Fantasy writer Donna Sundblad's creative writing book Pumping Your Muse states, "World building on the front side of writing your story reduces the likelihood of going back to add threads of details about your world to make the plot work." Creating a fantasy landscape is a foundational aspect when writing a fantasy novel. Geographical detail captured on paper helps develop scenes logically, correctly and with clarity. If the evil sorcerer lives beyond the dark forest to the south, indicate trees to the south on your map with a mark showing the evil sorcerer's home. It doesn't have to be an artistic map worthy of publication. Instead, it should be detailed in a way that the fantasy author understands and recognizes.
Mapping Fantasy Landscape
When mapping your fantasy landscape, consider what's important to the emerging society. Include categories like:
Fertile Farming Land - Agriculture: Fresh produce is needed even in the cities. Where does it come from? If it is transported from more rural areas, how is it moved? Or, does each home have a garden tucked away on flat roofs, or community property set aside for this purpose?
Water Resources: Gold or silver profits nothing if you have no water. How scarce or abundant is water in your world? How does the water system work? Do water treatment plants exist? If so, are they well protected or is there no need for such fortification? Is the water run through pipelines or does it travel by more natural avenues? Does water supply power? If a dam exists, be sure to mark it on the map with consideration of potential devastation if it should break.
Seaports and Industrial Areas - Commerce: What type of goods do the cities in your fantasy land buy and sell? Is the economy healthy? Are things bought on credit, or do people pay up front? What currency is accepted? Is this the same throughout the kingdom? Does trade exist between other cities, provinces or nations? How did this trade relationship develop?
Forestry: Is the majority of your fantasy world forested? If cities exist, do they have parks, forest preserves or other natural settings for the residents to enjoy, or is it a futuristic, barren post-nuclear war metropolis? Consider the importance plant life plays in the quality of air and condition of soil.