Poll: How Do You Feel About Maps?

Everyone has their own opinion on maps in a novel. Some people despise them, considering them a cheap form of infodump. Others will buy a book just because it has a pretty map, regardless of what the book is about.

Of course it depends on the quality of map and how (or whether) the story uses it, but in general how do you feel about maps?

Personally, I LOVE them. I can't read Lord of the Rings without flipping to the map every time a place is mentioned.

But because of that, I'm kind of a map snob. I'm disappointed if the book takes place in a single undetailed location, or in places that aren't even on the map (I'm looking at you, Name of the Wind). I get upset if the map is wrong (it's happened!). And while I do love flipping back to the map, I don't want to HAVE to.

My favorite maps do four things:
  1. They are not required to follow the action (i.e. they can be skipped).
  2. They include most important locations mentioned in the book.
  3. They don't include too many places that AREN'T mentioned in the book.
  4. They enhance the experience for those who want to study them.

I have a map for Air Pirates (I don't see how you could write fantasy without one), but I don't show it to my beta readers. So far only two have asked if there was a map, and nobody said they were lost without one. I take that to mean I'm doing a good job. Though if this thing gets published, you better believe I'll be pushing for a map. I mean, assuming I get any say at all.

What are some of your favorite (or least favorite) maps? Why?


fairyhedgehog said...

I'm not keen on maps in books and tend to avoid them. But then I don't tend to read the kind of books where a map would be useful!

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm a bit of a fanatic about maps. I love them so much that I will buy any novel, regardless of what it is about, if it has a map. I know that's ridiculous but I can't help it.

I even have a hand drawn map for my novel, and it all takes place on the campus of a school no larger than perhaps a square mile.

vic caswell said...

ooh! i love maps! and i love your four guidlelines! i agree with you completely on all four points! :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

My kids love maps and create fantastically detailed ones of their own. I'm indifferent to them, although maps-as-art tend to catch my eye (see: Behemoth). I hope they're not required for fantasy, because I want to write an MG fantasy next, and yeah. There will be no map. :)

Nancy said...

I have a separate book of maps for LOTR, and refer to it as I read.

Valerie Geary said...

I love maps. I could stare at a well-drawn one for hours. But I don't think a book needs one to be successful.

Darby Karchut said...

Oh, I do love a good map. Being a cradle-to-grave Tolkien fan, I find maps an essential to most fantasy books, especially high fantasy.

(Of course, being a geography teacher has NOTHING to do with my love of the noble art of cartography!)

Daniel Smith said...

I just finished reading the hardcover edition of The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. It has a nice map in the front, but by the locations in the book ... the map is upside down! i.e. North is down.

That took a little getting used to. Good book though.

Nick said...

I agree with your points. Basically, as long as a map doesn't detract from the book, they're good. It's annoying if the author leaves stuff out 'cuz it's in the map (I don't want to feel like I'm doing some kind of dungeon crawl, following along with a pencil and paper. Reading shouldn't feel like work.) or gives stuff away based on the map (mistborn did that).

Maps and diagrams can be fun, but it's lame when an author sticks too closely to them and ends up being too obvious. "Hey this map has five x's, let's check each one out." Now I've lost a lot of plot appeal. Maybe not everyone is like this, but usually movie previews give away too much to the point of making me NOT want to watch the show. I'd rather have a friend just say "It's good, go see it."

jjdebenedictis said...

Basically? I never look at them.

There was one exception where I really was getting confused and had to flip back to the map to make sense of things.

Other than that? Never. It's like looking at the author's photo. I just don't care.

IanBontems said...

I like them. I loved The map of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings - that was my first map in a book.

I agree with you in that they shouldn't really be integral to the plot - more a little extra garnish in the novel stew.

Victoria Dixon said...

Interesting poll results! Not what I expected. I do love books with maps, but I want to not have to rely on them. That said, you've reminded me to go back to my map and book and make sure I've got my site names listed on the map. ;D Thanks!

I love LOTR's maps, but they seem to mean something to me beyond the story. They're maps to a real place I love and might visit someday. Kudos to Tolkien for accomplishing that.

Adam Heine said...

That's a good point, Nick. Boneshaker did that too, marking only the spots where plot occurred (and therefore spoiling those elements of said plot).

Nancy (aka Mom), I was not aware such a book existed. COVET!

Deniz Bevan said...

I agree with everything you said! I just started reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and keep sticking my finger into the map page. So glad I'm reading the book copy and not an e-book; it would be so frustrating having to click through the map all the time.