There are many stories out there that take place in real cities, towns, and suburbs that a reader might be able to identify with. For instance, if your character were to walk into a specific bar located on a particular street, a reader could very well be familiar with that location, or even the bar. In this case, the setting has been created for the writer already. This can be limiting, as the reader would have certain expectations for the writer to portray the setting accurately.
A common trend for fiction writers is to create their own setting. It can sometimes be easier than creating a good character, but there are some rules that must be followed when making your very own setting. As a writer, you still must adhere to real world rules to some degree. For instance, if you decide to unleash monstrous dragons upon your little town who end up setting it ablaze, I guarantee that someone outside the town will know. The national guard would be called, and CNN would have it plastered on every television screen. The world as we know it will react accordingly, and that is something that every writer should keep in mind.
Here are three rules that can be applied to help maintain a level of believability with your readers:
RULE NUMBER ONE
Try to stick to a specific time period. You can find all sorts of information online about the medieval ages, pre-industrailization, or any other time that sparks your interest. Think of the kinds of things that people used commonly for the area of your choice. How did they dress? What did they eat? What were some common activities that people enjoyed? You can even blend eras, if you’d like. Steampunk often does this remarkably well, but you don’t have to limit yourself to the Victorian age. Fantasy, often enough, utilizes medieval aspects, so be sure you know what is required, for example, to ride a horse. Read up on the different kinds of swords that there are, because you don’t want your scrawny elf wielding a broad sword twice his size.
RULE NUMBER TWO
If you use a character sheet to describe the main characters in your world, do the same for the setting. You can plant your fictional town or city in a real place, Twin Peaks, for example, did a fantastic job of this. Be sure to include details, because your setting doesn’t have the luxury of coming pre-packaged with a specific history like a real setting would. Keeping this in mind, try to think of things like street names, restaurants, banks, ranches, neighborhoods, downtown areas, public transit, and anything else that you can involve your characters with. What does your setting look like? What does it feel like? The more details that you come up with, the more believable the setting will become, not just for you but for the reader as well.
RULE NUMBER THREE
Remember that you are still accountable for the real world and it’s environments. However, don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your creation. A successful strategy that proves to be a popular trend in fiction writing would be disguising your fantasy world within the real one. Think Pan’s Labyrinth, Harry Potter, or even the vampire genre. All of these stories hide a realm of fantasy just underneath our bland, ordinary lives. Sometimes, a setting can be the ultimate escape.