Review: Inkarnate, a Surprise Tool for Writers

honing the craft recommended resource world-building May 03, 2021

Post written by Andrew Wall

World-building is a process that mucks up forward momentum for many aspiring authors. Hammering out all of the necessary details and trying to stay organized in the process isn’t an easy thing. 

When it comes to building a fictional world, one of the most important parts is staying oriented. For this reason, many of us tend to put together some sort of map. Map-making is to world-building what a white board can be for a visual learner. I don’t know about you, but seeing my world take shape, seeing all of the places I am designing set up in relation to each other, and having a useful reference for when I begin writing is something I have found I need. 

This brings us to a handy tool that makes map-making a breeze: Inkarnate. Inkarnate is a website that was designed with table top gamers in mind (see their battle map building capabilities), but their world and regional map tools are super useful for writers as well! It has a wide range of functions, several different types of maps you can create, and a delightful folder system to organize the maps you make. All of this is accessible through their web app, no downloads necessary. 

There are a few reasons why I think Inkarnate, out of all of the wonderful map-making tools out there, deserves particular mention here for you:

First, Inkarnate is super easy to use. It only takes a couple of minutes of clicking around to really get the feel for how things work. The site has a massive library of visual assets (think types of trees, city markers, mountains, etc.). There is even a feature that will randomly generate a world map for you! I have found this to be invaluable in my work of world-building because it allows someone like me, who has absolutely no artistic talent and draws terrible maps by hand, to make a map that looks really good!

Second, Inkarnate has a two especially handy little features I think are wonderful: a “notes” tool and a “path” tool. With the notes tool, you can attach little summaries of a place, information about plot events, or pretty much anything else you can think of directly to a location on the map! It is awesome! The path tool is great for a totally different reason: you can use it to map out the trajectory of your protagonist (as in the literal path they walk over the map) with different colors for different parts of the book (or different paths for different books). You could even color-code paths for different characters. So much potential!

Finally, Inkarnate is affordable. Not only can you use it for free and still be able to use most of the features, but if you decide you want access to the “Pro” features, it only costs $25 per year. That’s right, per YEAR not per month. As far as a powerful, useful map-making tool goes, that is dirt cheap. 

The only “downside” of Inkarnate is that, for right now, it is geared towards fantasy in terms of the assets they have available. Sorry, science-fiction writers! (With a little imagination you could still make it work for your own reference, though.) But if you are writing fantasy, then I really can't find a true downside!

All-in-all, Inkarnate is a super useful map-making tool that will be a great boon for any world-builder. It is easy to use, has some really cool features, and is extremely affordable. I cannot recommend it enough!

If you're feeling stuck in your world-building process, please reach out to me to schedule a one-on-one world-building consultation! I'd love to help you break down the barrier between you and a deeper, more meaningful story.

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