Updated: Jun 20
Hi HALE Addicts! Are you writing an epic fantasy and want to incorporate a map? Whether or not you are an artist, making a map for your fictional world isn’t as daunting as it sounds, as long as you have it planned out. And I’m here to help! No, your map doesn’t have to be as detailed as Tolkien’s or even Martin’s to be wonderful and immersive for your readers. So don’t get discouraged, and let’s dive in!
1. Why do you need this map?
This is a good question to ask yourself when beginning any project. Why am I doing this? After all, not all fantasy authors create maps for their world. And if your struggling between deciding, here are some pro’s to having one.
* Your readers will feel like they are on an adventure with your character. They can trace your character’s journey by gazing at your map every time your character enters a new place.
* It will be beneficial to you when writing your story, or the sequel to your story to keep track of where your characters have already visited, where do they need to visit, what have they learned in this particular place, who did they meet there, and so forth.
* Last but not least… it looks super cool!
Know that when writing your readers should always come first, and they are reading your fantasy novel to escape. Give them an inviting map to jump into and obsess over by figuring out these key details…
2. Where does your story start? And where does it end?
Ok, here’s a good place to lift off! Where do we meet your characters in the novel? Now use your five senses, what can you smell, taste, see, feel, and hear there? We don’t have to talk about climate just yet, just the place as a whole. What do the people look like, their skin color, their accents, culture? What type of foods do they eat? What kinds of clothes do they wear?
If you are stuck, you can always look for inspiration in the waking world, as there are countless beautiful nations and cultures right on Earth!
But if you’re still stuck, visit my blog: How to write about Different Fantasy Nations.
Do the same exercise with the different places your character visits, all the way through the end of your book.
3. Now let’s add some details about climate:
While you are here, it is good to brush up on your geography just a bit. Different types of climates are usually colored differently in realistic maps, though not usually in fantasy maps.
Here are the five main climates on Earth:
Tropical: Year-round heat and humidity with temperatures above 18 degrees Celsius and 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Tropical climates are found near the equator.
Dry: Here, moisture evaporates rapidly and there is little rain. Found around the tropical climates, farther away from the equator.
Temperate: Warm and humid weather with thunderstorms in the summer and gentle winters. Found after the dry area.
Continental: cool summers and frigid winters. Found between the poles and temperate climates.
Polar: very, very cold!
How that you’ve got that down, remember, with every type of climate comes its own plant and animal systems. Learn more about how to create your own Fantasy animals for your novel here! Learn more about how to create your own plant system for your novel here!
So you’ve got the climates down for each of your distinct places in your fantasy world, now let's add some details!
Make a list of the following. Which of your fantasy nations has:
2. Forms of water (pond, lake, bay, beach, waterfalls, rivers)
3. Woodsy Areas
4. Landmarks/ historic places/ ruins/ important buildings/ sacred areas/ palaces/ market places/ etc.
These are the four basic things you're going to find in a fantasy map.
But that’s not all: Such places can exist in several landforms like islands, peninsulas, capes, etc. Figure out which of your fantasy nations lives on what type of landmass.
Here is a helpful pdf explaining different landmasses and water masses: https://home.apu.edu/~jdlanders/Teacher_Materials_files/GeoFlash.pdf
Finally! We made it to the end! Thank the heavens, gods, myths, and monsters in your fantasy world!
It’s time to piece your map together and separate neighboring nations/ countries with borders. You can be as messy as you want while doodling, add some of your notes to your doodles, and continue to draw it out until you got a clean rough sketch.
You are done! You’ve made your own fantasy map, but if you want to take it to the next level, there are so many online map creators you can use! Click here for a list of the best Map creators online!
Was this blog helpful? Tell me about your fantasy stories and map journeys in the comment section below! I look forward to hearing from you!
JK Noble | Author | Artist | Philanthropist
Published author of the new YA Fantasy Series, HALE.
Creator of the LMB franchise and the Encourage Literacy Foundation.