Worldbuilding 101—alternative universe one more time

Now…let’s think alternative universe one more time!

We want something contemporary, has minimal implications and changes into our current universe that we live in. Usually the unusual elements are “scientized” in some way by providing logical reasons for how and why the changes exist. Let’s create something to see how you develop an alternate universe while maintaining the basics of our here and now. Let’s use the idea of meta-humans—humans with enhanced senses and psychic abilities. Many compare superheroes with special powers to the concept of meta-human.

When in the timeline of our world could meta-humans have been created either by nature or man with small genetic changes that didn’t render them sterile? Considering what you know can cause mutations in humans, you’d have to find a time and event where that kind of exposure might’ve happened. Develop a history based from that change. Don’t spend tons of time– remember…give it a name, even if it’s for the secret time the governments might use, etc— Einstein’s Reality, Radiation Day, etc. Find the timeframe and add in small increments what other noteworthy parts of history helped build the meta-humans into being part of society at large. Make sure you note events that you might refer to in the book as well as any special phrases or names used in conjugation with this “race” and their deeds.

  • 1945– Bomb dropped in Japan.
  • 1949– Testing continues— first survivors give birth to meta-humans.
  • 1959–Testing on meta-humans continues with world governments sharing info.
  • 1969– Free Love and the freedom to meta-humans as they try to learn to blend into society. In fact, some of the people we consider pro-free love were meta-humans trying to blend in.
  • 1979–The first Metas begin having babies who also have talents.
  • 1985– Metas come out, forcing governments and mortals (as Metas call all who have no abilities) to accept them as useful members of society.

That’s a sample and how easy it can be. I picked easy years and basic points for reference. Nothing deep or too hard to remember. Then I pinpointed where in this AU the change becomes public. So now the sentiment is either pro or con for Metas for this story, since I want to use this emotional period in history as a backdrop to why things happen.

Now– what are the limitations of Metas? What are the talents they’ve blest with? Do they want to be Metas? Using the basic character sheet for crafting other races—fill in the blanks. The more you know about the unique group of people, including their past, the unsteady future, limitations, how they reproduce, the problems, the joys, etc—you will find it easy to refer to those sheets while writing.

What are the possible problems with this AU scenario? Where might you, as an author, get carried away? See, that’s something you have to worry on. Sometimes an author can put themselves into a corner then have to break all the rules created in order save them from starting over. Readers hate that and are likely to be unforgiving to the point of not buying another book in the series because you’ve broken the rules you created for this AU. Too many times authors up the ante physically in their created world because it’s easier than creating emotional obstacles for the main characters to face. Being aware of where you might be tempted to take the easy way out will help you to respect the rules you’ve created. The use of layers of issues—both for the character internally, externally, and placed upon her because of what she is will create enough to deal with. On average, I try to make sure that for every two personal conflicts my character faces, I make one deal with something that’s generalized—like being different in a world that fear Meta-humans, not having equal rights of voting, having to wear an item that tells everyone you’re a Meta—something that brings another layer to the main plot of the story. If it’s something that can’t be simply dealt with and conquered, the happier I am as that point can be arced through many stories dealing with this character and AU.

Now you know how to manipulate and create your own worlds. Below is the worksheet I use for my basic information and more. Feel free to share it, just make sure that you give credit where credit is due! The sheet is kept to the most basic format as I always type it up then print it out, making more notes on back as needed.

Best of luck in your world building!

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