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10 Steps to Designing a Fantasy World Map That Won't Make Your Readers Chuckle (or Cry)

Designing a fantasy world map can be a daunting task, especially if you're not a cartographer by trade. But never fear – with a little planning and some basic design principles, you can create a map that will transport your readers to a world of wonder and adventure. Here are 10 steps to get you started:

  1. Start with a rough sketch. Don't worry about getting all the details right on your first try – just focus on getting the basic shape and layout of your world down on paper. Think about the geography, climate, and overall feel of your world, and sketch out a rough outline of the continents, oceans, and other major land masses.

  2. Determine your scale. How big is your world compared to Earth? Will it be roughly the same size, or will it be much smaller or larger? Knowing your scale will help you determine the size of your land masses and the distances between them.

  3. Add in your major features. Once you have the basic layout of your world, it's time to start adding in the major features that will give your map character and depth. This might include mountains, forests, deserts, rivers, lakes, and so on. Think about the geography and climate of your world and how these features might affect the way your characters travel and interact with the environment.

  4. Name your features. Give your major features memorable and fitting names that reflect their character and history. Avoid puns and jokes unless you're going for a particularly humorous tone – you don't want your readers to roll their eyes or groan when they see your map.

  5. Add in your cities and other settlements. Once you have the major features of your world mapped out, it's time to start thinking about where your characters will live and interact. Consider the size, layout, and culture of your cities and settlements, and place them in appropriate locations based on the geography and resources of your world.

  6. Label your map. Use clear, legible fonts and a consistent style for labeling your map. Avoid using too many different fonts or font sizes, as this can make your map look cluttered and confusing. Make sure to label your major features, cities, and other settlements, and consider adding a legend or key to help your readers navigate your world.

  7. Consider the history and culture of your world. Your map should not only reflect the physical layout of your world, but also the history and culture of your characters. Think about how different cultures might have shaped the landscape and built their cities, and consider adding in historical landmarks or other cultural elements that will give your map depth and authenticity.

  8. Make it visually appealing. A map serves also to inspire so where possible make it look nice. Come on man! Whether you use Photoshop, hire a designer or take a trip to your map need to look tip top. Treat it like a second cover of your book and your efforts will not go unnoticed.

  9. Pay attention to detail. While it's important to keep your map clear and legible, don't be afraid to add in small details and flourishes that give your world character and personality. This might include unique symbols, decorative borders, or other creative touches. Just be sure not to go overboard – too many details can make your map look cluttered and confusing.

  10. Test it out. Once you have a draft of your map, try using it as a reference while writing your story. Does it make sense in terms of the geography and culture of your world? Are there any inconsistencies or errors that need to be corrected? Be open to feedback and be willing to make revisions as needed to ensure that your map serves as a helpful and accurate guide for your readers.

Designing a fantasy world map can be a challenging but rewarding task. By following these 10 steps and using your creativity and attention to detail, you can create a map that will bring your world to life and help your readers navigate the rich and immersive landscape you've created. Good luck, and happy mapping!

And if you want to check out the map I designed for the Queen of Shards so you can see what map design obsession truly is visit -

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