.... the takeaway for the reader is that in 100AD civilization was contiguous from the Atlantic coast of Spain to the Pacific coast of China. The Roman MCs will visit all of them, along with the Xiongu horse nomads north of China.

    Individual chapters I used a military mapping program I had from an old project, using visual Tiros satellite background (no place names) on which I put the route, and the places visited in that chapter, scaled to just that chapter. For example, from Kashgar in China to Bagram, capital of Bactria (yes it is the Afghan airbase now) via the Irkeshtam Pass (Strabo's "Stone Tower") into what is now Kyrgyzstan.

    I put small 2x2 inch maps in the upper right corner of the beginning of each chapter that involved traveling, so the reader could see the terrain: buff desert, green vegetation or rugged mountains, and major locations mentioned . I also on two occasions introduced period maps of Alexandria and the Chinese capital of Luoyang, as it was believed laid out at the time, so they could visualize the city layout, and locate my (fictional) Pharos dockyard and naval station and Chinese palaces. The nice thing about the mapping program was that after I laid out the twisty turning route, I could right click it to determine exactly how long it was. As someone else pointed out, useful for determining travel times: my ships covered @120 miles per day in the open ocean (5 kts SOA), walking covered 20 miles per day (3-4 miles per hour for 5 to 7 hours), riding covered 40.

    At the very end, I place that full scale map of Eurasia showing the entire 15000 mile route, with all the unplanned detours, from Egypt to China by sea, and overland from China back to Rome. Impressive trip!

    I am not happy with the maps, and would like to get someone else to do them more in your style, less busy, with less dark colors that make them hard to read. But I don't think I could have planned this adventure without them. On the Kashgar to Bagram leg, I spent several days at high detail on the map, picking what appeared to be the easiest route through the Irkeshtam Pass to the Alay Valley, then took a tour of the route with Google Earth at ground level to make sure it was as easy as I thought it looked on the terrain map. Surprisingly, not bad, max altitude 12000 feet (no oxygen required, but watch out for mountain sickness) descending to 7000 foot broad green alpine Alay Valley along meandering river, the modern Izzyl-Kul, reminds me of places in Colorado, very much not what I expected in the Pamir Mountains.
     
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  14. Wolf Daemon
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    Wolf Daemon Active Member

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    I use maps when I feel they are appropriate. For ships and such that are used a lot.
     
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  15. Moth
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    Moth Active Member

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    Maps are useful with any story that involves transit between separate locations. Those locations could be different places in a single city or they could be entire continents apart. I like to have maps about when I'm world-building, it makes the whole process that much easier. Though I will admit that I probably put too much time into making maps at the cost of actually writing the story the map involves.
     
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  16. MockingJD
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    MockingJD Member

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    I love your map!

    I have one for something I'm working on which takes place in a fictional world. I find it really helpful to visualize where everyone is because in that particular story, where you're from is everything and the terrain and geography really informs a lot of the characters' personalities.
     
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  17. R.K. Blackburn
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    R.K. Blackburn Member

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    Maps are a wonderful resource if you're writing something that takes place in a real setting. Google maps street view is great too. Ride along with the Google car and see the streets that you are writing about. It's amazing how many resources are now available to writers. But I wonder if the writing gets better as a result of all of these resources. Writers need more than just butts and fingers to really get it.
     
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  18. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I discovered a fascinating spot that way, just 30 miles from the translators' hometown of Liqian in Gansu, on the Silk Road (now Chinese Highway 630 for this leg). It is Zhangye Danxia, google it up and see what I mean. Impossible for travelers not to notice and comment on, then or now
     
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  19. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Your skills as an artist are incredible. And yes, I use maps.

    I have 7 wall maps and an atlas that I use to help keep track of my story, which is set in the Iron Age. I actually spent a great deal of time and money having Staples copy maps for me (after I begged the reference librarian to let me out of the building with them.) I found a 3'X5' very stark map b/w map of Europe and have that on the wall in my office. It gives me a place to write and draw because no one map has all the information I need.

