Map It Out

Note book with diagrams

There are two ways I mean this, one is chronologically and the other is topographically.

Chronological mapping can be quite valuable to keeping track of your story, especially if you are wanting to engage with non-linear storytelling or multiple view point storytelling. Try either to create a timeline with dates and times for the stages of the story. This does not, and often should not, be explicit in the story itself. For example in the story it will allude to the afternoon sun, but the timeline will have 3.30pm. Alternatively use a calendar, find any old calendar unless the year needs to match the days, and fill it in according to the story. This is also an incredibly helpful tool when editing as often you may want to move chapters around, by carefully mapping when events occur and how they correspond to particular chapters or story pages, this can ensure that you don’t accidentally break the verisimilitude of your own story line.

MON                TUES                         WED                             THUR                   FRI                 SAT                SUN

Murder      Crime scene           Arrest and interview                                Blocked phone                    Argument with

11pm             6-10am                 of suspect 2pm                                             call 3am                              partner 7pm

                Argument 11am          Released 4pm                                          Reading reports

              Interviews 12-2pm                                                                                8-10am

            Inform family 3pm          

Topography mapping can be useful in a number of ways. One, if you are writing a murder/mystery or detective style story it is often helpful to draw out a map of the scene of the crime and situate the cardinal directions. This can be useful when writing descriptions to ensure you are moving your character around the crime scene, but not confusing the placement of objects in the space. Two, if you are writing a journey story it is important to actually map the stages of the journey. If this has a real world equivalent, simply get a copy of that map and draw in your path with points to mark stops. If you are creating your own world, then the process of drawing the map will help you establish distances, locales, consider environmental changes, etc. Three, working through a scene. Often we will reach a significant plot point and something will seem off. Drawing out a map of the physical space can often be useful to help consider lines of site, nearby items, positions of characters, and general give us a sense of reality that can be translated into the writing.

Map with hand marked path

Want to have a go digitally, here’s a fun resource to play with