I’ve read plenty of books that contain maps, from Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Quartet and Immortals series straight to Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series. All of these maps give you a sense of scale and location, as well as grounding you in the protagonist’s travels. They also have another thing in common–there all found in Fantasy books. While this may be the genre where the use of the map makes the most sense, I’ve found that this isn’t the maps only place.
I’m currently writing a science fiction trilogy set in a dystopian North America in which the protagonist visits real world locations in the course of her adventures. I wrote the first book without creating a map, but struggled at times due to the number of locations visited. I’m a visual person and without a map, I was forced to re-look at the locations I’d chosen just to write a few accurate sentences about where events were taking place. Don’t get me wrong, I managed, but it would’ve been easier and quicker if I’d had a map.
I recently started on the second book and took the lesson of the first novel to heart. Amongst my first orders of business was to print out a map. I marked the locations visited in the first novel, penciled in territory distinctions described in it as well, and–as I worked out the plot line for the second novel–I marked the locations that my protagonist will visit, giving me a much clearer picture of how events will unfold and where they’ll take place.
Will the map appear in the books once they’re published? Probably not. I’ve never seen a map included in a science fiction novel as the aspects of travel and location tend to be less immersive than the map’s more favored genre. But it has been helpful to me for a variety of things; setting up locations, distances, and more accurately grounding things in reality.
And that alone proves that maps don’t solely in the realm of fantasy.
Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no artistic claim to it.