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Vashti Hardy: How to Create a Fantasy Map

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As I’ve grown as a writer, one of the most interesting things I’ve discovered is that writing is about so much more than ‘writing’. This may sound like a strange thing to say, but what I mean is that writing goes far beyond the physical act of writing. My process is probably split 50/50 between physical writing and another side: the blue sky thought time and other creative inputs. Among other things, these include listening to music, collecting images on Pinterest, and drawing maps.

Drawing a map of the story world is one of the first things I do when starting a new project. When I read a story, I want to feel transported into the world, I don’t want to feel that there are fuzzy edges or blank spaces. I want to be immersed and truly believe, in the way that we are all, at some time in our lives, drawn to push the back of the wardrobe on the off chance that it might be today that we finally get into Narnia! The most popular workshop I run in schools is fantasy map making. I find the children throw themselves into the activity and adore the opportunity of taking their own ideas and creating their own worlds, driven by their particular interests and passions. It’s a great way of engaging the children who might not usually see themselves as ‘writers’, and showing them that there are different ways into story telling.

This is something that teachers may like to try themselves. If you’ve read Brightstorm as a class, you could set an activity where children create their own fantasy maps based on Brightstorm, imagining that they are drawing a new world for the crew of the Aurora to explore. Ask them to include at least three hazard points on the map, for example, a volcano that erupts with magic spells, a forest of lost memories, the bottomless chasm of doom (that type of thing!). Children decide where home/the starting point is and where/what the goal is (to reach an island no-one has set foot on, to retrieve a lost explorer etc.). Thy could then go on to write their stories (having decided on all the major plot points through drawing the map!).

Here are some other creative writing starter points that you could try:

  • Create a class or individual Pinterest board or scrapbooks of pictures to inspire a possible fantasy story and events: characters, settings, mythical creatures etc.
  • Print off a selection of interesting fantasy pictures and let the children choose two or three of interest to begin developing a story idea.
  • Choose a piece of evocative music from a soundtrack (Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon and Narnia all work well). Listen to the music as a class and discuss how it makes you feel and the images that pop into your head. Jot these down and see if any could become a story.
  • Choose a range of emotional music – adventure, sad, mysterious etc. Give the children an image of interest and ask them to write about the image while listening to the music. How does the way thy write and feel change depending on the piece of music?
  • Begin their own creative writing journals – unmarked spaces where they can collect images, jot story ideas, draw maps, design cover art, free write etc.

I hope you enjoy trying out some of the activities and that perhaps some of your young writers, who may often find the process tricky, begin to see that writing can be a multi-creative process and a huge amount of fun!


This Writing Starter was written for Just Imagine by author Vashti Hardy. Her latest book Darkwhispers, (the second in the Brightstorm series), was published 6 February 2020 by Scholastic Children’s Books.