By Rich Feitelberg
When its time to create a map for your story, be sure to do it. Consider it part of the planning process. I like to develop the natural world first, but eventually, I know I have to deal with the political side of the equation. When that time comes, if I have a solid map of the natural order then many details fall out from the there.
For example, the location and abundance of resources will determine where people settle and what goods and services are available. So will the placement of rivers, the climate, and the vegetation. One might say that all the work I’ve been describing up to this point is in preparation for the political map.
As you go, consider the various races (or groups of people if everyone is human) in the world. What is there history? What is the culture? What do they value? Dwarves like gold and gems and these are found in mines underground so that’s where they live. Or you could say they like to live underground and use the resources in the ground to trade for other things they need like cloth, spices, and other things they don’t make themselves.
Also consider what religions are in play. Religion has shaped the course of history as much as politics has, perhaps more. You don’t have to create your own religions if you don’t want to but you should have an clue what happens when different groups with different ideologies meet.
War is a likely outcome. And speaking of war, you’ll want to know when, where, and why hostilities have broken out. Was it a religious difference or did one group want the resources of another group? Or did they fear the other group? Or do they raid routinely?
If magic or special abilities exist, consider how these powers affect history. Are the wizards organized enough to fight another government? Or are they like leaves in the wind?
Lastly, set the technology level in use. Do they use swords, armor, and bows, or machine guns and kevlar? It doesn’t need to be the same for everyone, but you do have to know what weapons each group is using so you can describe the effects correctly. Also, be careful to mix very different technologies together. It can be done, but only if you really know what you are doing.
To help you understand what I’m talking about here’s a sample from my fantasy world.
The technology level is swords, armor, and bows, consistent with a medieval society. There is magic and they are some what organized but they are too few of them (among humans) to rebel against the government.
The human government is a monarchy and the their religion is a generic Christian one, which people will recognize without going too deeply into it.
But there are other human governments, one that is based on vikings, and one that is middle eastern.
Among other races, I have a freer hand because there aren’t real world example to drawn from. So the elves like nature, magic, and finely carved things, living in the forest. The dwarves lives underground and mine gold, gems, iron, silver, and any other useful metal.
The dwarves kept to themselves mostly, but the elves and humans interacted then the humans got in trouble with magic. They summoned demons accidentally. The elven king went to fight them and ultimately died in the process, which caused a split in the elven community. Now humans need to fight the evil elves which has put a strain on the relationship with all elves.
Notice how one thing leads to another and sets up a background for the stories I want to tell. My fantasy novels are about how the humans finally deal with the evil elves.
So there you have it. Go forth and think about the history, politics, religion, magic, culture, and technology of all the groups in your stories. When you’re done, you’ll have plenty to write about.