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Phillip Harrison.com - Writer

Phillip Harrison.ca               Phillip L. Harrison.com               Phillip Harrison.com

Canadian Poet and Author - Writer, Phillip Harrison has always considered himself to be a writer first, and a poet by nature.

 

When we write we are creating new thoughts that did not exist before.  Arguably some would say that we are having new thoughts and  merely writing them down, but sometimes the thoughts flow so quickly onto the page that it becomes difficult  to tell what came first; the thought or the ink that described it?  In either case the feeling which over takes a writer when they are experiencing this flow of images into text, is indescribable and incredible.  Only    by writing can we truly understand what it feels like to release the images from within our minds and be able to paint them into the minds of others through the written word.  It is in the most real sense an indelible experience.  Impossible to erase or forget and cannot be washed away by the real world around us. 

ELEMENTS OF FICTION

Writing is the composition of not factual texts. Fictional writing often is produced as a story meant to entertain or convey an author's point of view. The result of this may be a short story, novel, novella, screenplay, or drama, which are all types (though not the only types) of fictional writing styles. Different types of authors practice fictional writing, including novelists, playwrights, short story writers, dramatists and screenwriters.
Genre Fiction

A Genre is the subject matter, or category in which a writer would base their work on. For instance Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery are considered genre fiction. In fiction, genre writing is the act of a storytelling driven by plot. As opposed to literary fiction that focuses on themes rather than plot, genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is made to appeal to a large group of people and primarily sells more for it is more commercialized to the general public. An example to further elaborate, The Twilight(series) may sell more than a novel by Herman Melville, such as Moby Dick, because the Twilight novel deals with pop culture such as romance and vampires, which are in high regards of young readers, who outnumber older readers who would find Moby Dick more to their liking.
Literary Fiction

Literary fiction, or literature, can somewhat be classified as a genre. Unlike genre fiction, literary does not focus on a story that is driven by the plot or the typical good vs. bad guy aspect of a story, like a genre would acquire. Literary fiction often deals with metaphors and the way the world works, which is one of many reasons why literature is read in schools as opposed to majority of genre fiction focused frequently for entertainment.

"Now lend me your ears. Here is Creative Writing 101:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8.Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense; Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages."

ELEMENTS OF FICTION

Just as a painter uses color and line to create a painting, an author uses the elements of fiction to create a story:
The elements of fiction are: character, plot, setting, theme, and style. Of these five elements, character is the who, plot is the what, setting is the where and when, theme is the why, and style is the how of a story.
A character is any person, personal, identity, or entity whose existence originates from a fictional work or performance.
A plot, or storyline, is the rendering and ordering of the events and actions of a story, particularly towards the achievement of some particular artistic or emotional effect.

SETTING

Is the time and location in which a story takes place.

THEME

Is the broad idea, message, or lesson of a story.

STYLE

Includes the multitude of choices fiction writers make, consciously or subconsciously, as they create a story. They encompass the big-picture, strategic choices such as point of view and narrator, but they also include the nitty-gritty, tactical choices of grammar, punctuation, word usage, sentence and paragraph length and structure, tone, the use of imagery, chapter selection, titles, and on and on. In the process of writing a story, these choices meld to become the writer's voice, his or her own unique style.

PLOT

The plot, or storyline, is the rendering and ordering of the events and actions of a story. Starting with the initiating event, then the rising action, conflict, climax, falling action, and ending with the resolution.
On a micro level, plot consists of action and reaction, also referred to as stimulus and response. On a macro level, plot has a beginning, middle, and an ending.

The climax of the novel consists of a single action-packed sentence in which the conflict (problem) of the novel is resolved. This sentence comes towards the end of the novel. The main part of the action should come before the climax.

Plot also has a mid-level structure: scene and sequel. A scene is a unit of drama—where the action occurs. Then, after a transition of some sort, comes the sequel—an emotional reaction and regrouping, an aftermath.

SETTING

Setting is the locale and time of a story. The setting is often a real place, but may be a fictitious city or country within our own world; a different planet; or an alternate universe, which may or may not have similarities with our own universe. Sometimes setting is referred to as milieu, to include a context (such as society) beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. It is basically where and when the story takes place.

