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Thread: Mapping cliches

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      NedS298 is offline
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    Default Mapping cliches

    Has anyone ever notcied any particular cliches in maps? For example, one I've noted is that deserts always appear to be in the south (a notable example would be in Narnia), which is a result of the fact that maps are always in the Northern Hemisphere. This also leads to tundra being placed at the top of the map - every time. Isn't fantasy about being creative? Someone should make a map with temperature ranging from east to west! Of course, another one would be similar to "Mordor", a hellish location. Who can list some others?

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      madcowchef is offline
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    Well the largest is up being north, but that's already received plenty of discussion. Volcanoes and evil, but that might just be rewording your mordor comment. Good people live in desirable terrain and bad people in bad terrain. All deserts have to have a ominous heat related name.

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      Slylok is offline
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    I always find myself focusing on areas north of the equator as well. I guess that's because it's what i'm most familiar with. Although there have been plenty of worlds on here that people come out with which don't adhere to earth's climates. The eyeball world is my favorite i think.

    One thing i've noticed, and am guilty of, is making maps with tattered, rolled, and torn edges. Can't help it, but I love the look even if it's cliche.

    I think a lot of this comes from our visual/mental libraries we build as we read, watch, and play different types of stories, movies, and games. It's pretty difficult to come up with something completely original these days. Especially since the internet makes sharing ideas and content so easy. I personally just create things on what I think fits and if it's been done before then so be it.

    Good thread! I'm interested to see what other people come up with.
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      Azelor is offline
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    I was thinking about the left justified continent like in the Lord of The Ring. I think it's pretty popular.

    I don't really have other clichés in mind but I know where you can find some : Search Results - TV Tropes

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      JefBT is offline
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    NedS298: "Isn't fantasy about being creative?"

    It should be, but unconsciously we make things related to what we know, so, sometimes it isn't a cliché, but just something that is "regular" to us.

    "Why should I try something new?" - not just on maps, but people usually don't try ideas that are totally new, they use what is firmly grounded and established. And that way we fall back in the clichés.

    As I live in the southern hemisphere, it was strange for me to see the cold north, and snow (the lowest temperature I had seem in person was 8° Celcius). But I got used to it, since almost all the fantasy books and movies are from the northern hemisphere.

    Another cliché: the largest ocean area only apears on the east and west, never on the south or north (well, I did not see any world with a great ocean or sea on the north or south).

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      Larb is offline
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    I have been guilty of some of those myself at one time or another.

    Cliches that stick out most to me are naming cliches - maybe because these are the ones I most consciously try to avoid. From maps with an overly heavy adjective-noun naming scheme through to the ever popular wastes which seem mandatory on many maps. I've seen all kinds: ice wastes, void wastes, burning wastes, shadow wastes, blighted wastes, and of course the ever popular northern wastes. Certain sea names often crop up quite a lot too.

    Names also seem to be a measure of what is popular at any given time as well. I'm sure many of you have noticed a lot more maps often include a town or city called "<something> Landing" lately? =P

    However using cliches isn't always a bad thing - they are cliches for a reason. Sometimes they are appropriate and some people are able to make them work well. But it is good to be aware of them because they often come about sub-consciously.
    JefBT likes this.

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      Freodin is offline
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    Those of us who draw maps of fantastic worlds and terrains fall too easily for the cliche that what the cartographer made is indeed a correct representation of the land - and that is rather reasonable. We, the person who really made the map, want to show the viewer how the land really is.

    But most (famous, antique) real cartographers never saw what they drew. They relied on reports and older maps.

    So for every call for the River Police, I want to offer the famous map of China from Joan Blaeu's "Atlas Major" in response.

    Mapping cliches-8433414405_256c2a11e3_z.jpg

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      NedS298 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freodin View Post
    Those of us who draw maps of fantastic worlds and terrains fall too easily for the cliche that what the cartographer made is indeed a correct representation of the land - and that is rather reasonable. We, the person who really made the map, want to show the viewer how the land really is.

    But most (famous, antique) real cartographers never saw what they drew. They relied on reports and older maps.
    That's probably the most truthful thing I've heard about cartography on this forum.

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      Raptori is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azelor View Post
    I was thinking about the left justified continent like in the Lord of The Ring. I think it's pretty popular.
    I've never understood why that's called left justified - personally I'd call it "right aligned" if I were going for a type analogy. "Justified" text in design means taking up the full width of the area. "Left" justified means unfilled lines are aligned to the left. Left justified is the most common form of justified text, and is usually referred to as merely "justiefied", as per this image:

    Mapping cliches-paragraph-alignment.jpg

    As you can see from that image, the alignment that appears most similar to the LOTR map is Right Align.

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      - Max - is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azelor View Post
    I was thinking about the left justified continent like in the Lord of The Ring. I think it's pretty popular.
    What is a cliche for some people may not be one for some others. I think this is rather a cliche for western european people, which build fictionnal maps influenced by their own territory, with lands on east and ocean on east. Not sure it would be a cliche for asian people for instance.

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