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Thread: Do you like family trees and/or maps in fiction books?

  1. #1
    Easily Amused ebbrown's Avatar
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    Do you like family trees and/or maps in fiction books?

    Curious to hear your thoughts on this. Do you find maps, family trees, or other 'bonus' material helpful, or do you just flip over it without checking it out?

    I'm working on #2 & #3 in a time-travel historical romance, the sequels being longer and more complex than the first. There are quite a bundle of characters, so many so that I have my own stockpile reference to organize them. Many of the characters are entwined and their origins are diverse.

    I also have some maps of the time period, which I changed for my own fictional purposes.

    As a reader of a series, would you be interested in a family tree with key details to refer to? Or a map of the area the characters lived in?

    I will say that I do not think my story is terribly complicated. I don't think the reader NEEDS this information, but in some cases I think they may enjoy it.

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  2. #2
    CAVE! maggi90w1's Avatar
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    Personally, I love this kind of stuff.

  3. #3
    Baby plot bunneh sniffs out a clue Snowstorm's Avatar
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    I like them. I find them very helpful. For maps, I find them interesting and helpful for my mind's eye to know where the action is taking place. Family trees are really helpful, especially when a lot of family members have similar first names.


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    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
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    As a reader of Historical Fiction and of Fantasy, I rarely look at such additions. However, I also know I'm in the minority, so take it with a sack of salt.
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  5. #5
    coffee and pistols at dawn KateJJ's Avatar
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    Maps, sure. Family trees I can live without. Though I usually have to draw one halfway through my plotting phase to make sure nobody is sleeping with their half-brother or anything.
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    I don't like them - I tend to hesitate at best over books with them. It's felt to me more than once like they're either a sign that the book is written in a manner that you need to keep referring to the stuff because the author can't make/keep it clear through the text, or that the author thinks it's necessary, fascinating information but it'll never come up.

    Either way, it's generally ended up irking more than anything else.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    Sure, but not if they're essential to my understanding of the novel. I hate having to constantly flip to a reference page. But if it's there, I'll take a quick look. Any more than two pages or so is a bit much, however.

  8. #8
    Easily Amused ebbrown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KateJJ View Post
    Though I usually have to draw one halfway through my plotting phase to make sure nobody is sleeping with their half-brother or anything.
    Ha! I'm laughing at this, but...it's so true!!

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  9. #9
    Azarath Metrion Zinthos AshleyEpidemic's Avatar
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    I am a fan of family trees, and maps a bit. I will admit I tend to focus on Fantasy maps. If it is historical I'm not as interested, but I still look. I generally look at maps before I read and family trees after. But they are enjoyable extras to see.
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  10. #10
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    I don't look at any of it. I shouldn't need to study the book before I read it, thus the author should be able to convey everything clearly.
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  11. #11
    Just Another Lazy Perfectionist Brightdreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KateJJ View Post
    Maps, sure. Family trees I can live without.
    This, pretty much.

    As others have said, I don't like a story so convoluted that I must keep referring to a map every other chapter, but bonus material like this adds to the overall ambiance, especially in a fantasy/alternate universe setting.

    (The artistic quality of the map also affects how often I look at it... Ugly dots and squiggles only get a passing glance, but I'm a sucker for pretty pictures. That said, if I were offered an illustrated family tree, I'd probably enjoy it, in the right context.)
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  12. #12
    Just keep swimming... electroweakstar's Avatar
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    Maps, YES. Yes please.

    Family trees... meh. Especially if the book requires it to follow along; I don't really enjoy keeping one finger in the index when I read.
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  13. #13
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    I'm a fan of maps, but I only look at a family tree when reading a new novel in a multigenerational series.

  14. #14
    Caped Codder jaksen's Avatar
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    Love them!

    I find it irritating, if reading a quite complex novel with lots characters who are related, if there isn't one.

    (Also like maps and character lists.)
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    What a desolation. Alexandra Little's Avatar
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  16. #16
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    If they're useful, then sure, both. Sometimes it helps broaden the world you're writing about, even if it isn't essential to understanding the novel.

    Hilary Mantel has a fairly comprehensive list of characters at the beginning of many of her books. They aren't necessary, but help if you forget who is who.

    I write historical and wouldn't bother with maps or family trees. The family relationships in my WIPs (to date) aren't too complicated, and if you don't know where Paris, Brussels, Kansas, Washington DC, and Georgia are, well 1) you need to go back to 2nd grade and 2) it really doesn't matter too much since the geography itself isn't important.
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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW
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    I love maps Looking at them is always so nice, but it shouldn’t be necessary for a reader to refer to one.

    Family trees are pretty neat. They’re cool just for the (fictional) historical value.

    So yes to both
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  18. #18
    Scared and loving it... Cappy1's Avatar
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    I skipped Mantel's cast list, too. It was so long.

  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW cmi0616's Avatar
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    I don't mind them, certainly. Especially in the bigger family epics, the seven or eight hundred pagers, it might help to have a family tree.
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  20. #20
    can totally spell Brobdinrgnagrian buzhidao's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LJD View Post
    Sure, but not if they're essential to my understanding of the novel. I hate having to constantly flip to a reference page.
    This. Extra bits are fun, but I want all the information I actually *need* in the writing. I don't like having to go and find a reference; I just want to read.

    But I'll look at the fun bits and think ooo neato...

  21. #21
    Widely Regarded as a Bad Move DanielaTorre's Avatar
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    If I enjoyed the book, then yes. I consider it a perk. It allows you to immerse yourself into the world if you're curious. Besides, some of the maps tend to be gorgeous. I own a poster-size map of Middle Earth on parchment. It's beautiful.

  22. #22
    Not responsible for bitten fingers Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    As a reader I find them to be a waste of time. The writing should be clear enough that I don't need to refer to either.

    As a writer, I might create one or the other depending on how difficult it is for me to remember. For one novel I created a lineage for a farmer that extended back 180 years that included names, birth dates, wives, children, etc. just so at one point he could say, "oh, he was my great-great-great-great-great grandfather." But I don't include any of that for the reader. To me those are behind the scene things.
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  23. #23
    tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper Jaligard's Avatar
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    I don't like them—and I really don't like them when they are necessary.

    That said, a few of my betas suggested I include a map with my novel. I'm thinking that the website would be the perfect place for this kind of supplemental material.

  24. #24
    has no socks JulianneQJohnson's Avatar
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    I enjoy maps, especially it the characters are taking a journey, as is common in fantasy. I'll refer back to a map, especially if it is attractive visually.
    I'm with Shadow Ferret where family trees are concerned. Seeing one in a book makes me think of a herd of characters so convoluted as to rival Tolstoy. Makes me think I’m going to need index cards to keep everyone straight.
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  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
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    I enjoy them for their own sake, but not if it's necessary to refer to them in order to follow the story. I read fiction mostly as ebooks now, and (1) maps are often hard to read on the Kindle (they show up much too small to be legible & may not zoom properly), (2) flipping back and forth between a map or genealogy and the text is inconvenient, and (3) I may not even be aware that the book includes a map, genealogy, or other addenda in the first place. So as a reading-support tool, they're pretty much wasted on me now.

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