THEME

Theme is what the author is trying to tell the reader. For example, the belief in the ultimate good in people, or that things are not always what they seem. This is often referred to as the "moral of the story." Some fiction contains advanced themes like morality, or the value of life, whereas other stories have no theme, or a very shallow one.

STYLE (WRITING STYLE)

Style includes the multitude of choices fiction writers make, consciously or not, in the process of writing a story. It encompasses not only the big-picture, strategic choices such as point of view and choice of narrator, but also tactical choices of grammar, punctuation, word usage, sentence and paragraph length and structure, tone, the use of imagery, chapter selection, titles, etc. In the process of creating a story, these choices meld to become the writer's voice, his or her own unique style.

Writing style refers to the manner in which an author chooses to write to his or her audience. A style reveals both the writer's personality and voice, but it also shows how he or she perceives the audience. The choice of a conceptual writing style molds the overall character of the work. This occurs through changes in syntactical structure, parsing prose, adding diction, and organizing figures of thought into usable frameworks.
Components of style

For each piece of fiction, the author makes many choices, consciously or subconsciously, which combine to form the writer's unique style. The components of style are numerous, but include point of view, choice of narrator, fiction-writing mode, person and tense, grammar, punctuation, word usage, sentence length and structure, paragraph length and structure, tone, imagery, chapter usage, and title selection.
Narrator

The narrator is the teller of the story, the orator, doing the mouth work, or its in-print equivalent.

POINT OF VIEW (POV)

Point of view is from whose consciousness the reader hears, sees, and feels the story.

TONE

Tone is the mood that the author establishes within the story.

SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF

Suspension of disbelief is the reader's temporary acceptance of story elements as believable, regardless of how implausible they may seem in real life.

PLOT WRITING

A good plot is all about organizing ideas in a way that is appealing to the reader. It is also, and more importantly, the guideline that helps the author make sure he doesn't get lost on all of the ideas and characters that start to come up whilst the book is written. The following is a simple guide on how to create a somewhat original plot.

A Plot is a narrative and typically needs only causal events. (It’s also, traditionally, literary) term defined as the events that make up a story, particularly: as they relate to one another in a pattern or in a sequence; as they relate to each other through cause and effect; how the reader views the story; or simply by coincidence. Authors are generally interested in how well this pattern of events accomplishes some artistic or emotional effect. An intricate, complicated plot is called an imbroglio, but even the simplest statements of plot may include multiple inferences, as in traditional ballads.

A plot is composed of causal events, which are a series of sentences linked by "and so." A plot highlights the important points and the line of a story. Ansen Dibell writes: "Plot is built of significant events in a given story – significant because they have important consequences."[1] Consequently, it also has the same meaning as storyline.
A plot was defined in 1927 by the English novelist E. M. Forster. Forster defined a plot as the cause‐and‐effect relationship between events in a story. Forster says, "‘the king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot."

A plot is causality. Causal events make up the plot of the story. For example, event A: "The Prince searches for Cinderella with the glass shoe," then event B: "Cinderella's sisters tried the shoe on, but it does not fit," after that event C: "The shoe fits Cinderella, the Prince finds her." Among these events, event B may be omitted. This is because, A is the cause of C, but B is not the cause of C. A⇢B⇢C is a story, and A→C is a plot. A story orders events from A to Z in time, and is different from a plot.

Thus, a plot consists of the events which cause a change in the development of the story, and does not necessarily include the events concerned with empathy.

In his Poetics, Aristotle considered plot (mythos) the most important element of drama—more important than character, for example. A plot must have, Aristotle says, a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the events of the plot must causally relate to one another as being either necessary or probable.

Of the utmost importance to Aristotle is the plot's ability to arouse emotion in the psyche of the audience. In tragedy, the appropriate emotions are fear and pity, emotions which he considers in his Rhetoric. (Aristotle's work on comedy has not survived.)

Aristotle goes on to consider whether the tragic character suffers (pathos), and whether or not the tragic character commits the error with knowledge of what he is doing. He illustrates this with the question of a tragic character who is about to kill someone in his family.

The worst situation [artistically] is when the personage is with full knowledge on the point of doing the deed, and leaves it undone. It is odious and also (through the absence of suffering) untragic; hence it is that no one is made to act thus except in some few instances, e.g., Haemon and Creon in Antigone. Next after this comes the actual perpetration of the deed meditated. A better situation than that, however, is for the deed to be done in ignorance, and the relationship discovered afterwards, since there is nothing odious in it, and the discovery will serve to astound us. But the best of all is the last; what we have in Cresphontes, for example, where Merope, on the point of slaying her son, recognizes him in time; in Iphigenia, where sister and brother are in a like position; and in Helle, where the son recognizes his mother, when on the point of giving her up to her enemy.


