A fictional universe is the world where your story takes place. Your story can happen anywhere from prehistoric Earth, to a futuristic world filled with flying cars and funny colored aliens. Even if you decide to set up your story in modern day Earth, it is still a version of Earth that will exist only in your imagination. However, sometimes we can get carried away when creating our stories and come up with worlds that are so extravagant and extraordinary they cross the line of logic and become unbelievable. This is why there are some things that you, as the writer, have to think of when you’re creating your world.
1. Decide on a theme
What kind of a world do your characters inhabit? Modern day Earth, a fantasy world, or do they live in the distant future or outer space? This is important because not only do you have to find the way your world figures into the plot of your novel, but it will also determine your target audience and the genre of your book. The crucial thing to remember is that you have to stick with the theme throughout your book. The world building is always a mark of a great book, and that means that the theme has to be consistent on every page of your novel.
2. Research the various details
Research is important in every aspect of a novel. However, when creating your universe, you want to create something fresh and new. This doesn’t mean that you can just imagine everything. For example, if your character is a student, but doesn’t have any student related duties like homework or exams, then that student is not believable. The same principle applies to your universe. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to learn everything there is to know about quantum physics, for example, or that you need to write in a language filled with science speak that’s difficult to understand. Instead, research everything you need, from science to magic, and then incorporate it in your novel in a way that shows the setting is important to the plot, while adding your own, fresh spin on the matter.
3. Determine the rules
Every universe needs rules that determine how the characters live their lives. If there is magic in it – where does it come from? Who can use it and why? Rules will determine what the inhabitants – your characters can and cannot do. They also play a big part in the characters’ everyday life. Of course, the rules don’t need to be told, or even completely included in your novel. But they have to be shown through your character’s actions so that the reader can deduce them.
4. Create the landscape
Visualize the world that your characters inhabit. Places where they dwell, like towns and cities. The better you visualize everything, the more you can show it in your novel. Allow your characters and their quests to help you create places, and make sure that each setting plays a role in the plot and is needed by the characters. Create a map that will detail the world. Don’t forget that the world needs cultural groups, history and important events that define the present and figure (to an extent) in the plot of the novel.
Yes, your universe needs to be believable and constructed in a logical way. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to stifle your creativity – quite the opposite. Let your imagination roam and use logic to guide it in the right direction. Put yourself into the role of the reader and “test” your universe. If it seems too “out there”, try bringing it down to earth a little, or omit it altogether. You can always add more layers to your world and take them away, as long as the landscape, general layout and the scientific, physical and/or magical rules are consistent.
Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.