What things have to be in place for a new world to feel believable to readers? I’ve been making a list and imagining the answers for my new world.
The first thing that needs to be decided on is what type of world you need. There is a wide range of worlds you could choose from. This list is just the types I consider. There might be more.
- Contemporary earth. This is a world very similar to the one we live on. There’s very little to create in this world as we already live the life. All we need to do is populate it with our characters.
- Futuristic earth. I find setting stories in the future problematic. I keep thinking of two books that were set in the future. One of them is 1984 by George Orwell. While there are elements of that book that have come to pass (at various levels) in our society, there’s more that hasn’t. Orwell grossly overestimated the development and adoption of technologies in the thirty or so years after writing the book. The other book is The Oceans of Venus by Isaac Asimov. While that book isn’t set on earth, it was still set in the future, but it was based on incorrect information. Scientists of the time speculated that Venus’s cloudy atmosphere hid roiling oceans of water. It wasn’t until decades later that they found that assumption to be totally wrong.
- Past earth. You’d think this one would be relatively easy, but it’s not. If you think in broad strokes, there’s a lot of information available that we can build images with. Archaeologists and historians have reconstructed different times in history, sometimes in detail, but there are a lot of eras where there are gaps in the information available about certain societies. Take the Saxons for example: their dwellings were wooden, so pretty much the only evidence we have of them is dark splotches in the soil left from posts, and pot sherds. A lot of information about their lives is conjecture.
- Fantasy earth. Things like Steampunk fit in here really well. You have the earth we know, you have some of the same history, but somewhere along the track, things have taken a sideways turn and everything is fantastical.
- Fantasy other world, Contemporary other world, Futuristic other world, Past other world. I’ve put all these together because they have similar situations and difficulties as earth in each of those times.
- SF other world. Once again, The Oceans of Venus jumps into my head. Of course, we know a lot more about other planets and potentialities for other planets and galaxies, but there is always the probability we’re going to get it wrong. The trick to making these worlds believable, I think, is to have a mix between what is known (our world and science) and what is unknown and possible.