CHARACTERS

A character (or fictional character) is a person in a narrative work of arts (such as a novel, play, television series or film).[ Derived from the ancient Greek word χαρακτήρ, the English word dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of "a part played by an actor" developed. Character, particularly when enacted by an actor in the theatre or cinema, involves "the illusion of being a human person." In literature, characters guide readers through their stories, helping them to understand plots and ponder themes. Since the end of the 18th century, the phrase "in character" has been used to describe an effective impersonation by an actor. Since the 19th century, the art of creating characters, as practiced by actors or writers, has been called characterisation.

A character that stands as a representative of a particular class or group of people is known as a type. Types include both stock characters and those that are more fully individualised. The characters in Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1891) and August Strindberg's Miss Julie (1888), for example, are representative of specific positions in the social relations of class and gender, such that the conflicts between the characters reveal ideological conflicts.
The study of a character requires an analysis of its relations with all of the other characters in the work. The individual status of a character is defined through the network of oppositions (proairetic, pragmatic, linguistic, proxemic) that it forms with the other characters. The relation between characters and the action of the story shifts historically, often miming shifts in society and its ideas about human individuality, self-determination, and the social order.
ROUND VERSUS FLAT CHARACTERS

In his book Aspects of the novel, E. M. Forster defined two basic types of characters, their qualities, functions, and importance for the development of the novel: flat characters and round characters. Flat characters are two-dimensional, in that they are relatively uncomplicated. By contrast, round characters are complex figures with many different characteristics and undergo development, sometimes sufficiently to surprise the reader.
DYNAMIC VERSUS STATIC CHARACTERS
Dynamic characters are the ones who change over the course of the story, while static characters remain the same throughout.

Creation of characters
In fiction writing, authors create dynamic characters by many methods, almost always by using their imagination. Jenna Blum in The Author at Work described three ways of creating vivid characters:
A magic character comes into the author's head and "lives there", sometimes "dictates their story" to the author.
A borrowed character is created by taking an emblematic quality or character trait from a real person, plugging that trait into a fictional situation, and then the author uses imagination to transform the character into a unique construct.
A made-up character is created from the "ground up", often starting from expediency as a two-dimensional creation which the author then tries to get to know better, sometimes by adding trouble and conflict.
An antagonist is a character, group of characters, institution, or concept that stands in or represents opposition against which the protagonist(s) must contend. In other words, an antagonist is a person or a group of people who opposes a protagonist.

The English word antagonist comes from the Greek ἀνταγωνιστής - antagonistēs , "opponent, competitor, enemy, rival," which is derived from anti-("against") and agonizesthai ("to contend for a prize").
In the classic style of stories where the action consists of a hero fighting a villain/enemy, the two may be regarded as protagonist and antagonist, respectively. However, the villain of the story is not always the same as the antagonist, as some narratives cast the villain in the protagonist role, with the opposing hero as the antagonist.
An antagonist also may represent a threat or obstacle to the main character by its existence and not necessarily targeting him or her in a deliberate manner.
Other characters

Characters may be antagonists without being villainous or evil – they may simply be injudicious and unlikeable for the audience. In some stories, such as The Catcher in the Rye, almost every character other than the protagonist may be an antagonist.

Aspects of the protagonist

An aspect or trait of the protagonist may be considered an antagonist, such as morality or indecisiveness.
Non-corporeal

An antagonist may not always be a person or persons. In some cases, an antagonist may be a force, such as a tidal wave that destroys a city; a storm that causes havoc; or even a certain area's conditions that are the root cause of a problem. An antagonist also may or may not create obstacles for the protagonist.
Societal norms or other rules also may be antagonists. An antagonist is used as a plot device, to set up conflicts, obstacles, or challenges for the protagonist. Though not every story requires an antagonist, it often is used in plays to increase the level of drama. In tragedies, antagonists are often the cause of the protagonist's main problem, or lead a group of characters against the protagonist; in comedies, they are usually responsible for involving the protagonist in comedic situations.

