Welcome to the second installment of The Three Types of Fictional Worlds (click the link here if you missed my post on actual places and how to make them awesome in your story). We’re going to be looking at alternative realities or alternative universes (forever shortened to AR for the remainder of this post). AR’s are found endlessly on Tumblr (my favorite thread for this is the space orc series or the humans in space). They also give us space to question problems in our society and present solutions that can be feasible in our own world.
This is where I tie in those two posts on science fiction and fantasy. Both of those genres use this in their stories. One could even argue that you use this type of world building in science fiction more than you use it in fantasy. However, you can see it used in both.
So, here’s how today is going to work. We’re going to define what an AR is, what an AU (alternate universe) is and what a parallel universe is. . We’re also going to look at the definition of a parallel universe and break it down. Then we’ll go through how to make this AU awesome for your readers.
Alright, we’ll dive right into the definitions of today’s program. Let’s start off with:
Alternative Reality: The phrase often serves as a synonym for a parallel universe.
Alternate Universe: fiction by fan authors that deliberately alters facts of the canonical universe they are writing about.
1. (in quantum mechanics) a universe theorized as existing alongside our own, although undetectable.
1.1. (in fantasy or science fiction) a world conceived of as coexisting with and having certain similarities to the known world but different from it in some fundamental way.
Congratulations, for making it through that. I know it’s a lot of information to take in. Basically, when it comes down to it, all three of those terms mean the same thing. Parallel and alternate realities are synonyms for each other.
AU, though, is slightly different because it is referring to works that have already been written and about people who are changing the way those worlds were made because they wanted something different. Basically, go onto Tumblr and browse the fan fiction writers and you’ll know what I am talking about.
If you don’t want to do that, then here’s a real big selling series for me to show you. Please don’t laugh. The biggest franchise for an AU has been the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James. It started out as a FAN FICTION of Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight saga. I have not read, and really don’t know if I ever want to read, the original story E.L. James concocted based off of Twilight, but it would have had a lot of elements from the saga. Obviously, E.L. James went in a very sexual direction for her retelling of the story, but if you look closely at her stories, there may be some parallels drawn between them.
(*cough cough* Christian never seems to sleep, both Christian and Edward play piano, the controlling tendencies, how she blindly goes with feelings for him – damn the consequences, how the women both have low self-esteem, etc. *cough cough*) (**Don’t question my reading choices please – I was young and impressionable at the time.)
Anyways, let’s get out of that rabbit hole and back on track. If you look at the first definition of a parallel universe, take note of the fact that it says “in quantum mechanics”. This is something that scientists are actively looking into at the moment and are entertaining the idea that this could be a real thing.
Knowing what we know about science fiction as a genre, this fits in perfectly to genre and how it is set up. Remember, science fiction is based in some sort of science. The worlds we have in this genre are advanced and science has been pushed to the breaking point – meaning that there is not much left to explore or it’s achieving what we thought was impossible by today’s standards.
Alternative Reality – How it operates
I wanted to start this section off with a bit of credited plagiarism:
By creating an alternate reality, you are developing an alternative version of our own Earth, imagining how things could be different and posing questions about what these differences would mean for humanity. Authors often use this style of writing to express their thoughts about the flaws of humanity and today’s world, exploring the consequences these flaws may have t[he] potential to produce.
~ Writer’s Edit
You have to think about the “What If” when creating an alternative reality. Remember in my post about science fiction and how I said you need to have a thesis or a major theme you need to explore? Well, your AR becomes a part of the story and helps you look at that thesis. AR’s are all about exploring your topic. It looks and feels the same, but there’s little things here and there that make the world different from the one that we’re currently in.
Here are somethings to keep in mind as you’re writing your AR:
- Research! You know that list I gave you on actual places? Yeah? Great! Go and look at it again as you’re going to want to go over all those things as well as everything else you need to keep in mind on the world building side of things. Why? Well, you need to know your world well in order to break the confines of it and change it for your purposes. What you also know about your real life place or historic even the more you can draw into your story and make it more engaging for your readers.
- Have a “What If” question(s) you’re trying to answer. Without this you’re going to lose your readers attention. It won’t help them shrug off all the weird inconsistencies you’ll have in your world.
- Determine what time period your setting your story in. Is it past, present or future? They each are going to have their drawbacks and benefits, but if you do them well you’ll engage your readers and give them something interesting to think upon.
- The World is Ending! You can write in this sort of style. It’s been quite popular as of late. Just remember that you can write your story during the end or after the end.
- Don’t forget your rules! You are going to be building, to a degree, a new world within the confines of our own. So map things out and ask all the tough questions. I have harped on this enough. Whatever you decree as happening magic wise, etc. needs to remain consistent throughout your story, unless you have a good reason for the change. Not because it was convenient for you to change them.
Make good use of this website. It has a bunch of resources for building your slightly, but mostly, fictional world. It has things like, I don’t know, everything you need to know about world building. It has links to other useful blogs, apps, questions, tips, you name it. I, sincerely, suggest that you check it out.
That’s it for me today! I hope everyone had a good Easter long weekend! Thursday we’ll be talking about our last world building way, which is a completely imaginary world.