Here is the map of the world I have created for my fantasy novel (Map of Daggers). The whole known world consists of this island: Tinggo.
Credit to Jordan Smith, my dad, for creating this from my sad, hand-drawn scribble.
When I started working on this book, the map came first. I know what you’re thinking. It’s a little backward. Plus I’m going to have to go back and change things on the map as I write, because not every detail of the story has been worked out yet. Many of the city and town names will probably change, because I picked some of them at random. But as a writer, it helps to have at least a first draft of the map with you as you begin writing a fantasy novel.
Certain questions need to be answered when you draw a map, and these answers can impact your story. For example:
- What’s the scale? How far apart are cities? How do people get around? I haven’t worked out an exact scale yet, although my dad indicates that 1 inch is 50 zorns (whatever that means). I’d say Tinggo is roughly the size of Ireland. It takes a few days to travel between major cities on foot, but people also ride zebras, which can be tamed here, unlike on Earth. I’m also toying with the idea of water roads, which function like canals that allow heavy cargo to be transported far distances quickly.
- What’s the climate like? Tinggo is a tropical or semi-tropical island. It seemed most fantasy novels took place in more temperate northern European climates, so I wanted to change things up. A tropical climate means no snow, the ability to farm year-round, occasional heavy rains, and several other things which will affect the story.
- Why are cities and towns placed where they are? I placed most cities by rivers or mountains. Otherwise, why would people settle there? However, a couple cities are in the middle of nowhere, and this needs to be explained. Perhaps a king wanted to encourage settlement in a remote area? Or a natural resource was discovered there? Or a lake dried up? All possibilites to consider.
- What are the political boundaries, and why did they form that way? Most political boundaries in the real world were formed by rivers or mountains or foreign powers meddling in other countries’ business. On Tinggo, the dominant power is the Kingdom of Tinggo. On the left is Divol, separated by mountains from the rest of the island. In the southeast is Mung, which is technically part of Tinggo but also an autonomous region, bordered on two sides by rivers. In the story, Divol declares war on Tinggo, and even though Divol is much smaller, its natural defenses give it a huge advantage.
A brief word on names. Many of them were picked at random based on how they sounded. Some are similar to real world places. Santimalia, the pleasant beach region in the south, gets its name from Santorini. The capital of Tinggo, where most of the book’s early action takes place, is Cartopolis, meaning City of Maps. The name goes back to an origin story for the city itself which explains how maps became so important for their society. It’s something that will be explained in the backstory.
Please feel free to leave a comment or question about the map. It’s still open for revision, and I’m happy to get feedback.
Until next time… Happy Mapping!