PROTAGONIST CHARACTERS

The protagonist (from Ancient Greek πρωταγωνιστής (protagonistes), meaning "player of the first part, chief actor") or main character is a narrative's central or primary personal figure, who comes into conflict with an opposing major character or force (called the antagonist). The audience is intended to mostly identify with the protagonist. In the theatre of Ancient Greece, three actors played every main dramatic role in a tragedy; the protagonist played the leading role while the other roles were played by the deuteragonist and the tritagonist.
The terms protagonist and main character are variously explained and depending on the source, may denote different concepts. In fiction, the story of the protagonist can be told from the perspective of a different character (who may also but not necessarily, be the narrator). An example would be a narrator who relates the fate of several protagonists - perhaps as prominent figures recalled in a biographical perspective.


Sometimes, antagonists and protagonists may overlap, depending on what their ultimate objectives are considered to be. Often, the protagonist in a narrative is also the same person as the focal character, though the two terms are distinct. Excitement and intrigue alone is what the audience feels toward a focal character, while a sense of empathy about the character's objectives and emotions is what the audience feels toward the protagonist. Although the protagonist is often referred to as the "good guy", it is entirely possible for a story's protagonist to be the clear villain, or antihero, of the piece.

The principal opponent of the protagonist is a character known as the antagonist, who represents or creates obstacles that the protagonist must overcome. As with protagonists, there may be more than one antagonist in a story. The antagonist may be the story's hero; for example, where the protagonist is a criminal, the antagonist could be a law enforcement agent that tries to capture him.
In psychodrama, the "protagonist" is the person (group member, patient or client) who decides to enact some significant aspect of his life, experiences or relationships on stage with the help of the psychodrama director and other group members; in this case, the protagonist takes supplementary roles as auxiliary egos.

FLAWED CHARACTERS (MAJOR / MINOR)

In the creation and criticism of fictional works, a character flaw is a limitation, imperfection, problem, phobia, or deficiency present in a character that may be otherwise very functional. The flaw can be a problem that directly affects the character's actions and abilities, such as a violent temper. Alternatively, it can be a simple foible or personality defect, which affects the character's motives and social interactions, but little else.
Flaws can add depth and humanity to the characters in a narrative. For example, the sheriff with a gambling addiction, the action hero who is afraid of heights, or a lead in a romantic comedy who must overcome his insecurity regarding male pattern baldness are all characters whose flaws help provide dimension. Perhaps the most widely cited and classic of character flaws is Achilles' famous heel.

A minor character flaw is an imperfection which serves to distinguish the character in the mind of the reader / viewer / player / listener, making them memorable and individual, but otherwise does not affect the story in any way. Examples of this could include a noticeable scar, a thick accent or a habit such as cracking their knuckles.
Protagonists and other major characters may (and usually do) have multiple minor flaws, making them more accessible, and enabling the reader / viewer / listener to relate to the character (in the case of a sympathetic character) or otherwise influence the audience's opinions of the character.
Many insignificant or archetypal characters which are encountered only once or rarely are defined solely by a single minor flaw, differentiating them from the stock character or archetype that they adhere to.
A major character flaw is a much more noticeable and important hindrance which actually impairs the individual, whether physically, mentally or morally. Sometimes major flaws are not actually negative per se (such as devout religious beliefs or a rigid code of honor), but are classified as such in that they often serve to hinder or restrict the character in some way.

Examples of this type of flaw could include blindness, amnesia or greed.

Unlike minor flaws, major flaws are almost invariably important to either the characters, or the story's development.
For villains, their major flaw is usually the cause of their eventual downfall.

For heroes, their major flaw usually must be overcome (either temporarily or permanently) at some point in the story, often at the climax, by their own determination or skill.

For neutral characters, or those that shift allegiance, the major flaw is usually the cause of either their corruption, redemption or both.

For the protagonist, the most visible flaw generally serves a more vital interest, as well, as it defines his or her core problem. It is the protagonist's reluctant (and usually unconscious) journey to address this problem that forms the spine of the story, sometimes acting as the MacGuffin to stimulate the plot.
Tragic flaw

This is a specific sort of flaw, also known as "Hamartia", which is possessed by Aristotelian tragic heros. It is a flaw which causes an otherwise noble or exceptional character to bring about his own downfall and, often, his eventual death.

