One thing I have an obsession with making is maps. I like to write fantasy novels, and designing a make believe world goes hand-in-hand with that genre. Some of my favourite books are ones where the world is impeccably designed and fully flushed out (some classics like Dune and Lord of the Rings come to mind). So that’s one of my goals when writing a book: to design a world, complete with cultures, geography, history and everything. It means a lot of planning, but I think it’s worth it. And it’s fun!
Here’s one such map I’ve done (click to enlarge):
It’s for a book about a young man who wakes up wounded and without his memory. He travels across the lands trying to discover who he is, and along the way learns some unpleasant truths about his world and himself. The main areas he travels in are Morva and Cymeria (at least in the first book). I’ve only written about 10,000 words of this book, and currently the main character is in the forest between Sappara and Morva.
The best part about thoroughly designing a world is that once it’s pretty well done, you can write any story in it. Of course I design each place with a story in mind, but every world has (in theory) a rich history that can be exploited for more wonderful tales. Unfortunately, I’ve never designed a world so completely to make this possible. What usually happens is I draw the map, name the places, and start up on the current story I have in mind. Occasionally I’ll write a history or two about a country, but it usually doesn’t go much further than that.
Here’s an excerpt describing the geography of Sappara:
Sappara is situated in the northeastern corner of the Western Continent. It shares borders with Morva, Cymeria and Cabek. Sappara holds a very strong geo-political position, and has little to fear form its neighbours. To the west of Sappara lies Morva, a small country surrounded by powerful neighbours. Recently the warmongering Cymeria has invaded Morva, who’s army stood little chance against the military might of Cymeria. A war-plagued Morva poses little threat to the Kingdom of Sappara.
It goes on, but I won’t bore you with it. These sort of writings are for my own reference, so I can try and picture the unique cultures and histories that shape each country. I try and use real world history and anthropology to imagine how each culture would develop, but my knowledge of such things is rudimentary. Still, it’s a useful and fun exercise, and one I should definitely do more often (especially since then I might actually get some worlds finished up!).