View Full Version : World building ... in suburbia

Saint Fool
11-28-2006, 05:52 AM
There are all sorts of guides to building a fantasy world, but I discovered it was helpful to map out my own modern day suburb complete with schools, grocery store/strip mall, etc. I spent some time driving around looking at mid- and upscale neighborhoods (including one with its very own city center with a coffee shop, a corner drug store and a green grocer - think of a 7-11 in designer colors. I kept waiting for life-sized SIMS to appear on the sidewalk). Eventually I merged about three sites into one and created S'Foolville.

My map will never be an example of cartography at its best, but at least the sun isn't setting in the same place that it rose. (Yes, yes. It did. Three times. And one time it rose in the north.)

Now that I'm working on the first draft from the rough draft, I'm finding it helpful in terms of time to travel from point A to point B, what characters can see if they are looking from one place to another, places that bad guys can skulk without being seen, and even solutions to some plot problems. You know, the ones where you have a paragraph of single words and each? word? is? followed? by? a? question? mark?

Anyone else ever used this as a writing tool? Did you find it helpful? Or not?

11-28-2006, 08:19 AM
I did something similar with a map of West Virginia. One novel was set there, in Wheeling, Charleston, and a handful of made-up towns. I made small labels for my made-ups, so I could see their location in relation to the real towns. It was very useful when timing trips and judging relative distance.

In fact, the map is framed and hanging on the wall by my desk. My sister asked me once why I had a map of WV on the wall, and laughed when I told her.

11-28-2006, 08:26 AM
Maps for non-fantasy locations?

Heck, yeah.

I even use house plans. I tried drawing them up myself, and found it was easier to just pull plans off the internet and draw on them, if the plan had the kitchen where I thought the living room should be.

Some other useful options are mapquest and google earth. Google earth is great for seeing the density of a certain area, and mapquest is good for getting a layout of a town that actually works, even if you fictionalize it. Also, it's nice to print out a real street map, change the names of the roads, and place my important buildings on it without marring my atlas.

11-28-2006, 08:52 AM
without marring my atlas.

I really need to go to bed. I read that as "without marrying my atlas." :ROFL:

11-28-2006, 01:35 PM
I collect maps of places and always work with a good streetmap. I also go to real estate sites and download floor plans for the main houses that will appear. This is because I completely lack any drawing ability, but I have a clear image in my mind's eye of how things look. I match the street plans and house plans with my internal world. Where they don't match, I walk it if I can and resolve the differences. If I can't (eg the street is on the other side of the world) I webhunt for pictures.

11-28-2006, 03:51 PM
I can keep my maps in my head. I map out cities and houses when I'm fiction writing. I am in the process of finishing my latest WIP. It took place throughout a small town. I close my eyes and I can see every location...and where they are in relation to one another. I think it's imperative that a writer is able to do this. You don't want a reader to catch you out...they will remember that the ice cream parlour was beside the hardware store in chapter one and they will be ticked off if it moves!

Jenan Mac
11-28-2006, 10:52 PM
I definitely needed to map out the town in which my first novel takes place (which is sort of a cross between three real towns, with some random additions). Otherwise the independent bookstore kept switching sides of the street, which was very annoying-- and an entire farm moved at one point early on.
The works in progress are located in Charleston, SC, and Raleigh, NC, so they pretty well exist already. But honestly, I had more fun inventing.

11-28-2006, 11:00 PM
I don't draw them out, but I know where things are in my fictional towns. I can visualize the houses and know the layouts pretty easily, and they seem to stay put.
So far, I haven't had to draw a map. It manages to stay in my head pretty well.