Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Writer Wednesday: Finding My Way Through Fictional Settings
When I wrote the first draft of my middle-grade novel, my dysfunctional affliction kicked in as I went about creating my setting. My story takes place in a fictional New England coastal town, loosely based on several I've visited. I blithely plunked down buildings, parks, and historical landmarks wherever I took a fancy, with no regard to how they stood in relation to one another. Now that I'm revising, I'm finding that this carefree approach isn't working. I'm as lost in my fictional world as I am in the real one--with no GPS to help me.
My solution has been to create a map to help me navigate my fictional landscape. A map forces me to decide where a house or statue or cemetery is actually located. I've also added roads and streets. Now when my character drives or bikes to town, I know where she's going and how long it will take her to get there. Another benefit is that I must name these places.
Since I first learned to read, I've always enjoyed fiction books with hand-drawn maps. Early favorites include Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, and My Father's Dragon. Treasure Island, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Hobbit also have amazing maps. But not all maps feature fantastical worlds. For instance, there's William Faulkner's map of Yoknatawpha County and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Mystery novels sometimes include maps or floor plans. I'm thinking specifically of Agatha Christie, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Arthur Upfield, Ellis Peters, and Nevada Barr.
For an absolutely wonderful post on the subject, check out Maps of Fictional Worlds. You'll find oodles of fantastic links to all kinds of maps, from childhood classics to adult contemporary novels. You can get lost there for hours. So bring a GPS!