The Magic and Misgivings of Meticulous Maps

I have always had an affinity for maps for as long as I can recall and it is a fascination that I still maintain to this very day. When I think back to my childhood I remember having vague recollections of drawing out crude charts of our local surroundings as I would journey with my mother and sister to wherever it was that we were going. I have no memory of the destination, just the journey itself. I would show my mother what I was drawing and then explain in some detail that we shouldn’t be taking certain routes to avoid whatever imaginary pitfalls or monsters my imagination could conjure that lay ahead. A park became a swamp, a few trees became a forest and a lamppost became a creature of unknowable capability and malicious intent.

This just reaffirms my belief that no matter what age you are, a map has the potential to be a powerful tool for the mind to wonder about and wander around. Just looking upon the drawings or ink lines that dictate the geography of any world can open up the imagination immensely. When was this town founded and why? What riches lie down that road? What dangers lurk in the unknown hollows of that island? What risks or rewards await those who venture to here, there or anywhere?

Naturally then, any story that has an accompanying map of the region or world you wish to explore is a brilliant companion that can add to the immersion of the experience. To make you feel like you are delving deeper into the workings of the mind of the creator or creators and perhaps get even a glimpse of what they see for yourself in your own minds eye.

Some of you may be aware of this and to others reading these pages for the first time that may not, I have a fictional world of my own that I have created and mapped out in my head. For myself, I would love little more than to have my own world of Ayl’gard completely mapped out in detail and to have the contents of my mind transferred by ink or by print to paper. However, I feel this prospect then presents a slight problem, at least for me, and it was something I realised quite early on in my conceptions when all there was to my world was a single country with some cities, towns, rivers and forests. This is a problem that specifically relates to certain genres whereby the world the story takes place in is entirely manufactured by the author as opposed to historical stories or those that use our own planet earth as the basis for a setting and it is as follows.

Once you have committed to compiling your ideas into one singular vision of your world setting and then transforming that vision into the physical representation of a map, you are essentially stating that your world, or region, is finished and in its final form. You may disagree with me on this point and I have no problem with that (I welcome the debate of differing opinions) but for how I perceive this restrictive finality…..well, it bugs me a little.

The lines on a map represent a rough depiction of how somewhere looks at a fixed moment in time and there are two main reasons why I don’t believe that I will be able to fully commit to this finality. The first reason why I would prefer to leave my map eternally incomplete is so that if I ever wish to add something to it or take something away, not inexplicably change it without a good reason, then I have the freedom to do so without having to make large scale changes to an iteration of a map that I created some time ago. Past ideas should not inhibit the potential of future inspiration.

The second reason is that my world’s history spans well over ten thousand years, with a lot of my current ideas formulating around a certain period of about two thousand years or so in this fictional history. No region in any world or in any fictional or non-fictional setting stays exactly the same in such a period of time. Locations may come and go depending on the circumstances or events that transpire as a result of some storylines. As a result I want to allow myself the freedom to visit any period of time in my own world of Ayl’gard without worrying about someone reading one story and having it confused with how the world is supposed to look in a set point of the timeline. Worse still, I risk confusing myself if I am trying to work around a world construct represented by a one singular map.

I have no desire to create entire new maps that represent every setting of every story that I write because I am but one man whose time is too precious as it is to even consider such an undertaking. So if I allow myself the minor indignity of never committing to a world map, then I feel that I will always have the freedom to write about characters and events without the potential for upsetting that which is set in stone – or paper as is the case here.

I would love to be able to look upon the creation that exists in my head in the form of a marvellously detailed and meticulously planned map of Ayl’gard one day. Perhaps when I finish writing my last words in this realm then I may consider such an endeavour. Until then I shall just have to make do with my imagination, which is an even greater tool for readers and writers to make use of.

Forged From Reverie.

21 thoughts on “The Magic and Misgivings of Meticulous Maps

  1. Depending on the scope of your work, you could always map out a region? Using our own map, as an example, if your story was merely set in the “Europe” of your world, then you could supply a map that shows France, Germany, Etc… But then later you’re allowing your inspiration to take you into the Middle East, or into the Americas… Your Planet isn’t mapped, and nobody can ever say “Well he said the planet was ‘One Country’ big”.

    That said, you can always detail extra parts of your world later and provide an updated map. It might sound messy on paper, but I doubt fans will ever truly care. If anything, they’d be excited to see the new updated map (as long as it didn’t change too drastically).

    I think it mainly depends on the nature of your story, how much is taking place and where..

    I love maps too though, I have been debating creating one for my novel but am faced with many the same questions you are. I want to represent a ‘Final’ world to my audience, but I don’t want to hinder any future stories that may take place in it.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I know how to fold a map properly. This is the extent of my relationship with maps. Don’t ever travel to unknown places with me and expect me to navigate unless you want to get lost and give up in a pub.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My lack of imagination rather hinders any attempts I might make at creating a new world, but I’m with you 100% on the fascination of maps – I love comparing maps of the same place through different centuries and seeing the changes that have occurred. Nice post 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Clive. There’s just something about them that can tell an entire story with nary a word written save for location names.

      I recently looked over an old map of the Kingdoms of England from the year 900 or so and the differences from then to now are fascinating and astounding.

      Liked by 1 person

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