I’m an avid reader of fantasy books. I’m also an avid writer of fantasy books. And, what the heck, I’m also an avid enthusiast about maps in fantasy books. I own a lot of the Dragonlance books. I even have a map of Skyrim hanging in my hallway and a map of Maui right above my computer.
WHY YOU SHOULD INCLUDE A MAP IN YOUR FANTASY BOOK
The answer is very obvious. You want a map to, literally provide direction for your readers who have taken a chance on you and picked up your book to read it. You don’t need a map of America if you write contemporary, because, thank goodness to our schools, we were taught where California and New York is. And, if for some weird reason you’ve never opened a book, turned on the TV, or stepped outside in your life, you can GOOGLE those locations. I know. I’ve done it. You get hundreds of different maps for America.
Let’s say I wrote a book and titled it The War Queen. It’s a fantasy book set in my own made-up world called Endendre. Now Altarn is the Lady of Blindvar, who faces opposition from Kaelin who is the Lord of Ruidenthall. Separating these two states is Luthsinia. Altarn travels out of Niesh toward Athenya, stopping along the way at Yott and Gaynord where she eventually ends up on Greatmar.
Are you wishing you had a map of Endendre yet? Did you just try googling it? Didn’t find it? Here it is:
Pretty fancy. Where did I get this map? I drew it. And because my sister is a professional artist on her way to stardom, I gave the outline to her and she dressed it up to be what you see here.
BUT JM! I DON’T HAVE AN SISTER ON HER WAY TO ARTISTIC STARDOM!
That’s fine. Here’s another map I drew by hand for another yet-to-be-published fantasy book of mine:
Of course when this book is published, I’ll throw it at my sister to dress it up professional like. Oh. Right. You don’t have my sister. But, you DO have programs online, you have illustrators all over the internet who would love love love your business (but JM! That will cost money!) So stop buying coffee at Starbucks every morning, eat beef ramen for dinner instead of sushi, bike to work instead of drive.
The point is, life costs money. Manage your money into the areas you feel are most important. Paying someone to illustrate your map can be cheap. You might find a good freelancer on Fiverr.com to do it for you. Or, again, you can throw it into a program – even word paint – and do it yourself.
Let’s get back to why you should have a map included in your book. It’s for direction. Can you imagine reading Lord of the Rings without having the guidance of a map? Or any of the Dragonlance Chronicles? How about The Wheel of Time?
Reading should be an enjoyment for your readers. Help them read easy by giving them a visual to follow along.
DON’T HAVE THE AMBITION TO CREATE A MAP?
Maps are fun to make. Creating a map brings your story to life and you start to believe you have created a real place that exists somewhere. It’s PART of your story, and you can do SO much more with your map aside from having it in your book. What do I mean by that? You can use it as a background on your book’s webpage. It might even look as awesome as this.
Or go one step further and create yourself a store on zazzle.com and turn your map into a poster to hang in your hallway next to Skyrim:
A mouse pad:
A bumper sticker:
And then you can use this map as a fun free giveaway for your book. Basically, you’re not creating a map. You’re creating a massive promotion for your book that will hook readers to want to come back for more.
I’d LOVE to see your maps. I invite you to post a picture of it directly onto my facebook author page.