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! Activities 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: This slideshow requires JavaScript. 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?
lastwildmap 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 Happy map-making!
Miss P x Drawing maps of imaginary places is wonderful fun; doing this can inspire your imagination and is also an unexplored form of art. In this tutorial you will find guidelines on how to draw maps that look natural, vivid, and visually appealing.


  1. Make a mental image of the place you want to draw. Focus on the features that tie up the map together, such as coastlines, mountains or other major features you want your map to focus on.
  2. Draw the major lines of your composition. It can be a good idea to begin with coastlines, if your map is to have bodies of water in it. Do not expect your drawing to look like your mental image, even with the simplest idea.
  3. Leave room for lots of features you may think of later. This will help to make your map more interesting and will help you to balance the image in later phases of drawing.
  4. Become inspired by free drawing! If you aren’t sure what you want the map to look like, just start drawing lines oriented around shapes and lines.
  5. Remember that if you want a natural looking map, the map has to be separated into regions in various ways. Then add the details later as you define the various regions; this includes coloring.
  6. Note the details of maps. If you know enough about maps, you will see that that each area has unique features, keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself to maps that look the same all over. Things to add include (some of these are elaborated on in the following steps):
    • Mountains
    • Canyons
    • Coastlines
    • Rivers, lakes
    • Islands, islets
    • Forests
    • Major roads
    • Cities, towns, villages, outposts, hermit dwellings, farms, etc.
    • Animal herds, groupings, etc.
  7. Take care to detail coastal areas. When drawing coastlines try to be especially detailed and varying, make certain areas with many peninsulas and bays, and others that are straighter. Islands and lakes can be anywhere, but try to make a peaceful composition. Make the general shape of your landmass first, then add more eccentric features, you have to pull the coastlines inward and outward, otherwise the map will look unnatural.
  8. Create mountains. Mountains are normally in small clusters or chains. If you make a large cluster, it should be connected to other areas. Mountains can be absolutely anywhere and should not be limited because they are also a very important part of your composition.
  9. Add some rivers. Rivers can also be anywhere, make sure most of them are wavy, but they don’t always have to be. Rivers in mountainous areas are usually straighter than rivers in flat areas. Try to make them originate from lakes (any size) or areas of higher elevation.
  10. Include islands. Make archipelagos and clusters, but lone islands may also be used. If coastlines and landmasses still confuse you, try to extend your drawing to include underwater elevations.
  11. Keep pushing the composition. Include hills, vegetation and population. Add in animal herds. Be creative and follow your heart. Add details that make it look more realistic.
  12. Finished.


  • Borders or names can always be interesting to try.
  • As with everything else, cities can be located anywhere, but you should be imaginative as to where you place them. Most major cities are on or near bodies of water, the interior is generally less populated.
  • Rain forests must always coincide with high temperatures and bodies of water.
  • Deserts are common at all climates, but much more so in areas of extreme temperatures. This includes regions deep in the interior.
  • Remember to build geographical features based around each other. Generally, deserts are on the inland side of mountains while the coastal side has lush forests or good farm land. Lakes appear near mountains or areas that catch a lot of water. Rainforests occur at the equator, deserts in the tropics, and more temperate areas beyond the tropics have climates like Europe. Refer to real world locations if need be.


  • Always mind the geographic features, all features from elevation, water, to population must be considered in your style of map, because if you are careless about a mountain chain somewhere, it might ruin your intentions.

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