Setting: Lesson One 2017-18

Maps: Mechanics of Your Story and New Worlds


Objective: Students will build their own setting after discussing the key ingredients of a story—setting, characters, conflict.


Materials needed:

  • For explorations – Story map examples: Hero’s Journey, Plot Rollercoaster, Story Fish. Fantasy map examples.
  • For expansions – large sketch paper, blank story fish diagram, crayons, markers, macaroni,


  1. Engagement


What is the focus of the lesson?


The focus of the lesson is to explore the essential parts of what makes a story complete. Every story needs a beginning, middle and end. Every story needs a hook, rising action that builds up to a climax, and a resolution at the end. Sometimes it helps to have an outline, to make sure that all the key points are being hit and that the pace of the story isn’t rushed.


2.  Exploration

What will the students do?


Students will discuss briefly the difference between science fiction and fantasy, and brainstorm some ideas about what things they could find in those stories and how things can overlap.


Students will learn about the basic plot structure of every story, and the mechanics involved in writing a complete story with a beginning, middle and end. They will return to this in the conflict lesson in more detail.


The primary focus of the class is to talk about setting and worldbuilding. We’ll look at fantasy maps and talk about some of the things we can learn from them, including sources of conflict found within the world. We’ll talk about how setting influences the characters, and students will begin creating a setting for their story.


3.  Expansion

How will the idea be expanded?


Students will be shown various story maps, including the Hero’s Journey, The Plot Rollercoaster, and Jeff Vandermeer’s Story Fish. Key terms will be defined, and one of these diagrams will be filled in as a group, using a story they are all familiar with, like a common fairy tale or Star Wars.

Students will then be given a brief worksheet where they can begin writing out the details of their alien worlds. When the worksheet is filled in and they have some ideas what sort of world they’re going to build, then they will make their maps.


They will be shown famous examples of maps and list some of the key things found on them—cities, mountains, lakes, etc, just as there are certain elements to mapping a successful plot. They will also learn about making a map legend, scale, and compass for their alien world. Perhaps their planet doesn’t have magnetic fields and they will need to design a different sort of compass that will work in the absence of magnets.


If there is time, they will also make a civilization card to go with their game, with a picture of a major civilization on their world—anything from a three tent city to a major metropolis. On the back they will list three distinguishing characteristics of their city/world.





4.  Evaluation


By the end of the session, students will have a solid idea of the world they’ve built in their heads, ready to populate with characters in the next session. Their maps and city cards for their games will be evidence of this, along with the completed setting worksheets, which they can add to and reference at any point during the story writing process.