And now I’d like to welcome back my dear friend and author Kelli Riffle! Kelli talks about geography in a novel among other things that all writers need to pay attention to. Thanks again Kelli!
I know how bad writers tend to NEED to jump right in and start something they want to do. Then, usually, get started and hit chapter four and, whoops, it’s not right. For those who write Fantasy, Science Fiction, some Paranormal and Adventure (and more) there is one thing to start right off the bat with and it will come in very handy all throughout your writing process. The first and simplest place to start, and very convenient, is a map.
A map is an essential tool for creating worlds. In a way, you get to play God. But, the rules have to make sense and I will be talking about this later in my blog posts. You do get to draw, and I already hear the sighs and the rolling of eyes. Yes, some of you rolled your eyes so hard, I could hear them. You really don’t need to be able to draw, don’t need to draw a straight line. Look at a map and see how many straight lines there are in natural land formations. There are none, at least none I have been able to define. Look at beaches and shorelines, lakes and rivers, islands and continents. Do you see any straight lines? I really can’t draw a straight line, but I can scribble some jagged little outlines of a land or world. Even country and state lines are not straight (the Mason-Dixon Line may be the only suggestion I can give and even then I doubt it is perfectly straight.) So, get a piece of paper or a sketch pad, and start designing a map. You don’t even have to include it in the finished draft, but it helps, and let your mind go. If you don’t like it, turn the page and start over. My last map for my fantasy novel really sucked. It had straight lines. It didn’t look right. Didn’t look natural or real, and that is something you want to avoid. You will be coming back to this map repeatedly throughout your writing process.
But, you need to consider brushing up on basic geography. Look at the United States for example. On the west coast, you have many geographic areas, from deserts and beaches to mountains, and moving further north with the states the climate changes a bit to have milder winters. Moving east there are the Rocky Mountains. Even further east are the plains states, where they have harsher winters than other areas because of the Jet Stream mostly. Then you work your way into the eastern woodlands areas. (This is just a brief example) Knowing your physical geography is important because, even in a world created by you and filled with magic, readers will let you know when you have not done your research.
In addition to all this, maps are a good way to keep yourself oriented, period. If you don’t know what direction you’re going, neither will your characters. This will also give you an idea how long they need to travel from place to place, and also what the weather will be like and what kind of food and other supplies they need. Besides, they can be fun to create and play with while you are waiting for all your ideas as they develop.
Thanks again for dropping by Black Satin, Kelli!