The Importance of a Map in Writing Fiction

When writing any type of fiction, a map is a crucial item to have. Even a simple sketch for your own benefit is helpful. In an imaginary world, a map helps you and your readers keep your sites, place names and points of interest straight! It doesn’t have to be detailed or elaborate, it can be just enough to help your readers understand the lay of the land.

But why have a map? Here are some great reasons!

  • It helps you visualize distance, scenery and changing landscapes.
  • Researching travel for your characters becomes easier.
  • For that matter, it gives you an understanding of how far you want your characters to travel and how you might want them to travel. (Should they take a boat, train or walk by foot to get where they need to be? How about going by camel?)
  • It helps when you are writing historical fiction to have an accurate map as place names often chance throughout history.
  • And if you are writing historical fiction, having a map of the area the you are writing about is very helpful!
For you fanfiction people
  • It helps your readers envision your world if only in a small way.
  • You can use all your interesting place names and see if you have used any before! (Once, I accidentally used the same place name twice and didn’t realize it till I took a peek at my map!)
  • If you have a lot of places with unusual names, it helps the reader a lot if they have something to reference to remember where that place is.
  • Remember, a map doesn’t even have to be of a whole world, it could be of just a city, house or neighborhood.
1926 'Map of the 100 Acre Wood', Drawn by Christopher Robin with Assistance from Mr. Shepard.
1926 ‘Map of the 100 Acre Wood’, Drawn by Christopher Robin with Assistance from Mr. Shepard.

One of the greatest reasons I have found is that having a map for your story makes it more believable and easier to imagine. When you can see and study the places on a map, your story comes to life and makes the adventure that much more real. How about you? Do you have a map for your current work in progress?

A Map of Treasure Island, by J. Hawkins
A Map of Treasure Island, by J. Hawkins

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