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Write the world   fictional cartography writing prompt

Invented Cartography

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In January we asked you to dream up a new writing prompt. Your responses poured in! From flash fiction to sci-fi to recipes to cartography, your prompts will surely fire the synapses of even the most reluctant writers. In the coming months, we’ll feature a handful of your stellar prompts, starting with this one, from Maggie Mills:

Just like on our earth, the foundation of any fictional society must be its geography. Thousands of years ago, the first civilizations rose from the mud of rivers. Since then, mountains, valleys, deserts, seas, have guided the course of humanity. One has only to look as far as the first few pages of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings to see great world-building. He planned every detail before beginning his works, and his maps and charts and languages continue to grab readers and yank them into his stories.   

Use words to illustrate the map of your fictional world. Is it sketched with a dull pencil on the back of a homework assignment or in crisp ink on withered parchment? Does it entail an entire nation or a few trees? The level of detail and scope of your verbal diagram is up to you. Providing a setting is the best way to ground any story (literally), and your piece should provide insight into the plot and characters of your story: why they are the way they are, what circumstances impacted their lives.  

Need an example? With a cartographer's keen eye, Maggie diagrams the depths of Trenetas’s Sea, showing us just how much setting sets the stage for storytelling.