Imaginary Settings Realizing A Place Thats Fictional

When you choose an imaginary setting, you have the fun of creating a wholly imagined place, whether it's a town, a nation, a planet, or a magic realm. Part of the appeal of writing science fiction and fantasy is in challenging your creative powers to invent new technologies, new cultures, new species, and entire new worlds. For some stories, there is no actual, existing place where they could happen.

With an imaginary setting, you don't have to worry so much about accuracy. After all, if you've made the whole place up, no one can accuse you of getting it wrong. All we know about it is what you tell us. What's more, you and your characters are not hemmed in by a real place's unfortunate or inconvenient features. You can bend geography to your will, manipulating it to satisfy the demands of your plot.

Of course these benefits have a downside: You must explain everything. You get no help from the readers' previous knowledge or understanding, the way you would if you used a real location. It is a large task to successfully transplant something that exists solely in your own mind into the minds of your readers, so that we can see it, hear it, smell it, and wander around in it as easily as you do. Even though your marvelous place doesn't exist, you must convince us it does; you must realize it fully enough that we believe in it.

This means you must know it well enough to describe it not only comprehensively but consistently. Internal consistency is essential to making an invented place credible. Once you have established a "fact" about your imaginary place, that fact should hold true throughout the story. The place also must operate according to some sort of logic. This does not necessarily have to be real-world logic; a fantasy realm could adhere to a logic system all its own. But once you have established the system's rules, you must follow them.

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