Examples of this could include hubris, misplaced trust, excessive curiosity, pride and lack of self-control.
This fall usually occurs at the beginning of a story; with the story itself concentrates on the consequences or attempted redemption of the fall.

COMPOSITE CHARACTERS

In fiction, a composite character is a character composed of two or more real life or fictional individuals, appearing in a fictional or non-fictional work. Two or more fictional characters are often combined into one upon adaptation of a work from one medium to another, as in the film or video game adaptation of a novel or comic book. A composite character may be modeled on real historical or biographical figures in either type of work.
Sometimes composite characters are created in journalistic works, but such use raises ethical questions.

FOCAL CHARACTERS

In any narrative, the focal character is the character on which the audience is meant to place the majority of their interest and attention. They are almost always also the protagonist of the story; however, in cases where the "focal character" and "protagonist" are separate, the focal character's emotions and ambitions are not meant to be empathized with by the audience to as high an extent as the protagonist (this is the main difference between the two character terms). The focal character is mostly created to simply be the "excitement" of the story, though not necessarily the main character about whom the audience is emotionally concerned. The focal character is, more than anyone else, "the person on whom the spotlight focuses; the center of attention; the man whose reactions dominate the screen."

For example, in Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, the protagonist is Christine Daaé (the audience is concerned mostly with her emotions, aims, and well-being), while the focal character is the "Phantom" (the audience is concerned mostly with the allure of his actions and reactions—though to some degree, later on, his emotions as well). In another example, in "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe, the protagonist of the story is unnamed and does not have a great effect on the story, though he is present. He does not show much emotion throughout the story, and the reader is not as interested in him. The focal character of the story is Roderick Usher, whom the reader cares for more greatly and follows his condition and emotions more.
The focal character is also not necessarily the same thing as the viewpoint character, through whose perspective the story is seen. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works of Sherlock Holmes, Watson is the viewpoint character, but the story revolves around Holmes, making him the focal character.

GENERIC CHARACTERS

Generic characters are interchangeable characters, appearing mostly in animated shows or comic strips. They often reappear at different times with different jobs, or are seen in the background. Animation or comic strip artists, when in need of a character that furthers the story without becoming part of it, often use an existing character from their repertoire instead of inventing a new one. Generics can be considered to be similar to gag characters, but might stay longer.

GHOST CHARACTERS

In playwriting, a ghost character is a character that is mentioned as appearing on stage but neither says nor does anything but enter, and possibly exit. They are generally interpreted as editing mistakes, indicative of unresolved revisions to the text. If the character was intended to appear but say nothing, it is assumed this function would be clearly identified in the play.

The term is most often used in discussion of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, which are assumed to have existed in several revisions, only one of which is usually published. It is most associated with the works of William Shakespeare and is often thought to be evidence that the published version of the play is taken from his foul papers.
What the presence of such a character means often varies by play and by commentator. Some commentators[who?] claim that the ghost character in Timon of Athens, for example, proves the play's weakness and unfinished nature, though such an argument is rarely used for other ghost characters.

Other plays of the period include ghost characters, such as John Webster's The White Devil, in which "little Jacques the Moor", "Christophero", "Guid-antonio", and "Farneseis" are mentioned entering, but have no lines.

STOCK CHARACTERS

A stock character is a stereotypical person whom audiences readily recognize from frequent recurrences in a particular literary tradition. Stock characters are archetypal characters distinguished by their flatness; as a result, they tend to be easy targets for parody and to be criticized as clichés. The presence of a particular array of stock characters is a key component of many genres.

RECURRING CHARACTERS

A recurring character is a fictional character, usually in a prime time TV series, who often and frequently appears from time to time during the series' run. Recurring characters often play major roles in more than one episode, sometimes being the main focus.

Recurring characters usually start out as guest stars in one episode but continue to show up in future episodes if the storylines or actors are compelling enough. Sometimes a recurring character eventually becomes part of the main cast of characters; such a character is sometimes called a breakout character.

UNSEEN / INVISIBLE CHARACTERS

An unseen character or invisible character is a fictional character referred to but never directly observed by the audience. They are characters that are "heard of, but never heard from".[Books can feature characters who are referenced by others, but whose actions and dialogue are never directly described. Works of Voltaire, for example, include the "unseen character".

