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How to Build a Fictional World Within Our Own: Writing Tips

I see tons of articles about creating a fictional fantasy world, but not too many about creating a fictional world within our own. Luckily, this is something I have experience with! I wrote some spy books with a fictional spy agency (and spy world) built into the functioning world and society we live in today. So, I thought I’d share some tips that helped me create a full, real, fictional world that operates within our own.

Here are six things to consider when you create a fictional world inside the one we already live in:

1) Base towns/companies/countries off ones that exist

Use real-world inspiration to help you create a complete, well-developed entity. Take inventory of how the entity is made up, then do your best to mimic it as you create your own. Make lists of the things your real-world example has that you want to include. One example of this is Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow, Connecticut, which is based off Washington Depot, Connecticut. And like I mentioned, in my books, I created a spy agency and network for my characters to operate in. And while I don’t have personal experience in a spy agency of any kind, I was about to use information available on real spy agencies to create my own believable fictional version that meets my story’s needs.

2) Make sure the world you’re creating makes sense within this world

If you’re adding a city somewhere in the world, it would be best if that city doesn’t occupy the space of another well-known city. (Unless you’re replacing this city entirely, in which case, go right ahead!) You also want to make sure your city fits into the surrounding area. So if you’re adding a city to modern day Maryland, you want to make sure your description of the city makes sense for this area. You wouldn’t want to say the surrounding area as a desert, because that’s not what Maryland looks like.

3) Base conflicts and tensions on real conflicts and tensions

When I was working on my books, I couldn’t keep up with the real world conflicts while I was writing, so I created my own conflicts and problems based on real-world tensions. The events in my book may not completely line up with the real world, but they’re based on tensions that really exist. This helps keep my books believable, without tying me to ever-changing events.

4) Research, Research, Research

If you feel like your world is a little flat, or if you’re wondering just how believable/likely something is, do some research. You may still have to adhere to the laws of science (gravity and that type of stuff) but there are things that may be possible even if they’re unlikely in the world we live in. For example, in my second book, I introduce a serum. The science behind the serum checks out (according to my scientist sister), but to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever created a serum like mine and it’s highly unlikely that anyone would. However, the serum is theoretically possible, which adds to the world I created.

5) Don’t forget, this is still fiction!

This is a trap I still fall into semi-regularly, so perhaps this is a bit of a personal note. I often feel compelled to honor reality and sometimes lose sight of the fact that I write fiction. And in fiction, when something isn’t completely working for you, you can take some creative license and add or subtract elements as long as it makes sense. Just be careful not to go too far with this or you run the risk of your audience tuning you out.

I hope this helps you build a fictional world for your story within our own!

Now it’s your turn: Have you built a new world within our own? What tips and tricks do you have? Tell me about it in the comments!

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