Okay, everybody, “insert paragraph regarding my love of maps here.” I’ve said all that before. I love maps. I love to make maps. I love to stare at maps. Got it.

Touching back on the subject of worldbuilding, though, let’s talk about why you might at least want to sketch out a map or two for yourself to guide you as you’re writing, regardless of your ability to draw.

Why does it matter what the world looks like?

If for no other reason it helps you, and by extension your reader, understand the distance between here and there.

You might still be asking, Why does that matter?

Well, if it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. Does the fact that the castle is three miles from the tavern make any difference to your story? No? Then it doesn’t matter and you won’t need to specify that. But the space between things can have and enormous effect on your story and characters.

If you’ve got a medieval fantasy world and the hero is in one city and the villain is in another, and the Stone of Amazingness is somewhere in-between and whoever gets it first will either destroy it or open the Gate to Elsewhere, then how far it is from City A to the stone vs. the distance between City B and the stone, and how fast each of your characters can travel, matters a great deal.

True, if both are capable of instantaneous travel, it doesn’t matter. Okay, fine. But otherwise . . . ?

Read the rest in…

Editor and author Philip Athans offers hands on advice for authors of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and fiction in general in this collection of 58 revised and expanded essays from the first five years of his long-running weekly blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook.


—Philip Athans


Follow me on Twitter @PhilAthans

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Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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