As part of the worldbuilding for the novel I'm working on, Claws of the Chimera, I've been making a map for the setting. I wanted to share a few of the things I've learned, and the resources I've been using.
- Real life geography is important! I started out with the io9 article 10 rules for making better fantasy maps, but point #3 was the most immediately useful: Study real geography. Specifically rivers, which were the main things I had problems with.
- Rivers don't just fork for no reason at all. I spent quite a lot of time enjoying Reading With a Vengeance's blog about rivers in fantasy maps, and it's encouraging to find out I'm not alone. Particularly, my rivers like to have random forks in them, but unless there's a really good geological reason for that (or a man-made reason), they shouldn't fork. Instead they come together, flowing downhill.
- Swamps don't just happen where it's plot-appropriate! As this Fantasy Mapmaking 101 article points out, "Swamps are formed in soft, low lying ground near to a source of ample water. That source may be the ocean, a lake, a river, or even an aquifer."
Here's the first version of my map:
A few errors here, mainly in the river forking and swamp placement.
- The last facet I looked into was mountains, and this was the other big takeaway, from this Wired interview with Jonathan Roberts, who mapped Game of Thrones:
"Realism is important, and even imaginary worlds need to have geographic logic; No sense unduly challenging a reader’s suspension of disbelief. This means rivers need to converge as they flow to a coast, mountains form in clusters or lines, and deserts that transition gently into forests.
Here's what I ended up with:
I hope some of these resources are useful to you. How do you approach making maps for your work?