1. Britannica
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    Britannica Member

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    Story Mapmaking

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Britannica, Jul 21, 2012.

    I am writing a story that is set in a fantasy world, with magic, mythological creatures, etc.
    I want to make a map of my world, because, it tends to help me write better in terms of the landscapes and surroundings. However, I am not sure how to go about making this map. So here are my questions:

    1. Is the one continent world idea overused?
    2. In making the continent(s), do I just draw random landmasses until I find one that I like. Or should I draw something more specific?
    3. How ecologically diverse does the world need to be so that it is realistic?

    Any advice will be much appreciated!
     
  2. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    Hey Brit,

    I am doing the same thing but the mythology I am doing is located in Scandinavia BC. So maps what I have done is I found maps of a more indigenous Scandinavia before it was what we knorealw of it today. Then I basically overlapped the real locations with the mythological locations. This idea might help answer #2.

    And p.s. I don't think the one continent world is overused.
     
  3. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    so my thoughts.

    1. the one continent thing is common. if done well it is not overused. however i think the geography and the geo politics in the novel have to make sense. makeing their be multiple continents changes the geo politics.
    2. once again should be logical. you are not going to have a river flow uphill now are you. also remember the geography will change the world socialy, economicly and politicly
    3. their has to be some level. i think that depends on the story. the story chould have few if it covers a small area. but i think the world at large has to. a single biome planet is not beliveable
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The one continent idea is very much like the one habitable planet idea. It works as long as you either have no knowlege that others exist, or have no way to get there.

    Only map what you need for your story. If your story takes place among seven villages, it MAY be helpful to map the seven villages and the areas connecting them.

    If you're in love with mapping, go ahead and map more to your heart's content. Just don't fool yourself that it is for the story. It's a distraction, and an excuse to procrastinate from writing.
     
  5. Britannica
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    Britannica Member

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    @Jamie:
    I think that's a very good idea, I will try it out and see how it works. I think I could use it by taking a continent on our planet, drawing a fictitious continent and then blending them together.

    @James: Thanks! I definitely agree that if there are multiple continents it will affect things to some degree.

    @Cogito:
    Agreed.
     
  6. Quinn T. Senchel
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    Quinn T. Senchel Member

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    I recently drew a map I fell in love with.
    I started to draw random shapes but that didn't work well.
    My inspiration came from Canada when I drew it backwards.
    I'm generally a terrible map maker but this actually came out nice and believable.
    I combined Canada with fake maps, like the map for Final Fantasy, Twilight Princess, and my map on MineCraft.
    I even got a little creative and made an island that sort of resembles a crescent moon next to a star, and an island that looks like a turtle.
    It is fantasy, after all.

    I probably wont use all of the map. My story focuses on one continent, predominantly in the south.
    I'd like to know all the details of my world, but it isn't necessary to be believable.

    3. It isn't very believable if there is no diversity among life, even among the same species.
    If a story covers a large area, I'd expect a deal of ecological diversity (which is part of the fun, imo).
     
  7. adampjr
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    adampjr Member

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    Check out the forum at the Cartographer's Guild.
     
  8. Caeben
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    Caeben Member

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    I definitely agree with Cogito on this one. I have GMed a fair number of pen-and-paper RPGs over the years, and I have learned that drawing world maps have invariably led to me spending way too much time focusing on map-making and world-building than on actually working on the story. For fantasy pieces I have written, I have experienced the same thing, and this has led to me confining my map-making to solely the area being traversed by the story's characters. In addition, by limiting your map-making endevours to just what the story requires, I would think that future expansions to your map can grow more organically based upon your experiences with the first story and what may be required of the second. By limiting the scope of the map, you may actually find yourself with much more future flexibility.
     
  9. Timberwolf
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    Timberwolf New Member

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    Ecological diversity will depend on the distance your characters travel and, to a lesser extent, hear news from. Think of the diversity within a day or so's walking distance from your house. There are probably lots of different land uses, but most likely only one climate, one type of macroscopic terrain, and a particular selection of flora and fauna. A day or two by car or aeroplane on the other hand... if you have equivalent means of magical transport, you'll need a lot of variety.

    Remember though that with greater distance you need less detail. Think of it like a photograph - you can see the blades of grass in the foreground, but only the rough shapes of hills in the distance. It's fine for someone to receive news from the southern wastes or Mount MacGuffin, but less fine for them to live in a location that never receives any more description than "the plains".

    The other challenge is that it's a fantasy world - so things will operate differently from our own. What effect has magic had? Are there scars across the land from previous battles? Wild overhangs and crazy rock formations where sorcerors twisted mountains for their amusement? Or is magic something small-scale that can't have a lasting effect on the terrain? If people fear dragons then the towns will bear evidence of that fear; low stone buildings set into the ground with anything flammable stored safely away.

    As for the map? If you want one, I'd draw it as a series of plot points. What happens, where, and how do your characters get between them? If there is a reunion after a long horse ride then there needs to be somewhere a long horse ride can be had. This will help you build the world and the happenings within it at the same time, and you can see what needs to be where and if your plot demands any impossibilities like a huge mountain range between two fishing villages half a mile apart you'll see it then.

    Regarding one continent, it's doable, but you need a reason for the world to be like that. Is it a young world, full of magma vents, volcanoes and sharp ridges where erosion is yet to take hold? A planet which is mostly land or mostly water? (In either case animal species will be very different to what we are used to.) Or were the land masses united in some great act of forgotten magic? Alternatively it could be that your characters only know of one continent, because they haven't the technology to build ocean-crossing ships. That needs to fit with your magic system and available mythic beasts, of course. :)

    Hope that's given you some ideas and considerations. It may be worth trying to lure a friendly geologist if you want to get really detailed on world building. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what they eat. Try chocolate.
     
