Mapping a story world workshop
Brene Brown wrote in her book, Daring Greatly, that ‘the most difficult and most rewarding challenge of my work is how to be both a mapmaker and a traveler.’
Isn’t it challenging for all of us to be both mapmakers and travellers – in new projects, new relationships, parenting? And wouldn’t it be lovely and certain to have a solid map – that someone else has put together – in our hands? A map is a definitive thing in a foreign country, it’s a boon on a drive to the other side of the city for a meeting and if only they sold a map for life, we’d be all set. But of course, as Brene says, we are both mapmakers and travellers.
Writers use maps, too. I have a 20-page editorial map for my middle-grade novel, which includes a summary, character motivation, stakes and many, many notes for each chapter. Again, I am both a mapmaking and travelling writer.
As my novel is set in Abbotsford, Melbourne, I also have an actual map of the suburb, with the following places that are important to my character, Freya –
- her new apartment block
- her new school
- her Mum’s cafe
- the park where she plays basketball
- Victoria Gardens, the local shopping centre
- the Yarra River trail where she goes for a bike ride.
This setting of Abbotsford informs the plot and how Freya develops as a character.
I’m looking forward to doing some map-making with kids at my workshops over the Easter holidays! We won’t go into the same level of detail that I do for my book but I want to show them how building up the details of your story world – real or imaginary – is an important aspect of writing. We’ll start with some questions about characters to do a rough plan, then create a map of a real or imaginary world. I have a collection of maps, collage papers, pencils and glue for this project. Then the kids can begin writing their stories, using their maps to plot out the main settings and events.
I have a fabulous book to show the kids called The writer’s map, an atlas of imaginary lands, edited by Huw Lewis-Jones. There are wonderful old maps, the kind with tea-stained edges and creases, beautifully-drawn compass roses and flourishes around the title. There’s a map of Middle Earth, complete with pen and ink drawn mountains and the label, Here of old was Thror, King under the Mountain and an illustration of Smaug, the dragon. There’s a coloured version of Narnia, with battle scenes and a fierce-looking Aslan. And of course, there’s the famous Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter.
This is a great workshop for visual kids. And really, who doesn’t want to create a map of their own world? Wish it were that easy to create one for life!