One of my favorite parts of books, particularly fantasy fiction, is maps. Not every book comes with a map, but my personal opinion is that every book set in a fictional world should include at least one.
I was enamored with maps from an early age. My grandmother had a globe, the kind with texture to depict elevation. I spent a lot of time spinning it and feeling the mountains, fascinated by the way it felt and just how immense the world was. If there was a map in a book, I spent hours poring over it, memorizing every tiny detail. I wasn’t as interested in real geography as the imaginary sort, though access to things like Google Earth has changed that.
When I began roleplaying online in my preteens, maps were a big draw for me. If a game had maps of the locale, I was all over it. I took time to draw maps when I could, though I was never very good at it. Most of the people I played with were just pleased to have a visual reference of where our characters were supposed to be.
I did get better at it over the years, to the point where I plan to draw my own maps for my fantasy books. I’ve already started them, actually, though with my Photoshop skills as rusty as they are, it’ll be some time before they’re polished enough to really do anything with. And then there’s the matter of style. I’m always torn on how to draw the maps, whether I should go for color gradients to show elevation, or if I should go with a more traditional fantasy map like you see in things like The Chronicles of Narnia.
Either direction I go, though, it’s now much easier to find resources to learn from than it was when I first started drawing my own worlds. I still have a few maps, drawn in colored pencil. They are absolutely atrocious and it would be a great embarrassment to show them to people now, so that means I’m probably going to scan them and put them on this blog at some point so we can all have a good laugh. And when I finish the maps for Ithilear, of course, I’ll share those, as well.
Have you ever created maps for anything? What are your best suggestions for making them pop?