At some point in my life, I want to arrange a home office that contains a map of every fictional world I love. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Paolini’s Alagaësia, McCaffery’s world of Pern. An entire wall dedicated just to the maps of fictional worlds. I love the look of fictional maps.
And there’s no better place to find fictional maps than in worldbuilding. if you’re doing any worldbuilding, you might be asking yourself if you need a map. How you determine if you need a map will vary greatly from creator to creator. For me, that’s usually asking myself some questions.
- Are there multiple locations?
- Are any conflicts reliant on location?
- Are there specific features that affect the scenes in that location?
- Am I, personally, having a hard time figuring where settings are in relation to one another?
Typically if I answer yes to all of those, I’ll at least do a quick map sketch. Your process for determining if you need a map may look different. Sometimes maps are just fun to create, without anything else behind them. Sometimes creating a map is just an unnecessary headache.
If you do decide you need or want a map: Go for it! There’s dozens of ways to create a fictional map. You might want to try out several different methods to find the one you like the best.
Hand drawn: The classic method is of course, drawing or sketching a map. You can most certainly use paper, or you can try using a digital art program to create it. (Tip: If you’ve never used a digital art program, check out Gimp. It’s a free photoshop alternative with a fairly low learning curve). The beauty of hand drawn maps is that it’s okay if they’re on the rough side and there’s several dozen tutorials across the internet to help you create your map. You can also check out a map creation software or commission an artist to create one for you.
Generated: In some instances, you might want the map before you start writing or designing the story. For that, try a map generator. If you’d like a ready-made map try out Azgaar’s fantasy map generator. If you’re willing to put in a little more work, there are options such as the polygon map generator which give you just the land mass. This lets you either create your own names for landmarks and locations, or you can pair it with a naming generator. Although generators give you a cleaner look with less upfront work, be mindful of the restrictions on use: not every generator allows use for commercial works.
Regardless of how you choose to create your map, it can be an enjoyable process. Take some time to play with the different options and find the one that works best for you.
I’d love to see your fictional maps! Drop me a comment below if you’ve got one you’d like me to check out.