Using Maps as Writing Prompts

Yesterday I talked about inspiration, and today I am going to ride the coat-tails of that post into a practical example of using what you have to create some magic in your worlds, real and imaginary!

As a fantasy author, tabletop gamer, and amateur mapmaker, I have a lot of places to focus my creative energies. Sometimes, though, I am lucky enough to experience something truly wondrous: the intersection of these varied hobbies into a burst of inspiration that carries over into multiple projects! A perfect example of this phenomenon comes from this Monday’s map, the Festering Grove (you can find all four versions, day/night and grid/no grid on both Inkarnate and Deviantart). I created that map because I was in a funk. The kind of funk where words eluded me, where story ideas for my Ahran Archives series (in the works) or any of my projects were nowhere to be found, in this or any other world. Skip to yesterday evening, when I was derping in front of Star Trek Next Gen reruns, thinking about worldbuilding for Ahra in a vague and unfocused way. I looked at my phone and saw a copy of the Festering Grove map, then in one of those bolt from the blue moments I talked about in my last post, an idea came to me. I won’t go into the details (that would be a biiiiig spoiler for the Ahran Archives), but the setting I had created in the map looked so much like a scene I was puzzling through recently that I was able to solve a major plot problem. I scribbled down the idea in my worldbuilding notebook, ecstatic.

The Festering Grove by Wizardshins

I know lots of you lovely folks are also gamers and fantasy map enthusiasts. If you ever find yourself stuck for that next big idea–an exciting encounter for your ragtag group of tabletop warriors, a battle scene in your fantasy or sci-fi story that is giving you fits to write–go to your favorite outlet for scene maps and battlemaps, and do a little browsing. For instance, I spend time on the Inkarnate, Wonderdraft, r/fantasymaps and other subreddits devoted to fantasy maps just to peek at what others are working on.

Sometimes seeing a scene laid out in front of you in a neat, careful grid can shake something loose in your subconscious mind. Whether it’s the particular mood of a map, the specific arrangement of structures and obstacles, or even just the titles and descriptions, you might be surprised at how easily such things can translate into instant inspiration! Now an obligatory and gentle reminder from a fellow content creator: always credit where credit is due; do not directly copy someone else’s work if it’s not explicitly stated that the work is free/creative commons (and even then it’s still polite to credit); and just…don’t steal other people’s work. Sorry, my alignment is neutral good–I have to say these things just because looking out for others makes the world a kinder place.

So, what other places might a daring dungeonmaster or fantabulous fantasy author visit to find inspiration when in the doldrums? As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Thanks as always for reading, and may you find the magic you need to fill your world with creative goodness!

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