Creating the Fictional Universe – Establishing the Setting
It’s a big world out there. It looks even bigger when you have to learn everything there is to know about it. It can be fairly intimidating to open an encyclopedia and try and memorize everything from countries and politics to continents and oceans. Thankfully Google makes that task a little easier these days, but start adding planets, stars and galaxies to that lineup and you might as well just enroll in an undergraduate program at your local university.
So if it’s that much work to learn about the real world, how do authors keep up with their own fictional universes and talk about them like they’ve been studying the details for half a century? The key is creating a solid base for a fictional universe that pulls ideas from our non-fictional world and has room for plenty of expansion.
Over the next several weeks, I will be posting a special blog series that breaks down the structure behind a fictional universe. Although you can technically make up anything you want in a work of fiction, it gives much more value to the readers when they can place themselves in the story and understand what is going on around the characters. My preferred word for this type of information is “backstory”. Whether it has to do with your fictional universe’s history, geography, astronomy, or even social structures and politics, fans of your work are certain to ask “why” and attempt to discover the past, present, and future of your characters and the world around them. As the ultimate creator behind that universe, it’s your job to provide them with that information when they ask for it. If it doesn’t exist yet, make it up on the spot and give it to them in a way that makes perfect sense in your world. That’s the greatest part about fiction writing- the truth is synonymous to your own imagination. Who says pigs can’t fly? They can if you want them to!