Is a map necessary?

Just wondered about something general. Is a map necessary? One of my WIPs, I have not made a map yet (I know where everything is in my head), but I’m not sure a map would be very helpful for the reader because of how the world works (with portals taking you to different lands and the world being in the shape of a doughnut).

A few questions for discussion:

Generally speaking:

  1. Is a map necessary for a fantasy writer or a fantasy reader?
  2. Should a writer make a map for the reader? Or can a fantasy go without a map for the reader?


About your particular situation:

  1. If you have a map, will you put it in your book? If yes, why do you need it? If no, why do you think you don’t need it for your book?
  1. I don’t think maps are necessary. I personally never make maps, and as a reader, when a book has a map, I usually ignore it. I don’t consider it necessary.
  2. I don’t think the reader needs it. Even high or epic fantasy, the map is a nice cherry on top, but I’m not going to go back and reference the distance between things to tell if the author properly put two day’s travel between city A and city B (though… when I was younger, I did look at this for Eragon and was confused, because the book didn’t properly ration some of the distances; i.e. it took months to go half an inch, and days to go multiple inches). If anything, a map can tie you down later as the writer. Let’s say the plot demands the character take a month to arrive at city C from city B. Without a map, you can say that. No one can call your bluff. With a map, what if city C was neighboring city B, and you published the map in book 1 and you’re on book 3? Now we’ve got to figure something out.


  1. I don’t. Any distances that matter, I’ll express to the reader in the text. Most will be relative or time-based, which is fine in my opinion. No one needs to know exactly where everything is to understand my story; if they get confused to the point of needing to consult a map, then I haven’t done my job right.
  1. I don’t think it’s necessary, but it is a nice touch! Readers like them because they can trace the hero’s journey, and it’s like an intimate look at the world inside!

  2. As previously stated, there’s no serious need for a map. Add one if you’d like, but if you don’t think it’s worth it, then don’t add one, simple as that.

  1. I might add some maps and diagrams for fun, but not because it’s necessary(though it may help as my fantasy world has a lot of portal hopping and freaky travels)
  1. Nope.
  2. Yep - you gotta remember not all Fantasy books are set in other worlds. Some are set in ours. I have 13 books and none have maps.

  1. I do have a map for my made-up world. But I made it for me so it’s easier for me to track where my characters are. So that map is only for me - but I might upload it to my book eventually :smile:

You doughnut need a map here.

Necessary? No. Adds to the experience? More often than not. World maps are usually a good addition to your book after you have established its locations with the reader.

The only instance where I believe a map is necessary for the writer is where they need to have a specific location laid out for consistency (i.e a dungeon or a tower).


Just a thought.

Using something like or google earth.

Impose your fantasy world on a specific location on earth so you know how long it takes to get from one place to another, it tells you the exact distance between things that exist in your world.

Place your (Magical schools, Castles, Temples, Specific events/scenes) on it so you know where they are.

You can even map out the movement of your characters throughout the story, where do they start? Where do they end up?

I don’t think, as a fantasy writer, providing a map to the reader is necessary. But I do think that, if your story involves decent amounts of traveling in a non Earth setting, it is important to at least keep track of where places are in relation to each other for a variety of reasons.

These reasons include:

  • Accurately depicting travel time
  • Figuring out the modes of travel required to get from A to B
  • Making sure that if you say Place C is west of Place A and North of Place B that is actually is there and not to the south
  • Keeping track of natural features and terrains

It doesn’t have to be complex or well drawn, but I do think maps help out. Necessary? Debatable. But definitely help to avoid some potentially embarrassing plot holes.

I don’t think maps are a must. I’m reading Strange The Dreamer right now and it doesn’t have a map, even though the travel across a huge desert pretty early in the book. Others I’ve read didn’t have any either.

Personally though, I like having them as a reader because it helps me keep track of how the characters are moving if they’re travelling or mentioning a lot of different places. If there are a lot of long and sometimes weird sounding names mentioned, I tend to forget what they were and being able to find them on the map to remind myself helps a lot.

I didn’t have any maps for a long time for my stories but I eventually made some, because also as a writer, it helps me understand and remind myself where places are and how people are moving and if it makes sense.

