Writing Fantasy || Setting 2 – Mapping

Who were the authors who shaped your childhood memories of fantasy and make-believe? These are the writers we tend to remember the rest of our lives. My childhood memories of magical and fanciful tales come from four well-known children’s books:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Magic Faraway Tree and Noddy by Enid Blyton

Rupert The Bear by Alfred Bestall (originally created as a comic strip by Mary Tourtel)


When we write fantasy stories, it’s good to start with where the story takes place, then add the people and other aspects of the story to that. This is called ‘Mapping’ and can be an artistic rendering of the world where your story lives, or it can be a topography of the terrain drawn like an actual map with all the hills, valleys, rivers, roads and towns. Like I mentioned in my earlier blog, Writing Fantasy||Setting 1 Where To Begin, I prefer to collect Pinterest pins, but at some point, I need to discover what components make up my fantasy world and literally how long it would take a Dwarf to get to the Castle Keep. So a drawn or written map is essential to the span of time I need to write about for him on his travels.

If it takes a few days for the journey, then I know to add an adventure, altercation or meeting with someone along the way, because let’s face it, a journey without an event is just plain boring and not at all interesting to your reader. In real life we couldn’t travel three days without meeting a fellow traveller, missing a bus connection or experiencing bad weather. So it is with other worlds. That’s where the storyline unfolds; in the in-between times.

Treasure Map
Mapping Your Novel

Text about terrain and water flow, air, heat source – is there a sun or other heat source?

If you’ve already decided on a rough outline for your story (more on this later if you haven’t already started one), now is the time to decide how big your fantasy world needs to be in order to incorporate all the events you have planned. Even if you don’t have an outline written down, you’ve probably envisioned an encounter with an enemy, a chance meeting with someone, and a plot twist somewhere. What kind of backdrop do these events happen on?

Walk around in your world. Where would your hero have his first encounter with an enemy? Where does the main antagonist live? How far is that from where the hero lives? What kind of landscape does he need to cross? Are there any forms of transportation to help your hero across the terrain?

Here are some other things to consider:

How does it smell? Is it sweet or a ‘bog of eternal stench’ (from the movie Labyrinth)

What do you see at every turn on the journey? What’s in the sky if there is one?

What do you hear? Sounds of people and animals or the sound of silence?

What is there to eat and drink in each area? Is it a dry dessert or a swampy forest?

Where is physically safe/dangerous? Are there rugged mountain paths or rapid rivers and stormy lakes?


Your Hero’s Lifestyle

“Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold” , aka ‘The Dwarf Song’ from The Lord Of The Rings on YouTube, describes the terrain beautifully and sets the scene for the backstory and imminent adventure.

Is your main hero male, female, or a team? Is your hero human or another sentient being?

Does your fantasy world have different races or are all the inhabitants the same? Do different races may live in separate regions?

What does your hero do for work? This will determine where he/she lives.

“…using real places as a springboard can help you frame elements consistently and with a more grounded result”Ammi-Joan Paquette , author and literary agent explaining mapping in Writer’s Digest, March/April edition 2016.

Look around your real world. Do you see the potential for mapping your fantasy world based on reality?

I often draw from my childhood memories of the hills and dales of England, where the Bronte sisters gathered most of their inspiration. You can find some of those places on my Pinterest board, West Yorkshire Kid.


Your Next Step

Draw or describe your own fantasy map and copy to your secret Pinterest inspiration board if you’re not ready to share it with the world yet (here’s a link to my Fantasy||Inspiration board which is public, but I have a secret board I’ll share once my novel is published). Or pin your inspiration to a board you’ve created to share your work with your followers. Another way is to cut out pictures from magazines and actually pin them to your office bulletin wall or stick them to your fridge.

Comment below how you were inspired for your creation and where you post/pin/stick your inspirational images/words.

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.



4 thoughts on “Writing Fantasy || Setting 2 – Mapping

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