How to Make a Fantasy Map

Written by michelle labbe
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How to Make a Fantasy Map
Mapping your fantasy world helps create a fictional setting that feels real. (map image by Sergey Kamshylin from Fotolia.com)

If you're an aspiring fantasy novelist, or an avid roleplayer, you can use your imagination to dream up alternate fantasy worlds for your characters to inhabit. To create a believable and consistent world, it might help to design and map out the landscape. Like Tolkien did for Middle Earth, or C. S. Lewis did for Narnia, you can create a fantasy map to organise and lay out your landscape so that others can visualise the world you've created.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Drawing paper
  • Graph paper
  • Eraser
  • Ruler

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Plan out the kind of map you want to make. Determine how big the map will be, and on what scale. Depending on the scope of your storyline for the fantasy world you're working on, you might want to map out the entire world, one or two major continents, a country or kingdom, or even a single city.

  2. 2

    Make a scale for your map. Begin drawing on graph paper so you can scale the map more easily. Consider how far apart you want your landmarks to be as you begin outlining political borders and major features of the landscape. One rule of thumb to consider is that the average person can walk about twenty miles in a day. Horses can travel fifty to sixty miles a day. You'll want to keep these distances in mind when moving characters around the fictional landscape.

  3. 3

    Identify major and minor landmarks. Consider the geography and climate of the land you're mapping. Will there be mountains, lakes, and rivers? Are there forests, or is your fantasy land a desert? Where are the cities and trade routes? Put time and thought into this part of the mapping process. Give yourself time to think through these questions. Don't rush, and do research on geography if you need to.

  4. 4

    Label names of places and landmarks on your map. It isn't easy to come up with names that sound original and believable, names that don't sound made up. Avoid cliché names like "The Cave of Destiny" or "The Bogs of Despair," unless you want your fantasy world to be a parody. To come up with original names, research languages and find interesting sounds and sound combinations to create realistic-sounding names for the locations on your map. You might want to connect the place-names to any cultures your world is based on, such as ancient China, the Middle East, or medieval England.

  5. 5

    When you're satisfied with the graph-paper draft of your map, transfer it to a sheet of drawing paper to make a final version. Add decorative items such as scrolls, fancy lettering, and colour if you desire.

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