Draw maps of your world
If you read a lot of epic fantasy chances are you have looked at the maps that come with many of these books. They are a wonderful addition to the writing. They bring a visual reality to the world contained in the novel and they are not an afterthought to the novel. They are a valuable part of the novel reading experience.
Maps are not just for the reader though. They can serve a very useful function to you as a writer. Chances are good that your main character or main characters have to travel around the world you have created. Where are the rivers? How far apart are the cities and towns? What are the main features of the landscape? Are there mountains? How long would it take your character to walk from one place in the world to another place in the world. A good map can help you answer all these questions.
Too often maps are almost an afterthought. The story is written and then the map is drawn to fit the story. You should turn this approach on it’s head and draw the maps early in the writing process.
A map or even a series of maps can ground your story in a sense of reality. It can also spur new ideas in the story. The visual layout of a map can bring out new ideas. Does the map feel like it is missing something. Does it feel natural for a lake to be at the base of a mountain? Draw it in and see if it brings a new chapter to your story. Are there two rivers that meet? What should be at this meeting point? Is there a city? Maybe there is a dark forest. Maybe these new terrain features will play a role in your story.
Maps are something that a reader often refers to. A map is a bonus in a novel and whenever there is a map in a novel that I am reading the map pages are deeply dog-eared. It brings a different part of the readers brain into the story. Don’t neglect maps and don’t save them as an afterthought. Use them to their fullest potential. Even if you don’t have much skill with drawing, your map may be good enough to actually use in the final print version. It is the roughest maps that look like they are hand-drawn that are the best accompaniment to a fantasy story.
Make 3d scenes and dioramas for your world
I am a diorama maker. I love creating little scenes with wizards, barbarians and all sorts of evil creatures. When I wrote my first novel I took on the ambitious project of creating a tabletop diorama for one particular area of the world I had created. It was a project that covered a custom built table that was seven feet long and four feet wide and it took a lot of time to build but the reward for this project was also big. Having an actual layout of a scene in the novel allowed me to breathe life into the novel. I could now see the terrain and the characters as they moved over it. I could envision the weather and the plant life. It made it much easier for me to draws pictures in my reader’s minds. You don’t have to do a project as ambitious as the one I did, you could just do a small scene but this type of world building in a visual sense will add a sense of depth to your writing.
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