    I have maps that show:
    1) current political boundaries, cities, and towns,
    2) satellite view of Europe
    3) forest and mountains,
    4) rivers,
    5) ferrous mineral deposits in Europe,
    6) locations of archeological sites,
    7) the map I draw on.

    My atlas gives me maps showing the Amber Road and other important trade routs of the period, locations of Celtic Tribes, and more detailed information on archeological sites.

    Anything useful to the story gets drawn on the wall. It's handy to be able to look up and say, "So the Boii controlled the tin deposits, the Elbs had the copper. Being on the Amber road they would have been trading partners and wealthy tribes. The Volkae were over a large Iron deposit and I bet they got tired of the Boii's shit during the bronze age and whooped up on them just as soon as they figure out how to smelt that!"
     
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  20. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting! You need that kind of detail for these kinds of stories...

    I presume you have some sort of scale of miles... If not there is an old navigators trick if you have measured lat/long on the map. Measure the distance between two points with dividers, then measure that distance along a north south line of longitude, any one and anywhere will. Each degree of latitude (what you measuring along a n-s line of longitude) is equal to 60 nautical miles. A nautical mile is about 6000 feet, but it will be close enough for your foot journeys. That what a nautical mile is, it is one minute of latitude. It has actual changed from 6000 ft by a few tens of feet because of revisions in the earths diameter and because it bulges at the equator, so it works out on the average. Again not big enough to matter

    BTW there are some very old methods of determining where north is and where one is going. During the day, you can set a stick in the ground, and mark the shadow as the sun moves. The shortest shadow marks local noon and points due north. At night of course, you can use Polaris. Many people also associated a particular star with a particular place, so you move until that star is overhead, then move east or west... you will be on the star's declination, equivalent to latitude, which never changes, at least not in their lifetimes. You can probably get to within 60 or 100 miles, then use landmarks.
     
  21. TheoremAlpha
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    TheoremAlpha Member

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    Personally I've never really needed a map to be able to imagine a detailed world.

    In the end, the actual physical details of the world aren't all that important to me geography wise.
    If you say someone is from the east, they are from the east. Ect.

    What matters far more is how they convey the culture of said world within that character. The way they are described. The way they act.

    Then again maybe my opinion is biased because I like character driven, event driven stories that focus less on the lore and more on what's actually happening within it.

    However I do feel that a Map can certainly be useful.
    Stories like Lord of the Rings used maps to great affect.

    And any tool you have at your disposal to create a vivid world, should always be used.
     
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  22. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Yeah I can see, as I on the other hand are all about milieu/lore!

    @KhalieLa reminded me off one important aspect with maps and that is natural trade routes. Trade routes are important aspect for settlements, as smaller places always set themselves somewhere by the route. Wheather it's by road or sea as a smaller port.
     
  23. misteralcala
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    misteralcala Member

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    As well-drawn as yours is, to me maps are just an annoyance. I don't want to have to refer to the map to get my bearings. A better idea would be to keep the map for your own reference as you write the story, so that you can keep the details straight, and just relay the pertinent information to the reader. All they need to know is "Southland is north of The Grim Marsh". You don't need a map to convey that information. Keep it simple for the reader's sake.
     
  24. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on what you are writing. If your world is fantasy, then maps can be optional. If you are writing historical fiction, and trying to immerse the reader in the era (which most readers of historical fiction want to happen) then maps can be very helpful, though they will never make up for descriptive verbiage. Especially, as I noted above, the place either no longer exists, or the name has changed. Seeing a map of the Red Sea, with Myos Hormos at the north end and Eudaemon Arabia at the south end where it widens out into the Indian Ocean, with the ships' route marked on it can be very helpful, while we talk about the escorting triremes cutting past like centipedes crawling on the water, bones in their teeth as they escort the convoy south... and the other things happening.
     
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  25. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also readers of historical fiction can be a critical audience. Many of them know something about the era, and if they spot an inaccuracy that will turn them off quickly. However, I hope I have written mine well enough that if you want to read it as a fantasy adventure in a strange land, that will work too. But I am anchored in historical fiction to tell a story that actually could have happened the way I tell it
     
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