I remember in elementary school how maps were a fascinating project. We made maps of our neighborhood, maps of our school, secret pirate maps and so much more. In sandboxes we’d carve roads and develop whole stories (which usually involved wars with siblings whose towns we wanted to destroy). In short, maps were a jump-start to our imaginations and great friends.
As part of the Story Bible process, a lot of writers will develop maps to keep their fictional cities straight. But what about those of us who work with real places? We want to talk about things people may want to go see, but how do we fit settings that may be fictional into our real towns?
For me, this is a fun game. I went to my local government building and they were kind enough to give me a map of the city. The great thing about maps is that they list all the names of the roads in alphabetical order, so if you need to make up a new road name, you can make sure you’re not accidentally directing people to someplace you don’t want them to go, simply by making sure your name isn’t on the list. How cool is that?
Next I went to my local Staples and pick up a pack of dot stickers and correcting tapes. I love buying office supplies, so it was a treat to be able to buy these things that I can write off on taxes as a “business expense.” Then I get to play with them. Cool, cool, cool!
The last step is the one I’m working on now. I color-coded my dots – yellow for characters’ homes, red for murder spots and green for major settings in my Daisy books. Now I just number the spots and keep a list in my story bible so I can do small calculations like how long does it take to get from Daisy’s house to Gabe’s, or what would Daisy see if she were going to drive from the library to the grocery store?
The best thing about these maps is that you can be finished with a first pass or keep adding dots, renaming roads and be working on writing without having to be sitting in front of your computer screen to do so.
So go now and make a map for your story. Maybe it will be a whole town, maybe it will be a map of your protagonist’s house or apartment. Thing is, this IS working on your story, so have a little guilt-free fun.
Now it’s your turn. What will you map-out today?