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Mapping Your World…

When you start writing about your world, do you generally have it mapped out on paper, where everything will be first, or do you just start writing and make it up as you go along?

For me, I tend to want to have a map of the area available first hand, so I know what I’m talking about and can visualize where everything is. It’s helpful to know some things, at least up front, but then I also tend to dwell on knowing the nitty gritty details, which is a falling of mine that hampers me when I start writing. I lose the story for the details.

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adamdray
Jan. 14th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
I can't speak as a fiction writer, but I can speak as a game setting designer.

There's a top-down approach and a bottom-up approach.

The top-down approach maps out the biggest features first (the country or continent, maybe the entire world, maybe even the entire cosmos), then drills down in successive layers till it reaches a bit that is useful for the consumers of the setting (the players of a game, the readers of a book). You don't detail everything, but you zoom in on the focal point the way you might zoom in using GoogleEarth.

The bottom-up approach picks a locale and details it, then spreads out as needed. Robert E. Howard and others used this approach to great effect for the Conan books. They might refer to other places but they didn't know much about them.

Top-down can help you keep everything consistent. Bottom-up gets more relevant stuff done quicker.

I tend to use a hybrid approach. I outline bits and pieces of the big picture in a top-down way so I have a skeleton to fit other stuff in. Then I go deep and flesh out a very specific area that my players will explore first. If I refer to other places, I jump back up to top-down design to understand how they fit into my skeleton.
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