Welcome to the last post in a series I like to call Researching Different Settings. I’ve already covered Historical Fiction/Settings and Contemporary settings. If you’re interested, click the links and read those posts.
This week the topic is constructed worlds.
What Is A Constructed World?
Constructed worlds are worlds that aren’t Earth. Think Vulcan and other planets from Star Trek, Middle Earth from Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings and other works. Think about your standard Fantasy and sci-fi world that isn’t Earth. Those worlds are Constructed Worlds.
This type of setting is also known as a Secondary World setting. It’s a very common setting for Epic and High Fantasy stories. Fun fact: High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy are used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. It has to do with the scope of the quest being undertaken in the story. I’ll be doing a post on it in the future.
The Types Of Constructed Worlds
Because of their ubiquitous nature in Fantasy, people can be forgiven for assuming there is only one type of Constructed World. In a way, they’re right. A Constructed World is a Constructed World. The history and reasons for the peculiarities will be different from our world.
However, because of the different types of research needed, ones that mimic either Contemporary Settings or Historical Settings, I would say there are actually two types of Constructed World.
Standard Constructed Worlds are the worlds you see in quite a bit of Epic, High, and Quest Fantasy. They don’t take after any specific timer period but tend to give a general feeling of being in some far off past. Often it is a pseudo-Medieval type of past, actually. I have many good books on my shelf with this setting. They’re quite enjoyable to read when the smaller details are well researched and compiled to help form a historically inaccurate, but internally consistent world.
On the upside, the research is quicker and tends to be much more focused than historically based settings. But on the downside, this does mean there’s less guidance for the writer about what topics to choose to research. This can mean stopping to do research on something seemingly small that will effect the story as a whole and delay finishing the novel, novella, or short story.
Historically Based Settings, on the other hand, mimic Historical Fiction/Settings in the complexity of the research. If the world is based on Ancient Egypt, it will require the writer to pick a period of Ancient Egyptian history and research the technology, values and customs, and various bits and pieces of the Era.
This research requirement can take months, even before the story is written. And if you ask any Historical Fiction writer, the research on little things will only be completely finished when the story is written and fully edited. It’s both rewarding and exhausting.
Basic Questions To Ask Yourself
Those writing something with a setting based on a historical period in our world’s history should start with the questions from the Historical Settings post. For those researching a Standard Constructed World, the following questions are a good starting point:
- What do people wear?
- What do they value as a society and why?
- What is their technology like in various areas?
- How are they governed?
- How do their values affect societal opinions on gender, orientation, and various other topics?
As you can see, the list isn’t a long one. And yes, I am aware that I broke the cardinal rule of bullet points with that last bullet. It was needed. People don’t often consider views on those topics I used as an example in that question, nor others. But a world with a different history, especially in a multi-society world like our own, will have different values and views on things we take for granted. I’m going to can-o-worms the topic for a later post, which will be linked back to this one.
Before we finish up, I would like to say that you don’t have to take anything in this post as gospel. Not even the questions. The methodology in this post and the entire series are just ones that have worked for me.
Have fun. Discover what works for you. Consider this series and this post to be a springboard for your own methods.
Other Posts In The Series
Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Watching: Being 17
Listening To: H.I.M Razorblade Romance
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