I have always loved maps within books. Much like novels themselves, maps can tell stories too. They often bring the real and the imaginary together. Maps are a brilliant way to explore imaginary lands inside our imaginations, providing a potential gateway to creative writing. Spending time creating illustrations gives us a starting point for bringing characters and their journeys to life. Sometimes, the map itself even features in a story as a useful tool for the characters to help them find their way (think about Gandalf giving the map to Bilbo or the famous Marauder’s Map in the Harry Potter series).
Maps in particular draw our focus and attention to the different settings in which our story might take place – what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, what obstacles our characters might have to overcome. By spending time creating the shape of the land and sea, beautiful forests and daunting caves and mountain ranges, ideas begin to form in our minds… leading to a story that might unfold in these mystical, magical places. Drawing maps can really help us to build ideas and get us ready for some creative writing, which is what we’re going to do today!
1) Explore Maps in Books
What are some of your favourite book maps, and why? Perhaps take some time to look at your bookshelf and see if you can find any books with a map inside. Here are some that I found at home:
Spend some time looking at the detail in the maps. What do you notice? Do you spot anything you didn’t see before? For example, if you look closely at the map in Piers Torday’s The Last Wild, you might notice minute details like the small animals dotted around the page (but no people? Why?) I also noticed that the stag in the middle of the map is also on the front cover. On the font cover it has a red eye, which might link to the word ‘Quarantine’ on the map. By taking a closer look we might spot clues and hints about the story to come… You might also like to think about the different areas on the map and decide whether they are good or bad places – what makes you think this? Are there particular objects that symbolise good and evil? Does it seem mainly natural or man-made? Is there a path or road? What might this mean? For example ‘Forest of the Dead’ sounds quite ominous and has an image of two cross-bones, which makes me think of death so maybe this is a bad place, but the ring of trees seems quite safe – why might this be?
Thomas Flintham talks about his map-making process and inspiration for Piers Torday’s The Last Wild here.
If you can’t find any books with maps at home, think about which “mapless” books would benefit from including maps. For example, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins does not have a map for the different districts, but many fans have attempted to draw their own.
2) Create your own Writer’s Map
Today, you are going to have a go at some Cartography! If you’re interested in etymology (the origins of words), you’ll be keen to learn that this word stems from the French cartographie, drawing its origins from the Medieval Latin word ‘carta’ (meaning card) and the Greek ‘graph’ or ‘graphein’ (which means to write or draw). Essentially, a card on which you write or draw – mapmaking! If you are someone who make maps, you are called a cartographer!
3) Creative Writing Task
Option 1 – Oral Storytelling. Verbally tell a story to someone about your map and what would happen in your fictional world. You may even wish to dress up and act it out!
Option 2 – write a short description about ONE of the places on your map. Be sure to include lots of detail about what you can see, hear, smell and feel! A good way to make sure you’ve included enough detail is to read your description to someone else and ask them to draw what they imagine your world to look like… did they miss anything off? Could you add more detail to your writing to make sure they can visualise all of the important things in your fantasy world?
Option 3 – create a short story that takes place in your own fantasy world. Who are you characters and where might they have to journey to? Why?
Here are some incredibly creative maps that children have produced with me in the past. The one on the left was a big collaborative map that became the focus for oral storytelling, the other was made by a young boy who subsequently wrote an epic saga of a story that he published for our class book corner!
What will you do with your map? Who will you share your writing with?
Remember to Create, Share and Connect…
Don’t forget to share your story with someone at home or virtually over Skype/Facetime/Zoom! I’m sure your family would love to hear your brilliant creative writing! Please do share photos of your amazing maps and writing with us too! You can either do this in the comments box below or post a photo on social media (you can find me on Facebook and Twitter) using the hashtag #literacywithmissp
Miss P x