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To Create a World or Not

Yesterday during a brainstorming session, an idea struck me. When is it appropriate to utilize a secondary or constructed world in a fantasy story (or a science fiction story for that matter)? What are the advantages of creating and utilizing a constructed world rather than our own Earth? What, maybe, are the disadvantages? Are writers maybe too willing to utilize constructed worlds in their stories when our own consensus world would be a better setting? Now, I could bloviate as a blogocritic, but I rather don’t want to. I want to rather work through this as a writer myself.

A project I’ve been working on for a while has been predicated on being a constructed world. But yesterday, I realized that I don’t need that world to be constructed from scratch. That the project works just as well, if not better, set in a, perhaps, highly mutated, weird, and fantastic version of Earth had never occurred to me.

Once this leap was made, I realized that I don’t have to rack my brain trying to come up with fictional names of planets, countries, states and provinces, cities, species, and people. I can just use Earth as the backdrop for some really strange adventures. That’s what I meant by the highly mutated comment.

This new direction also opens up avenues of deeper and more complex interrogations and explorations of issues that a secondary world may not readily allow.

So now I have to question, why was I so hell bent on a secondary world in the first place? I don’t quite know. The earliest iteration of this now mutated idea was set in a strange and terrifying postapocalyptic or dying earth setting on earth. Now, elements of that original idea have spored out and become a beast of its own. Gradually I had the idea of creating a constructed world based on the early twenty first century. But while that idea may be fun, I really do not know if it really has a chance of working. Then I began to gravitate more and more around creating worlds inspired by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (roughly “steampunk” and “dieselpunk”). And I’ve flirted with modernizing the ancient world, but while that idea has merit, the story never quite fit.

Now I’m excited and happy with these developments. And I don’t have to worry too much about sounding silly when I have to create a lot of fantasy names. Particularly since all of them pretty much were Earth based in some way anyway. So, I think, it is easier to avoid some of this flak to begin with.

This is not to mean that I won’t ever use constructed worlds in anything I do. I have some ideas floating around now that would probably work better being set in constructed worlds rather than being set on Earth. But I think it is important to question at the outset whether or not a constructed world trumps setting a story on Earth rather than Fantasy World 239 or something.

I haven’t touched on, yet, the possibilities and dangers of so mutating and weirding Earth as to make it virtually a constructed world on its own. This, I think, really raises questions about creating secondary worlds and what makes them different from Earth. How heavily mutated does Earth have to be before it is a certified secondary world? Very interesting question. I’ve read arguments calling the Wizarding World of the Harry Potter a secondary world. But I don’t know if I really agree with that argument.

Well, my niece is getting impatient with me, so I’m going to have to cut this post here. I may update this post if   I get the chance.