Whether you are writing fiction of nonfiction, keeping track of who is where and how one location related to another can be tough. In scene one, your character goes upstairs and down the hall to fetch the jacket she left in her bedroom. In scene 10, her bedroom is the first room off the stairs.
It’s imperative that you keep all of this straight. When it comes to buildings, I look for floor plans. For my upcoming novel project, so far I have three. Two are homes – one mid-century modern and the other craftsman. With the floor plans I don’t have to remember how many bedrooms there are, where the entrance to the basement is or how many steps it would be from the front door to the kitchen. It’s all there for me.
But what about larger areas? Again, you can borrow from reality, using the street map of an actual town even if you are creating a fictitious town. I may be doing that for my project but you can also draw a map.
A friend recently showed me a map she drew. Her story takes place on an island and it was critical for her to keep track of what path led where. Her map includes the boundaries of the island, the paths and forest. It’s a simple pencil sketch but it gets the job done.
If you really love creating maps and want to try something fancy, you can draw a map with Photoshop. I have to admit that I have not tried to do this myself. At least not yet. But I found Fantastic Maps, a blog by Jonathan Roberts with tutorials on how to create fantasy maps. He does use a graphics tablet which I admittedly do not have. If I’m going to be doing much of this, and it may come in handy for several jobs, I’ll be looking into one. Roberts tutorials include towns, canyons and more. His instructions are incredibly detailed.
Whether you chose to use an existing building/floor plan or map or create your own, take the time to do one or the other. You need to keep your setting right in your mind so that your reader can follow in the footsteps of your characters.