  10. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I've done this a couple of times! It's fun and helps me out, just like you said. (also, it is a distraction just like Cogito said, but whateves lol)
    For your first point, In my opinion it is, but then I usually try to make my stories bigger than they need to be, so whatever is necessary for the story is what you should map.

    Second, I've done both, sometimes drawing a random landmass with a specific area that is shaped like something specific, usually only when it will serve the story however. It isn't really a big deal to have a specific shape unless it has something to do with the story. If you like the way it looks, go for it!

    Third, I use North America as a template alot. You have the plains in the center, desert to the south and west, wetlands in the southeast, artic regions to the north, even a few rainforests. Not saying it has to be that diverse, but more whole continents contain MANY different ecosystems. If you want variety in the story, its not problem to have alot. Conversely, if you want to have it be mostly uniform, thats no big deal either. Whatever serves the story best!
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I guess the shape of it doesn't matter much. Will there be oceans etc?

    Somethings to consider - what time period is your world set in? How do the people survive? What sorta industry does the majority of your world run on? Eg. if it's really advanced and filled with cities, you probably won't get huge patches of forest. If it's mostly unexplored territories then you may have jungles and swamps etc. If your people mostly survive by farming, you need to reserve lots of space for farmlands. If your people mine, then you gotta think of rocks and mountains and caves. If your people fish, then you need to think of including some oceans, and if there're any islands and other unexplored lands out there.

    What kinda clothes do your people wear? This should give you a clue about the climate, which should also determine the vegetation and how much forest you get etc, what kinda trees, and in turn what your people do for a living.

    Are they a nation that feels superior to other people? Then you might wanna think of including more countries and people so you actually have someone to look down upon. You cannot feel superior if everyone's the same. Is there more than one language? If yes, you might wanna think of separating groups with mountains and rivers etc and just generally put a lot of space between the two groups.

    Basically, map it according to your world/people's cultures and lifestyle!
     
  12. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    It all depends very on what fits your story. If your civilisation is large in terms of both number of people and area and has existed for millennia it will likely have much diversity. Are there other civilisations? Will they appear in the story? Are the characters from different areas or different backgrounds? These are questions you as a writer have to answer sometime somehow.

    As for the one continent thing I do absolutely not think it's overused. It again boils down to what fits the story. The continent may be large or small, the ocean may be large or small, there might even be other continents, just that they are unknown etc. Decide for yourself.

    My story takes place mostly on a fantasy planet where there live a few hundred million people, all with magical abilities. The land area is a group of nine islands, with a vast ocean surrounding it. This fits my story as there is supposed to be only one country/government, all lands are supposed to be known and the people of each island and the people of each island have their own regional identities, and accents, however vague and unimportant to the overall plot.

    This fits my story. The people have been living on the planet for only a mere 500 years (which I think is remarkably short in this context, decide for yourself) and have had contact with eachother since day one, so own cultures have not had time to develop. All the people are also of the same race, and came from the same "culture" on another planet, most coming from one small country. There are differences in the climate of each island (to the point where two are inhospitable to humans), and in one case even large differences on one single island, and this plays perhaps the largest part in the culture of each island, though I will not call the difference particularly important in the scale of things, and certainly not for the story I'm writing, but it can add some flavour or humour and might help me develop the story further.

    And also, I have, too, drawn a map of my setting. I have mapped islands, water, bridges, cities, forests,deserts, mountains and even ocean currents. Just do what you feel you want or need. Personally I find trial and error the best way to develop my setting; I just sat down and drew random weirdly shaped circles that were to be my islands, basing it off of ideas of how I imagined the society to be, and eventually refined their sixes and locations. If you want to do it digitally or on paper is up to you, as is how much detail you want to add. You don't have to be good at drawing (I, for one, am not, but I'm pleased with the outcome for my type of use), but take the time you need. Plus, I love maps.
     
  13. Britannica
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    Britannica Member

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    Wow! Thanks for the advice everyone, This has been VERY helpful!
    To answer a few questions:
    In my story the land scape is very diverse ranging from volcanoes, rainforests, lakes, rivers, old growth forests, new growth, swamps, etc. The people themselves are kind of different "races" though not in the way that we would think. Their cultures do differ, but, not to the point where they are so different that they cannot get along. I am unsure of the whole language thing, I think that they all speak one language (still haven't figured it out yet, I will worry about it when I need to right now I need to just sit down and write!) Neither have I put much thought into clothing, I suppose it differs by region and culture.
    Yes, there are oceans, my world is not extremely different from earth; at least ecologically.
     
  14. Django
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    Django New Member

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    I made a map recently of a very large one-continent area for a story I'm writing. If you know the main locations and their relative directions and distances from each other then get them down first- they're more important than the general shapes and borders. After that, work outwards from the existing locations- you know the wider settings that these locations are in. My map doesn't feature any oceans, so if you have seperate islands then I guess you would have to think harder about shape and borders- but really, I think it is a minor issue compared with the main features of the map. If you have photoshop and know the basics, you can easily change and play about with the map, moving and resizing things with ease.

    I think the ecological diversity really depends on the type of area. A jungle is far more diverse than a desert. A coral reef is more diverse than open water. But I think even though the right amount of diversity will help realism, it's more important to define well the things that you do describe. Look at James Cameron's Avatar- the whole thing is set in a dense jungle, the most ecologically diverse places ever, and we only see about ten of the different animals, if that.
     

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