When working on a fantasy story and map, we need to consider so much more than just forests and the story; we need to take into account science while we’re at it.
Regardless of your type of fantasy world, it is likely to exist on a planet and have a sun. Therefore, you need to consider seasons, time zones, hemispheres and an equator. Basic rules of physics and astronomy still apply, so we have to consider the planet’s rotation in relation to the sun, etc.. Once you have these penciled in, you can start to consider which biomes to use.
I use our own Earth as a reference so that my climates and biomes are more realistic. For example, I wouldn’t find a scorching desert right next to the southern pole…unless it’s caused by magic!
In The Darkest Realm, my characters crossed the Lorendian Desert and entered a savanna, which is roughly where South Africa would be in relation to Australia. This prompted me to look into seasons and weather patterns. It turns out that the African savanna tends to have a dry and wet season instead of summer, autumn winter and spring. Since my story crosses several kingdoms, I drew a rough scribble and made notes so I could visualise the change of seasons.
As my characters head into the south / west hemisphere, I flipped the seasons around and give them appropriate weather and climate. These things may sound minor, but to me they can be the difference between being totally immersed in an alternate fantasy reality, or being jolted out of the experience thinking ‘Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound right!’
There are some really useful guides online. Gardening and farming guides are good such as the one below. My dad was a farmer for years before retirement, so I learnt to always trust gardeners and farmers when it comes to the true seasons. Also, check out this video on YouTube to see how our Earth experiences seasons and why.
The final thing I want to add in is the use of a calendar. I know that every writer does things differently, so it may not be your cup of tea. But for my fantasy stories, I have a calendar and track every single day of their journey. That way can keep track of the seasons and ensure travel times and speeds are realistic, etc.
My next step for this calendar is to flip seasons as they prepare to head into the northern hemisphere.
One final point to mention. For those who enable long distance travel in their magic systems, remember that if your person is way up in the north and it’s lunch time, if they teleport to the opposite side of the world, chances are it will be dark there. Or, if they have some method of long-distance flight, remember the climate is going to change during the journey. Even just flying from Hobart to Sydney is a vast shift in humidity and sun rise/set times, so don’t forget to factor this in.
I hope this helps in your fantasy work!
~ Amex <3