Whether planning a story on another planet or just an alternative version of Earth, a writer must consider several things. Is it for pure science fiction? Is it science-fantasy? Fantasy? Know the genre you want and stick to it. If your story is on Earth, what makes that Earth different? If your Earth's history is the same, has something physically changed? Is it the result of an alien invasion or some kind of natural or unnatural catastrophe, setting up a post-apocalyptic scenario? Or while physically more or less the same, does your Earth have a different history?
The next thing a writer has to ask themselves is “Why?” Why do you want to have your story take place on another world or in a post-apocalyptic setting? If an alternate Earth, why change history? If the your only answer you can give yourself is “because it’s cool,” that’s probably not a good enough reason.
The setting of a story has to play an active role in the story itself. It can set the mood and the characters will interact with it, so it is an essential element.
If the story is about characters surviving (or even thriving) in a harsh or unforgiving environment, then the setting is almost a character. It can be a foe fighting the characters or it can be a friend, offering something unique that no other setting could. As a writer, you have to choose. Ask yourself: what works best for the story?
Once you establish the setting, then you can plan what you want your story to do, how you want it to progress. Like most stories, it’s best to develop a beginning, middle and end. Is it a hero’s journey? What are you trying to say with your story? This is where themes can be created and expressed.
And the next step is coming up with characters. Who lives on this world? And out of all the population there, who are your main characters and why? What makes them special? What kind of character development would you like to see in them? How will the events of this story change their lives? And will those changes be for the better or worse? All of that should be considered before writing the prologue or the first chapter.
Developing worlds can be fun and exciting but it’s not easy. It takes a certain commitment to making good story, including setting and characters. It can be frustrating but, with diligence, it can be exciting and fun, too! So...what’s in your world?
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian, happily interracially married since 1995. Father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.