Literature is filled with fictional realms and alternate universes. As a writer, the key to creating them rests in your ability to unlock your imagination and explore the endless possibilities you find there. In my supernatural horror stories, my main characters are demons and angels, so I have to invent their characteristics, personalities, and abilities. They reside in Middle Earth and behave like ordinary human beings, but they also frequently visit Hell and travel to remote places on the surface of Earth. This leads to all kinds of mischief and brutal confrontations, since I’m dealing with opposite ends of the spectrum in my evil verses good storylines. However, there are lots of different directions to go as a writer, if you want to build a fictional world of your own.
In all truth, fiction is fiction and how ever you define your fantasy world depends in a large part on the creatures or inhabitants living there. It may sound obvious, but you need to develop a tone to start with. Is this going to be a crazy adventure full of talking dragons and subverted fantasy tropes, or a gritty alternate reality where every baby born at midnight becomes a cyborg? Will your characters have the gift of magic or prophecy? Is your story based on real places with a few tweaks here and there, or is it set in an eighth-dimensional plane of existence? Are you planning to use a specific genre or are you going to use a combination, throwing your readers off with unexpected twists and turns.
Fantasy worlds are fun to develop because they’re not bound by the laws of reality. But you still need some restrictions, even if you invent them. Perhaps magic does exists, but it comes at a terrible price. Maybe your characters can’t breathe in the post-war atmosphere, but their pets can. There could be time travel in the universe you’ve created, though perhaps there’s no way to change the future. Pick your own brand of logic, insert interesting, believable characters, and stick to your self-imposed rules as much as possible.
If you’re crafting a whole fantasy world, you’re probably going to have a few different races and cultures. But they need more than one trait to make them unique and to keep them well defined in your story. As you craft nuanced, multi-dimensional cultures for your fantasy realms, consider drawing inspiration from real world cultures and shared experiences. Look to world history if you ever feel stuck, and remember that the past is long and full of weird, wonderful events that might even surprise you.
So be creative, whether it be developing an enchanted forest or a planet made entirely out of gold. Just try not to feel constrained by copying the fantasy realms of other writers. Originality will set you apart and establish your name as a unique, creative storyteller.