Using Maps and Essays in World Building in a Fiction Series by Charles F. French

I had a wonderful time participating in the Online Writers Conference 2020. The hosts were friendly and extremely helpful. The information given out by many presenters is useful for writers who are not horror writers as well as those who are. If you have a chance, you can still stop by their excellent site: Online Writers Conference
Here is part two:
How To World and Character Build in a Horror Novel Series


Charles F. French

Part Two


World Building

All fiction writers, no matter the genre, must create the world in which their characters live. Whether writing in literary fiction, romance, horror, science-fiction, or any other of the myriad of possible genres, writers create a world for the readers to observe and in which they can be immersed as they read.

This can be a difficult process to perform for one novel, but in the creating of a series set in a particular fictional world, it presents several problems. Among these issues are: what are the details of the fictional environment? Does the world remain static or change? What elements of the fictional world are the most important? And does the world change throughout the series? I am not suggesting that there are absolute answers to these questions that can fit every series, but I am saying that these questions should be kept in mind and addressed by writers who are building these places.

I have written two novels in a continuing horror series: Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1 and Gallows Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 2. I am currently working on book 3. The books are all set in a fictional Pennsylvania town called Bethberg—set somewhere north of Bethlehem, PA and south of Stroudsburg, PA.


During the writing of the books, I did not initially try to set down on paper details of the town, which was a mistake. I have since corrected it, and I have made a map, that would never impress map-makers, but serves the function of being a reference if I need it.

I recommend this process as strongly as I can. You do not need to have any artistic ability to create this guide; it need be useful only to you. I certainly, also, do not claim to have been the first writer to make this kind of aid. J. R. R. Tolkien created maps of Middle Earth in The Lord Of The Rings and Sherwood Anderson, in Winesburg, Ohio, also showed a map of the town. These charts help the readers, but I believe they also aided the writers in their craft.

I recommend keeping the map to only one page if you can. I began by drawing the basic street layout of Bethberg, PA. It is an old-fashioned Pennsylvania town with a circle in the center of town and roads going east-west and north-south in an imperfect grid from the circle. Because the town dates from the 1700s, the roads often do not follow any particular layout.

I then began adding key landmarks that appear in my books to the map, including diners, bars, homes, and shops.

As I continue to write this series, I add more to the map. In book two, I realized that a major area occurs in the outskirts of the community, a place call Gallows Hill. When I understood that point, I added it to the map.

One day, I might show the map in a book, but for now, in its present condition, I use it only for my reference.

To Begin:

• What kind of physical world are you building?

• If it is large, I suggest an overall map to begin, including pertinent landmasses and water or other characteristics.

• Is your world that of a small town, a large city, or the country? These are only a few of the possibilities.

• Then draw smaller maps of other areas within the larger world.

• If the world you are creating is small, then make a map of it. You might begin with the most important central feature and expand from there.

• What buildings are there?

• What stores and shops?

• What kind of roads?


As you work on your novels, you will find some changes that you need to make in your world. I suggest continuing to work on your map.

• Expand the map as needed. Add new places, such as streets, buildings, and parks.

• Mark changes that occur—has a building been destroyed in a previous book.

• I suggest keep copies of the maps as they exist for each book.

Using Essays:

Besides the use of maps, it can also be a good idea to write a small piece about the world you are creating. I have done this, and I have tried to give an over accounting of what makes this world operate as well as specific details. For example, is it a place that is driven by the known rules of physics, or does magic operate there? Are you concerned with a very specific place, or is your book set in a sprawling expanse of time and place?

I believe that the more you know and understand about the world your characters inhabit, the easier and more vividly you will be able to create that place in words, and your readers will, therefore, also be able to picture it when they read your work.

The most important consideration to remember is consistency with the world you create. Be certain that you can picture the world and keep the details clear in your mind; that way, the readers will also be able to do the same.

I hope these suggestions help.


13 thoughts on “Using Maps and Essays in World Building in a Fiction Series by Charles F. French

  1. Maps are Very important. They don’t need to be pretty, just functional enough to help write the story. I like to use graph paper, but any old piece of paper will work. For my Star Touched novel, I needed to know the more large scale effects on the landscape. I used a map of North America and white out to change the coast and remove dead towns. I may seem like a lot of work for a story that takes place in one small town, but it helped me flesh out the world and all the people in it.

    Liked by 1 person

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