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I think not but if your world is realy big it is easy to look at it, but i never ever look at a map when i read a book so. XD

But it is good for you to make a map, because than you can write more easy and you prevent plotholes.

I don’t think maps are a must for a reader, and I think it depends on the story as to whether the writer needs one. If the geography plays an important role in the story, a writer should definitely know where things are, and unless you’re a magician who can hold every detail in your brain without forgetting anything ever, a map could prove invaluable. As a reader, I’ve never really given a map a second glance, but also as reader I can tell if a writer isn’t really that clear on where everything is themselves. In some stories it can be very helpful; but if your readers are constantly having to go back to the map to orientate themselves it might be a symptom of a narrative issue rather than whether or not you’ve got a map available.

Since my current project is set for the most part in the same city, I’ve made a map of the city and its various quarters in relation to narrative landmarks (like the castle, where the MC’s living, basically any named locations where scenes take place) so that I’m not getting tied in knots when my characters are moving around. I do use it, too, and I’m very glad I made it. I also made one for the wider area. I think if there are lots of locations in a large-scale story that your characters may return to or refer to more than once, you should at least make a note of it. I’ve found that since I have three PoV characters running around the same city it’s also helpful for knowing where they are in relation to one another for Plot Reasons. If anything, it takes some of the stress out of writing character travel and makes sure that X enormous river or mountain pass doesn’t vanish mysteriously mid-story.

That said, I did not make one for my urban fantasy story, since it’s set in London and I had good ol’ google maps for that :joy:

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1, 2. No. I can’t think of any time where I actually wanted to look at a map to check anything.

  1. My story has a map which I created and decorated for my own purposes, not for the reader. It is included in the story because it looks cool.
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I have a feeling this is something most authors think when putting maps in their stories :stuck_out_tongue:

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Most likely. Can you blame them? Maps, especially aged ones, look freaking amazing.

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As a writer, i rely on the maps I’ve drawn a lot. When making them, it helps with my world building (which I get really into), helps me keep track of people and places, distances and locations and I can keep my writing consistent. It’s part of my notes, planning and organisation. As a reader, I don’t need a map but it is a fun little bonus for me but including it into the book is optional.
I will probably include some maps in my book and it is up to the reader whether they look or skip the page and move on with the story. It more for those like me that get a little kick out of it.


This guy gets it.

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Though I don’t have one yet, I plan to include a map of my setting in the final product of my current fantasy WIP. I just think it’s too important of an immersion tool for the reader to forego as a writer.

I still remember the first time I read The Name of the Wind, and I saw the map of the Four Corners of Civilization, and I was like “What is this?” And by the end of the novel, I looked back at the map and knew EXACTLY where Kvothe had traveled, and that feeling of absolute geographical cohesiveness in the calendar of events was a very grounding thing, which I feel gets overlooked in fantasy literature. If your novel is nothing but magic, it stops making the magic feel special, so providing a map and showing the reader that there is a design to the mundane aspects of movement on a global scale helps to bring the non-magical reader into a more familiar space before you wow them with fantastical narrative.

  1. Necessary? negative.
  2. As far as saying should someone do this or that, I’ll tell you that I will most certainly put a map in there. Plus, if someone doesn’t use it, then they don’t have to. It’s one of those “Better to have it and not need it” situations, IMO.

I don’t think a map is necessary but I like looking at maps!
I have a map in my fantasy book because I personally wanted to create one :slight_smile: for fun…

I don’t think they’re necessary but they could help readers who struggle to keep tabs on places, especially if it’s a huge world.

No and yes. I think needing a map is wholly dependant on how big the world is, how many different towns, villages and languages you have and how far your character/s travel. If it’s a fairly localised story I don’t think mps are needed.

All of my high or epic fantasy works have maps, it’s an obsession for me now. I put my maps in as I need them. For the fantasy I’m writing now I need a map because the story spans 4 different kingdoms and many different climates, I need a map to keep tabs of where characters are so I can plan accordingly. I’m a planster.

I made a map for The Rich One because without one I wouldn’t have been able to write the novel without it.

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