A few weeks ago I talked about using maps as a way to figure out plot. As I explore this process I want to go a little deeper with maps.
Just like the story itself my maps tend to take a few drafts. My map evolves with my story, plot, and characters.
It matters because I’m directionally challenged and so are the readers. They don’t know which way is which in your story. Often your characters don’t even know. So who knows?
The author. You. You need to know.
My first map is never pretty. It has the most basic info possible. A tiny seed of an idea, a place haunted by vague characters and speckled with random places.
The little sproutling of a map comes on the second version. It has reasons for locations, a compass, and key plot points. This is also where I consider my characters and where they gravitate towards. For example, a seamstress will be out of place in a mining camp (unless of course you’ve made a plot to accommodate the idea).
A juvenile sapling map forms when my story plot begins to reach full length. I’ve plotted a synopsis to the end of the journey. I’ve used my map to fill my mushy middle with obsticals of various forms and levels.
At this point my map has become a part of my story.
My mature map has every tiny detail scrutinized and agonized over. Distances are calculated to ensure travels times are believable. Buildings are logical in funtion and placement. You can’t have a lumber camp in the middle of a field (unless you’ve built that reason into your plot of course). Your characters live or don’t live somewhere for concrete reasons. These elements may never appear on the pages for the reader but you, the author, need to know because it matters.