Maps and Other “Extras” in Books

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?

7 thoughts on “Maps and Other “Extras” in Books

  1. Map making can sometimes be fun, but also very difficult. When writing a fantasy book, it nice to have a map to refer to. This way you know that if it took so many days to get from this town to this town and you need to go twice as far, it will be twice the number of days (if there are no mishaps). I think its usually nice to have a physical map to refer back to for both the author and the reader. I use to go back and locate every new location on the map while reading a book. Now, I look at it before I start reading and don’t really look back. I just enjoy the book. Still, it’s nice to have one. Some maps can be pretty nice. I use Photoshop for mine. I can’t draw worth a darn either! There are quite a few sites that could probably help, even when designing room layouts.

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    1. I’m too intimidated by Photoshop to really learn how to use it. It looks really complicated. I keep telling myself I will try it one day, though! Thank you for commenting! 🙂

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  2. I find that maps for my settings are essential, even if they are not always “true” maps. For example, my novel FIVE takes place in a renamed and slightly changed Half Moon Bay, California. Before I started writing I drove out there and took a good many photographs of the place. I walked the main streets, drove the surrounding hills, and even bought the local newspaper. It helped a great deal.

    For my fantasy novels I take it even further. I draw maps, but I also go through a whole-world creation process, producing more information than I use, but in so doing create worlds that (I hope) are more believable.

    If you are interesting in the process I use for World Building for SciFi and Fantasy, I’ve done a rather long series of posts on Uphill Writing: http://uphillwriting.org/2010/05/09/world-building-revisited-part-1/

    I’d love your opinion of this series.

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  3. Maggie ~ Rik’s series on World Building covers the gamut from setting to characters to politics to food to social norms and mores.

    Maps are definitely an aid for fantasy and sci-fi writers who are not writing about “real world” settings ~ Mary Stewart used them in the Hollow Hills to show Merlin’s travels.

    I find them annoying IF they don’t include all the places on the map. If there’s a map, I want to see ALL the settings pictured on it.

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    1. I think Mary Stewart’s Merlin books were some of the few where I didn’t feel like I needed to look at the map to orient myself. I was so absorbed in the story that I didn’t want to flip to the inside cover!

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  4. I think authors have to walk a fine line. I enjoy having a general map to refer to when I’m reading (especially in the LOTR and Eragon series), but don’t really care for the in-depth/atlas type pieces. Those definitely distract me from the imagery created by the text. I enjoy the SF / supernatural genres for the very fact that they give me a chance to stretch my imagination – I don’t want all the details laid out for me.

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