World Building

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World Building
by MirielOfGisborne

In this chapter I'd like to talk about worldbuilding, which is something you need to consider if you're writing fanfiction for a Science Fiction or Fantasy universe. For those unfamiliar with the term, worldbuilding is, according to Wikipedia, "the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe." In other words, it's a process through which you create the world where your story takes place.

Much like in the case of canon characters, fanfiction authors are lucky in the sense that they have an already-made universe at their disposal, namely the one created by the original author. However, this does not mean that there is no work involved on their part when writing new stories in a canon universe.

Before anything else, fanfiction writers need to know their way around the canon world that they are writing in. This means being familiar with things like geography, history, culture, races, customs, languages, economy, basically everything that makes up a working universe. You don't have to know everything about everything at all times. But it is a good idea to research the specific aspects that your story focuses on. For example, I write about a Hobbit and a Dwarf. I'm not researching the entire mythos of Middle-Earth. Rather, I'm reading up on the specifics of Hobbit and Dwarf cultures that I am seeking to explore in my stories. There are plenty of resources to get all this information from: the canon stories themselves, additional material from the author, fan wikis, even fan forums and blogs. If your franchise has associated video games, you can look at those as well, as they tend to work as an expanded universe.

The really interesting part comes in when you need to build upon the existing world, adding new elements to it that make sense within the greater context.

Apart from researching the canon world itself, a great way to come up with believable additions to the canon is drawing upon the real-world cultures that the original author used for inspiration, and even on aspects of your own culture that happen to be similar. For example, Tolkien's Dwarves are based partially on the Vikings, so I am looking into Viking culture in order to approximate elements of Dwarf culture that I want to write about. In the first chapter of my current story, Days of Agony, I have a scene where battle wounds are treated using a fire-heated blade (hence the name of the chapter, "Sealed with Fire"). Cauterization is a medical practice that was used by the Vikings, as well as a general practice in medieval field medicine.

I've also mentioned one's own culture as a good place to look for similarities with the fictional universe you're writing in. Even if this is fanfiction, you can and you should use your experience of the real world in order to enrich the fictional one.

When introducing a new element into a canon world, it's important to make sure that it fits and to describe it adequately enough for the reader to get a clear picture of it.

As a conclusion to this chapter, I'd like to give an example from my own work which encompasses most of what I've talked about so far. In one of my Hobbit-based stories, called The Dagger of Durin, I wanted to create a new piece of Dwarf mythos - a legendary dagger that has been an heirloom of Thorin Oakenshield's house. For the appearance and legend of the dagger, I went to the canon universe as well as to the real world. I had a look at Viking daggers to get an idea of the shape and size of the blade, but I added elements of Dwarf-specific weaponry as seen in the Hobbit movies - I added Thorin's own seal to the handle and Dwarf runes along the blade. As for the legend around it, I researched the canon figure of Durin, Thorin's ancestor, and the first owner of the dagger as I imagined it. I tried to work it into his canon history and came up with the idea that the dagger had been a faithful companion to him on his journey to the place where he founded his kingdom and then throughout his reign as king.

I hope that this chapter has been helpful and I'd like to wrap up by saying that worldbuilding in fanfiction can be a great way for new writers to learn how to build fictional worlds of their own in case they mean to move on to writing original fiction at some point. So this can be both fun and useful, and I encourage anyone wanting to write fanfiction to invest some time and some thought into creating a believable world for their stories.

 So this can be both fun and useful, and I encourage anyone wanting to write fanfiction to invest some time and some thought into creating a believable world for their stories

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