Workshop Ideas: Start with a Map

I love maps in books. One of my treasured possessions is a beautiful leather bound volume of Lord of the Rings, given as a gift on my 18th birthday. Full of maps including a large fold out.

lor map

Maps are a wonderful way to visualise a new world. I was an avid fantasy reader long before I knew about genres. The first map I found in a book was Narnia. I started drawing my own then.

None of my published books have a detailed map although Polar Boy has a simple geographical map to show the path Iluak and his family travelled by dog sled but it turned out to be trouble. Polar-Boy-Cover-small

My story idea had Iluak travelling across the top of Canada to a place where the Vikings landed from Greenland. But as I wrote, Iluak and the dogs chose their own path, above the Arctic Circle. They found their own Viking landing place on Baffin Island. The map had to be redrawn.

I use world maps in my Mapping the Story workshop. I find many primary school students struggle to find a plot for their story. Beginnings, characters and endings are much easier for them. To get kids thinking about plot, I show them maps from some of my favourite stories, like this one from The Princess Bride.

map pb
I ask them to draw their own map with coloured pencils and textas.

There are some landforms they have to include such as river, forest, desert and mountain – and they also add their own. Then we decide what lives or exists in these areas and add that to the map as words or pictures.

Lastly we introduce the character, and maybe a sidekick, and draw the path they take across the map to the place where they end their journey. It might be a castle or a cliff.

By looking at the places the characters go, ideas for what happens along the way are easier to find. We decide where the critical big scene happens – often the one they are now most looking forward to writing – and move it towards the destination so it occurs in the right place of the plot. Mountains have been moved to accommodate this.

I wish I had some drawings or photos from these workshops to share. I get so involved I forget to take photos but you can find some wonderful maps from books here and here.

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