Build a Realistic Story Setting

Draw a map, make it real

Joanne Reid
Jan 25, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

building a story bible, one recommendation is to find pictures of what your characters look like. Or, if you are talented with drawing, sketch them. But what about the setting? Where is it? What is it like? My fictional village is Blue Pond and I know what it looks like but I want to see it as if it were real.

Niklas Wistedt’s Tutorial: how to draw a fantasy village map opened my mind to possibilities. This is the solution I have been seeking without knowing I was looking for a solution.

I have dot-graph paper, mechanical pencil, and Micron markers. I see the village clearly. It’s a combination of a village I spent summers in when I was a small child and the rural community where I grew up. I want, I need, an at-a-glance visual so I don’t have to stop and think about Millie going to the restaurant or to visit her friends. Does she turn left or right or go straight ahead?

I want to make Blue Pond real and visual and have it on the wall in front of me when I write.

Choosing the locale

Because I decided to go with writing what I know, I’m setting stories on Prince Edward Island with its tiny population. There are three counties, Kings, Queens and Prince. I created a fourth, Princess.

The towns of my youth were Souris (French for mouse) and Crapaud (French for toad). These were Acadian settlements and the names linger. Souris is pronounced kind of like Surrey. The last s is silent. Crapaud is pronounced Crapo, the d is silent. One of the prettiest harbors is Naufrage Harbour. Also a French name. Naufrage translates as shipwreck. It’s pronounced new-frage. Kind of. It’s a soft g.

My village is Blue Pond in Princess County located somewhere between Charlottetown and the Confederation Bridge. The local harbor is Rogne Harbour (rogne is anger in French). The local town is Raynham.

Pulling it together

I’ve been building this world in my mind for a few years. I don’t read a lot of fantasy fiction. Well, none at all. But I have played Catan so I know a tiny bit about building towns. I could do a simple line drawing with squares for houses and lines for roads but why not build a fantasy map.

Color it, add texture and trees and water. Allow it to grow into a character in your story. Make your town look and feel real to yourself and it will have a better chance of resonating in your fiction.

Joanne Reid is a writer and retired software instructor. She is an Islander (which is what people from Prince Edward Island call themselves) and a snowbird, who basks in the Arizona sun in the chillier months. She’s on Facebook and keeps readers up to date on Substack.

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Joanne Reid

Written by

I’m a writer (https://joannereid.ca) and a dreamer in a constant state of self-improvement.

The Book Mechanic

Down-and-dirty growth strategies for commercial writers and creators, with a blue collar work ethic, and a no-nonsense voice.

Joanne Reid

Written by

I’m a writer (https://joannereid.ca) and a dreamer in a constant state of self-improvement.

The Book Mechanic

Down-and-dirty growth strategies for commercial writers and creators, with a blue collar work ethic, and a no-nonsense voice.

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