5 Tips - The Supernatural - The Art of World Building
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5 World Building Tips (Vol 3, #5): The Supernatural

Here are today’s world building tips! The theme is the supernatural. You can read more in Chapter 5, “Creating The Supernatural,” from Cultures and Beyond, (The Art of World Building, #3).

Tip #1: “Origins Aren’t Needed”

Even scientists sometimes don’t understand where various energies they’ve detected originate, so we don’t need to state this either. That said, an interesting idea that creates even more mystery is never a bad thing. In fantasy, there’s a tendency to decide the gods did it, so SF seems to offer more opportunity for mystery.

Tip #2: “Determine Prevalence”

How often is a phenomenon encountered? It may always exist but only flare up at certain times, maybe even regularly, like the “Old Faithful” geyser. Or supernatural elements might be common, which tends to reduce reactions to them. Decide how often the event occurs and whether rarity is something the story needs.

Tip #3: “Determine Impact”

If the supernatural is very common, such as everyone being able to cast minor spells, then this could greatly impact society. Unless we intend to think our way through every detail, it’s sensible to decide that magic, for example, is quite limited, as is often shown in fantasy. Thinking our way through every detail can lead to many unique revelations which set our world apart.

Tip #4: “Do Supernatural Creatures Exist?”

If so, they often take the form of extensions to their abilities, such as a horse that runs faster or can cross into other realities. Decide what problems the story has and how something like this can help, but be careful not to make the solution perfect. For example, make the faster horse unable to go all the way to their destination.

Tip #5: “Are There Demi-Gods?”

A figure like Cupid is a lesser god with a specific function. We can create such individuals if we need them, or if they can affect our characters’ lives. We can also create half-gods like Hercules. Decide on their abilities, origins, function, and reputation. A few infamous past deeds round them out.

Summary of Chapter 5—Creating the Supernatural

Supernatural elements exist in both fantasy and SF and can be used to add to the unexpected. The audience may expect magic, for example, but not our version of it, so there’s room for originality here. We can also create energies that give rise to phenomena, beings, or places like magic pathways or alternate worlds and realities that impact our setting and stories. How much impact and prevalence these supernatural elements have, and how to determine this, are an important focus of this chapter.

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