Map Questing Your World: World Building 101

It took God seven days to create the world. Okay, maybe it only took him six. The seventh day was a day of rest. But I believe that even God had a blue print of how this world was going to be laid out before he got started.

Unfortunately, there were no GPS’s back in the time of creation as we have today. Although, I’ll be the first to admit that without my GPS, I’d be lost every time I got into my car and headed for unknown destinations (i.e. anything more than 5 miles from my house).

It’s different when you’re a writer.

As a writer, creating a new unknown world is as much about discovery as it is about map questing the world a character comes from. Sometimes the map is a mental picture that we writers draw up in our  mind and we know where our character lives, where his friends live, and even where the town bully lives. We’ve got this imaginary road map that no one else can see except through the words we write to describe it.

I recently read a series called Dragons of Deltora by Emily Rodda. In the first two pages of each book is a map of the world and a summary of the quest — in cause you hadn’t started reading from book one. Maps are one of  my favorite details inside an adventure story. If I get lost I can go back to the map and say, “Yep, that’s where they are.”

As a writer, creating a map of my world also helps me keep my bearings. It helps me determine the directions my character must go to find what he’s seeking.

As you can see here, when I first started writing Planet Mitch I created this map of his world.

Planet Mitch World Map

Granted, when I first mapped out my world it was on a piece of notebook paper. Then this morning, in order to clean up most of my scribbles, I sketched this in paint. But as you can see, this map has all the key elements I need for my character. Where he lives – in a planetarium on top the mountain. Where he goes to school and where he hangs out with his friends and plays baseball in Aspen Heights Park.

So why Susan do you have all those other places besides where Mitch lives and the nearest town?

Well, Mitch is an adventurous kid. It’s important to know where the things are around him to know where he’s going and how he will get there. At the top of the map, you’ll see a cluster of star’s that says “Ursa’s home”. We know that Mitch can’t go there, or maybe he can, we’ll just have to wait and see. But we do know, that Mitch’s goal for this first book called “The Lost Star” is all about Ursa and helping her find her way back up to the starry sky.

By marking Ursa’s home on the map it gives a direction of where Mitch is and where he needs to go. Some of the places around him help fill in just how he will get her there.

Every year, at the beginning of the school year, my kids and I draw a map. We discuss all the ways they can safely exit the house in case of an emergency and we mark areas outside our home that is a safe meeting place to go and wait for the family to all be together again. We mostly do this in case of a fire. But it’s a drawn plan of where we need to go and what we have to do to find that place to all be safe.

The same goes for any character in a book. We can outline and plot, but a map shows us direction. I have no doubt that before God rubbed his hands together and decided to create the world that he first drew a map and decided on where we’d go in this new world.

Perhaps one day there will be GPS’s for books, but until then I’ll keep sketching my own.

How many times have you used your GPS today to get where you’re going, whether it be fiction or the real world?


Daughter of a dairy farmer, this crafty mom has a heart for all things handmade. When she's not writing or crafting, you can find her creating memories with her family.

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