Besides quality writing, interesting characters, and a compelling plot, science fiction & fantasy stories need a unique and believable fictional world to take place in. Many writers of the fiction genre state that creating these worlds or universes is one of the most entertaining parts of starting a new writing project. However, doing it for the first time — or creating one that is in-depth and realistic enough so it makes sense — can be a challenge.
These five tips for creating a fictional world for your science fiction or fantasy book will lead you through the entire process.
1 – Get the Basics Down First
When you first begin to build your fantasy or science fiction world, you need to come up with the basic information, or building blocks of what this fictional universe is.
Are you working with a rocky planet near an interstellar highway or a quaint village in a pseudo-medieval kingdom? Will there be strange sentient aliens who mine plutonium or do elves and dragons meander under the ancient trees? The world serves the story.
2 – Consider Drawing a Map
Even if you are not very artistic, you can draw a simple map of your world or universe so you know how things work and fit together. This will also help while you are writing your science fiction or fantasy story because you will not forget which direction the villages are in or how many light-years are between two inhabited moons.
3 – Create Climate, Ecosystems and Inhabitants
When readers explore a new fantasy or science fiction universe, they expect to be surprised by things that your characters come across. However, completely diverging from the natural laws of the real world may create more discomforts than familiarity.
Figure out why the coast of your ocean is a 100-foot sheer cliff or 50 feet of sparkling golden sand. Why does the third moon circle the planet backward? What plants and fauna (fictional or not) live in your forests? What creates the waves on your oceans and are there any primitive peoples that your cast of characters may run across?
4 – How Does Everything Function?
Unless your genre fiction is a type of “Survivor Man” alone in the wilderness scenario, there will be structures of civilization, economics, and politics that need to be thought out. A large part of worldbuilding is determining the government structure, how trade is done, and what the natural resources are that people need. Are they interested in things like religion and education? And what are the various jobs people typically have?
5 – Realism Through Acceptance and Normality
The most important thing to remember when building your world or universe for a science-fiction or fantasy story is that, unless they are all transplants from somewhere else, your characters live and work in this world. They are not going to be shocked if they see a two-headed parrot in the priests’ library if it is well-known that priests love these birds. They are not going to launch a ship when the red moon makes the tides go crazy.
If you want your reader to accept that the world they are sinking into through your words is real, you need to ascribe to it a certain type of fantastic reality. If something extraordinary to the reader is perfectly normal and pedestrian to a character, it becomes easier to accept it.
With these important tips in mind, you begin weaving together a fantastical world of your imagination. Make sure to incorporate each of these elements into your world-building process in order to create a convincing world for your readers. The most important thing, however, is to have fun with the process.
For some inspiration, check out our article on five Black sci-fi and fantasy authors to read now!