I’ve shared this map before, and I’ll do it again. Why? Because what you see here is the only reason I have a handle on where my series is going. The definition of epic fantasy means that you have to create a world. It’s some authors’ strength, and others’ weakness. Either way, it’s necessary.
If you only have one nation that your book focuses on, you can get deluded into thinking you don’t need a map. But, here’s the thing… your world simply won’t real the readers in. When I mention different cities in the real world, readers instantly can picture something. If they’re unfamiliar with the city, it’s pictures they’ve seen online. If they’ve been there, they can even imagine the city’s smells, humidity, and general ‘feel’ that is hard to convey in writing.
For example, Hero Status by Kristen Brand takes place in Miami. Instantly, she’s already half way through her description simply by telling you the city. Palm trees, salty air from the ocean, sweat-inducing humidity, sun so bright you’re still squinting with sunglasses on. Then there’s the fact that her protagonist Dave is Hispanic, so you get glimpses into the predominating culture of the area.
Now, if I mention Mereu… nothing comes to your mind. Why? Because it’s a city in my world for this series. You have no predispositions about it. I have to describe everything from the ground up. That city is very important for one of my minor characters, Rutley, and I know that he’ll be spending more time there as the series goes on. It shapes him.
Where your characters come from, where they would go if the chaos of your plot didn’t get in the way… all of that is important. Even if not all of the information comes up, you should have your map written down. Before I had it professionally created, I had a rough sketch that I used as I was writing. It reminded me of all the possibilities of where my characters could go.
With every book in my series, a new country (sometimes more than one) is added into the thick of the plot. I already know everything about the culture of every place I will ever mention. Why is this important? Foreshadowing.
I feel like I’m rambling, even though this blog post isn’t that long yet. I just want to leave you with this message: in this world, you can type into the GPS of your phone and go wherever you want. In the fictional world you create, it’s up to you to make that a journey for your reader rather than a ‘trip from Point A to Point B’ (aka your plot points). Take the time. Build your world. It’ll help built your characters and your plot.