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THE GEOGRAPHY OF YOUR WORLD

February 6, 2019

When you’re creating your world, as part of world building, you have to consider the geography. I’m not even sure if they teach that subject in school anymore. If it doesn’t apply to apps, well…never mind. If figured I’d have to ask my grandson if he even knows what geography is. Maybe they still do teach it.

In this article, I’m referring to the physical geography, not the human (or inhabitant) geography.

Since I originally wrote this a few weeks ago, I did an unofficial poll and added in this paragraph. My grandson knew basically what geography was, but hardly through school – mostly through his mom and us. As for other people, of course, the older ones were taught in school. My kids had some, but the younger kids nowadays, the millennials, so to speak, depending on where they go to school, are a mixed bag. Since Las Vegas is a melting pot, I got all kinds of weird answers and cannot pin down a particular region where they consistently teach geography, per se, in any particular school. So, the consensus I got was that it’s fading to be virtually non-existent, except a mild matter of interest because it’s not being taught to test. It’s not a universal requirement.

REAL-WORLD FICTION

For real-world fiction, it’s relatively easy to get the geography correct. It’s basically already written for you. All you have to do is a bit of research of the area where the book takes place, and you’re done.

The worst thing you can do as a writer is get the geography wrong! If your story takes place in Las Vegas and your characters have a chase scene through a tropical jungle, well…you have a huge credibility problem! That’s a drastic example, but, it illustrates my point. I used to get a kick out of the TV show CSI. They’d have scenes clearly taken down in Ellay (Los Angeles) or more likely, Santa Clarita, California, where the climate and geography are far from what it’s like in Las Vegas, even with the restrictive camera angles they used.

A more subtle error is naming the wrong river in a state or country. This can lose a lot of points with your readers.

FANTASY FICTION

In fantasy, this is where you almost have a free reign to set up your own rules of geography.

Are you going to follow the rules of science and physics from the real world?

Or…

Are you going to create your own rules and devise geography that’s completely whack compared to what you’d find in the real world?

Or…

Will your fantasy world be somewhere in-between?

Fantasy worlds are often a mix of fantastical elements with blends of science fiction. The science being alien worlds combined. That means throwing in a few twists that might be possible, just not on Earth.

DO YOU RESEARCH?

Sometimes I’ve seen the “Is this possible” questions on the forums, when it comes to geography. To tell the truth, I’m just glad these younger people are actually paying attention to a subject that’s getting less and less attention in school. I also wonder how many young people (or even older ones who never paid attention, or just forgot) even know what the word means. So, in a nutshell, I appreciate the question being asked. These people ARE doing the research, whether on line or by any other means.

Transition zones from desert to swamp, forest to tundra, whatever to whatever, are all geographic zones to consider in building your world. Right here on Earth, with a little searching, you can find all kinds of geographic extremes. There are many sources for this including, of all things, National Geographic, Google, and of course, on line forums.

If you want to stray from reality-based geography, just make it up on the fly. Why not? Just remember that it’s your world and if you’re going to create a rule, per se, stick with it or your readers will notice and call bull on you.

SUMMARY

Geography is a fascinating subject and is something that’s right under our feet. It makes our world a living, breathing part of our story. Use it wisely, Grasshopper!

Happy writing!

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