Many fantasy novels have a map at the front. Tolkien is not alone in this! I’d go so far as to say that a majority of fantasy authors who have a series set in the same world include a map at some point.

What are the pros and cons of mapping? Well, maps are beautiful, evocative things, for one. It’s fun just making and looking at them. It can be helpful for the reader to follow the path of the characters—but it should not be required. If your readers need the map, or they’ll be hopelessly lost as to the logistics, then you might be doing something wrong. The map should be a visual aid, not required reading, just like the What Has Gone Before part of your third book.

Maps can also nail down territory. If, in the third book, you discover that an important city lies somewhere to the south that wasn’t in the map from the first book, it’s a bit embarrassing. However, if you put in a great many interesting locales in your map that you haven’t written about yet, it can inspire both your readers and yourself.

I like to draw maps during the worldbuilding stage. This is usually before I even have a story to write. I find them a great source of inspiration and sometimes stories arise out of the map itself. I would suggest, however, that anyone building worlds or drawing maps should study some basic geography. Learn why the desert never appears in the middle of the forest, and where the rivers go, and what happens when the mountains meet the sea.


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