How to build a fictional world

In the set-up of your story, you have to determine the ‘rules of the universe’. Whether is it a fantasy movie or a thriller novel.

Kate Messner How to build a fictional world TED
Kate Messner – How to build a fictional world

At the moment I’m writing a screenplay for a children’s fantasy/adventure movie, as an assignment for the Script Academy for screenwriting. One of the comments I received during class concerned the fact that is was yet unclear in what kind of world my character was living.

A while ago I stumbled upon this really cool video by Kate Messner on TED about building a fictional world.  She explains: “Authors of science fiction and fantasy literally build worlds. They make rules, maps, lineages, languages, cultures, universes, alternate universes within universes and from those worlds sprout story, after story, after story. When it’s done well, readers can understand fictional worlds and their rules just as well as the characters that live in them do and sometimes, just as well or even better.”

So how do you build a fictional world? Messner gives you some questions and methods she used to help build worlds in her novels. I think this is useful for writing screenplays as well. Check the video out below!

And maybe the biggest question yet… how to translate this into the language of cinema?

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