Never Eat Sour Watermelons

I am directionally challenged.

It’s okay, I’ve long ago accepted it. I still get lost sometimes in the town where I grew up. It was close to two months before I would drive anywhere by myself here in Washington. When picturing a map in my head, I’ve got north and south down pat, but I sometimes have to remember to Never Eat Sour Watermelons before I get east and west straightened out.

The problem is not solved in my imagination. When planning a story, I can churn out characters, plotlines, inner struggles, outer struggles, worlds, creatures, whatever you want.

But when you ask me where it all takes place, all action grinds to a halt.

I have to get a paper, pencil, and eraser and work for a good amount of time before I can figure out how my story works geographically. Map the country, map the castle, map the village, map the forest, map the island, then hang all those maps up on the wall and stare at them until the images are burned onto my eyeballs and are hopefully seeping back into my brain, where I can transfer them into the words of the story.

And don’t even get me started on distances traveled. Figuring out how long it takes to get from here to there is one of my biggest headaches in the writing process.

How do you work out the specifics of your story’s geography? Is it something that comes naturally to you, or do you struggle with it?