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS

A supporting character is a character in a narrative that is not focused on by the primary storyline. Sometimes supporting characters may develop a complex back-story of their own, but this is usually in relation to the main character, rather than entirely independently. In television, supporting characters may appear in more than half of the episodes per season.

In some cases, especially in ongoing material such as comic books and television series, supporting characters themselves may become main characters in a spin-off if they are sufficiently popular with fans.

SYMPATHETIC CHARACTERS

A sympathetic character is a fictional character in a story that the writer expects the reader to identify with and care about, if not necessarily admire. Protagonists, almost by definition, fit into the category of a sympathetic character; so, however, do many supporting characters and even villains.

BACKDROP / SETTING

In works of narrative (especially fictional), the literary element setting includes the historical moment in time and geographic location in which a story takes place, and helps initiate the main backdrop and mood for a story. Setting has been referred to as story world or milieu to include a context (especially society) beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. Elements of setting may include culture, historical period, geography, and hour. Along with the plot, character, theme, and style, setting is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction. And novelist Donna Levin has described how this social milieu shapes the characters’ values. The elements of the story setting include the passage of time, which may be static in some stories or dynamic in others with, for example, changing seasons.

ALTERNATE HISTORY

Alternate history or alternative history, sometimes abbreviated AH, is a genre of fiction consisting of stories that are set in worlds in which one or more historical events unfolds differently from how it did in reality. It can be variously seen as a subgenre of literary fiction, science fiction, and historical fiction; different alternate history works may use tropes from any or all of these genres. Another occasionally used term for the genre is "allo-history" (literally "other history"). See also fictional universe. Since the 1950s, this type of fiction has to a large extent merged with science fictional tropes involving cross-time travel between alternate histories or psychic awareness of the existence of "our" universe by the people in another; or ordinary voyaging into the past or into the future that results in history splitting into two or more timelines. Cross-time, time-splitting, and alternate history themes have become so closely interwoven that it is impossible to discuss them fully apart from one another. "Alternate History" looks at "what if" scenarios from some of history's most pivotal turning points and presents a completely different version, sometimes based on science and fact, but often based on conjecture. The exploration of how the world would look today if various changes occurred and what these alternate worlds would be like forms the basis of this vast subject matter.

In French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan and German, the genre of alternate history is called uchronie / ucronía / ucronia / Uchronie, which has given rise to the term Uchronia in English. This neologism is based on the prefix ου- (which in ancient Greek means "not/not any/no") and the ancient Greek χρόνος (chronos), meaning "time". A uchronia means literally "(in) no time". This term apparently also inspired the name of the alternate history book list, uchronia.net.
In writing an alternate history, the author makes the conscious choice to change something in our past. According to Steven H Silver, alternate history requires three things:

1) The story must have a point of divergence from the history of our world prior to the time at which the author is writing,

2) A change that would alter history as it is known, and

3) An examination of the ramifications of that change.

Several genres of fiction have been confused as alternate histories. Science fiction set in what was the future but is now the past, like Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey or Nineteen Eighty-Four, are not alternate history because the author has not made the conscious choice to change the past. Secret history, works that document things that are not known to have happened historically but would not have changed history had they happened, is also not to be confused with alternate history.

Alternate history is related to but distinct from counterfactual history—the term used by some professional historians when using thoroughly researched and carefully reasoned speculations on "what might have happened if..." as a tool of academic historical research.

CAMPAIGN SETTING

A campaign setting is usually a fictional world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or war-game campaign. A campaign is a series of individual adventures, and a campaign setting is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place. Usually a campaign setting is designed for a specific game (such as the Forgotten Realms setting for Dungeons & Dragons) or a specific genre of game (such as Medieval fantasy, or outer space/science fiction adventure). There are numerous campaign settings available both in print and online. In addition to published campaign settings available for purchase, many game masters create their own settings, often referred to as "homebrew" settings or worlds.

The use of the term "world" in describing a campaign setting is loose, at best. Campaign worlds such as the World of Greyhawk detail entire cosmologies and timelines of thousands of years, while the setting of a game such as Deadlands might only describe one nation within a brief segment of alternate history.
Fantasy settings draw their inspiration almost exclusively from fantasy literature, such as the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. The setting in these games is usually a world with a level of technology similar to that of medieval Europe. Fantasy elements include magic and supernatural/mythological creatures, such as dragons, elves, and orcs.

