Every writer, regardless of genre, must at some point consider the universe in which their characters live, move and have their being. On various writing forums, I see questions all the time about making up cities, putting a coffee house where one does not actually exist, making roads, city parks, forests where they are not located, etc. It is even worse with characters, where they are all invented “ex-nihilo” (out of nothing).
The need to understand your universe in its design and how it works is even more important for any story outside of one that takes place in (supposed) present day reality: Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and so on. Such worlds need to be designed in a way that is consistent and believable, lest you lose your reader before the story begins.
For me, this need is pressing. I have a Time Travel Fantasy that projects 72 stories stretching from 4500 BC to the other side of 3500 AD. The very last stories take place on the other side of 7500 AD, but those stories live way out there on their own little limb.
At some point soon, I want to talk about aliens in my universe. I hope to give a brief history of the future ( to 3500 AD) without giving away any of the stories. Then, I also want to talk about the spiritual creatures that populate so many fantasy stories: elves, fairies, dwarfs, ogres, goblins and the like. There is much to be understood about their place in the heavens, where briefly, the first heavens are over our heads, the third Heaven is the place where the “Throne of God” resides, and the second heavens are squeezed between Heaven and Earth, a place where the laws of creation, space and time included, don’t always work as we understand them to work… Then there are dragons and other mythical and legendary creatures to discuss…(somebody has to say something), But for now:
One thing I have to consider in these stories is the disposition of monsters, especially those classic, gothic Victorian monsters that have been recently revived in popular literature. It is too easy to design a vampire like the ones currently popular and “just assume that everyone sees them that way.” Wrong! People don’t all see vampires or any other monster in the same way, and while it may not matter how you choose to portray them, it will matter that you portray a consistent vision…
In my next two posts, I want to talk specifically about two classic monsters: First, I want to put the Were in the wolf. Second, I want to discuss the undead and explain why vampires don’t necessarily make good lovers.