Yesterday I did something I’d been wanting to do for quite some time. I finally got around to drawing a map of the high school where a lot of my novels take place. Next I have to draw a vague map of the town (my major setting).
Because I can’t draw a straight line and have no sense of proportion, I had to use graph paper. (Kind of odd, because in the fourth grade, this other girl and I were obsessed with drawing floor plans and getting everything just right. Now I seem to have lost that ability.) Even so, nothing is proportional, but that doesn’t really matter to me that much. What matters is that I finally know where everything is in relation to everything else and I have a nice reference tool to look back on when I’m writing. Plus, it’s great to know I actually got it done.
I’ve noticed that most enormous, epic fantasy novels have maps (the ones that don’t irritate me because I’m constantly wondering where everything is), which are useful and sometimes very pretty.
Books in the same series (that aren’t historical, sci-fi, or fantasy) often have maps of towns or important settings on the inside cover, too. Some books even have lists of the main characters (dramatis personae – ah, Latin!), glossaries, pronunciation guides, and illustrations of the characters. Dramatis personae lists can sometimes include small spoilers, but they’re useful if the book is huge and has a lot of characters. (Why can’t they add a character list to In Search of Lost Time? Why?) I read a romance novel once that had a dramatis personae list – I don’t really know why it listed the characters since there were few of them and the book wasn’t long. Strange.
If I ever get my book published, I’m not including the map I drew because it’s mostly a reference tool for me. I don’t think the reader would need it to understand the story.
My question for readers… do you draw maps of your settings to help you? Do maps and other “reference” things in books irritate or help you?