Science fiction settings are inspired by science fiction literature. The setting is generally in the future, sometimes near future but also quite often in the far future, though in many cases the setting bears no connection to the world we live in, e.g. Star Wars. Common elements involve futuristic technology, contact with alien life forms, experimental societies, and space travel. Psionic abilities (i.e. ESP and telekinesis) often take the place of magic. The genre can be divided similarly with science fiction literature into subgenres, such as cyberpunk or space opera.

WORLDS (AND WORLD BUILDING)

A fantasy world is a fictional universe created in fiction media, such as literature, film or games. Typical fantasy worlds involve magic or magical abilities, nonexistent technology and sometimes, either an historical or futuristic theme. Some worlds may be a parallel world tenuously connected to Earth via magical portals or items; a fictional Earth set in the remote past or future; or an entirely independent world set in another universe. Many fantasy worlds draw heavily on real world history, geography and sociology, and also on mythology and folklore.
The setting of a fantasy work is often of great importance to the plot and characters of the story. The setting itself can be imperiled by the evil of the story, suffer a calamity, and be restored by the transformation the story brings about. Stories that use the setting as merely a backdrop for the story have been criticized for their failure to use it fully.
Even when the land itself is not in danger, it is often used symbolically, for thematic purposes, and to underscore moods.

World Building or Con-Worlding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The resulting world may be called a constructed world. The term "world building" was popularized at science fiction writers' workshops in the 1970s.[citation needed] Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, geography, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers. World building often involves the creation of maps, a backstory, and people for the world. Constructed worlds can enrich the backstory and history of fictional works, and it is not uncommon for authors to revise their constructed worlds while completing its associated work. Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as novels, video games, or role-playing games.

METHODS OF WORLD-BUILDING

World-building can be designed from the top down or the bottom up, or by a combination of these approaches. The official world-building guidelines for Dungeons and Dragons refer to these terms as "outside-in" and "inside-out," respectively.[3] In the top-down approach, the designer first creates a general overview of the world, determining broad characteristics such as the world's inhabitants, technology level, major geographic features, climate, and history. From there, he or she develops the rest of the world in increasing detail. This approach might involve creation of the world's basics, followed by levels such as continents, civilizations, nations, cities, and towns. A world constructed from the top down tends to be well-integrated, with individual components fitting together appropriately. It can, however, require considerable work before enough detail is completed for the setting to be useful, such as in the setting of a story.

With the bottom-up approach, the designer focuses on a small part of the world needed for his or her purposes. This location is given considerable detail, such as local geography, culture, social structure, government, politics, commerce, and history. Prominent local individuals may be described, including their relationships to each other. The surrounding areas are then described in a lower level of detail, with description growing more general with increasing distance from the initial location. The designer can subsequently enhance the description of other areas in the world. This approach provides for almost immediate applicability of the setting, with details pertinent to a certain story or situation. The approach can yield a world plagued with inconsistencies, however. By combining the top-down and bottom-up approaches, a designer can enjoy the benefits of both. This is very hard to accomplish, however, because the designer must start from both sides creating twice as much work which may not reach the desired product as quickly.
The goal of world-building is to create the context for a story. Consistency is an important element, since the world provides a foundation for the action of a story.

An uninhabited world can be useful for certain purposes, especially in science fiction, but the majority of constructed worlds have one or more sentient species. These species can have constructed cultures and constructed languages. Designers in hard science fiction may design flora and fauna towards the end of the world-building process, thus creating lifeforms with environmental adaptations to scientifically novel situations.

Physics

Perhaps the most basic consideration of world-building is to what degree a fictional world will be based on real-world physics compared to magic. While magic is a more common element of fantasy settings, science fiction worlds can contain magic or technological equivalents of it. For example, the Biotics in the science fiction video game series Mass Effect have abilities, described scientifically in-game, which mirror those of mages in fantasy games. In the science fiction novel Midnight at the Well of Souls, magic exists, but is explained scientifically.
Some fictional worlds modify the real-world laws of physics; faster-than-light travel is a common factor in much science fiction. World-building may combine physics and magic, such as in the Dark Tower series and the Star Wars franchise.

Cosmology

Constructed worlds often have cosmologies, both in the scientific and metaphysical senses of the word. Design of science fiction worlds, especially those with spacefaring societies, usually entails creation of a star system and planets. If the designer wishes to apply real-life principles of astronomy, he or she may develop detailed astronomical measures for the orbit of the world, and to define the physical characteristics of the other bodies in the same system; this establishes chronological parameters, such as the length of a day and the durations of seasons. Some systems are intentionally bizarre. For Larry Niven's novels The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring, Niven designed a "freefall" environment, a gas torus ring of habitable pressure, temperature, and composition, around a neutron star.

Fantasy worlds can also involve unique cosmologies. In Dungeons and Dragons, the physical world is referred to as the Prime Material Plane, but other planes of existence devoted to moral or elemental concepts are available for play, such as the Spell-jammer setting, which provides an entirely novel fantasy astrophysical system. Some fantasy worlds feature fictional religions. The Elder Scrolls series, for example, contains a variety of religions practiced by its world's various races. The world of the 2000 video game Summoner has a well-developed cosmology, including a creation myth.
Geography

Map construction is often one of the earliest tasks of world-building. Maps can lay out a world's basic terrain features and significant civilizations present. A clear, concise map that displays the locations of key points in the story can be a helpful tool for developers and audiences alike. Finished creative products, such as books, may contain published versions of development maps; many editions of The Lord of the Rings, for example, include maps of Middle-earth. Cartography of fictional worlds is sometimes called geo-fiction.

The physical geography of a fictional world is important in designing weather patterns and biomes such as deserts, wetlands, mountains, and forests. These physical features also affect the growth and interaction of the various societies, such as the establishment of trade routes and locations of important cities. Desire for control of natural resources in a fictional world may lead to war among its people. Geography can also define ecosystems for each biome. Often, Earth-like ecology is assumed, but designers can vary drastically from this trend. For example, Isaac Asimov's short story "The Talking Stone" takes place in a world where silicon, rather than carbon, is the basic building block of life.
Some software programs can create random terrain using fractal algorithms. Sophisticated programs can apply geologic effects such as tectonic plate movement and erosion; the resulting world can be rendered in great detail, providing a degree of realism to the result.

Culture

Worldbuilding designers sometimes employ past human civilizations as a model for fictional societies. The 1990 video game Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire, for example, takes place in a world full of tribes based on civilizations in early Mesoamerica and Africa. This method can make a fictional world more accessible for an audience. Simon Provencher has stated as a 'Golden Rule' of World-building that "...unless specified otherwise, everything inside your world is assumed to behave exactly as it would in the real world."[9] Another example is from Steven S. Long, a representative of the Champions role-playing game, who stated that "Everything that happened in the real world has also unfolded in the exact same way in the Champions Universe.", so that means any past wars, elections, and technological advancements in our world occurred the same way in the Champions Universe unless explained otherwise. Creating a cohesive alien culture can be a distinct challenge. Some designers have also looked to human civilizations for inspiration in doing so, such as Star Trek's Romulans, whose society resembles that of Ancient Rome. The fictional world's history can explain past and present relationships between different societies, which can introduce a story's action. A past war, for example, functions as a key plot point in the Shannara and Belgariad series.

FICTIONAL CITIES

A fictional city refers to a town, city or village that is made up for fictional stories, and does not exist in real life, or refers to a settlement that people believe exist without definitive proof, such as Plato's account of Atlantis which some believed was fiction while others believed it existed.

Cultures have always had legends and stories of fictional cities from the earliest times. Other fictional cities appear most commonly as settings or subjects of myth, literature, movies, or video games.
Fictional cities appear commonly in stories of early mythology. Some such cities are lost (Atlantis), hidden (Agartha, Shambhala), destroyed (Ys) or must be reached by difficult means (Asphodel Meadows
During the mid to late 1500s, several expeditions were made by various groups of people in order to locate what they believed to be a city rich with gold; El Dorado. In 1541 Gonzalo Pizarro, governor of Quito, Ecuador, banded together 340 soldiers and about 4000 natives and led them in search of the fabled city. That same year, Philipp von Hutten led an exploring party from Coro on the coast of Venezuela. Despite having been disproven in by Alexander von Humboldt during his Latin-America expedition (1799–1804). There are some people who still believe El Dorado is yet to be found.
Fictional cities often deliberately resemble parody or even represent some real-world analogous location or present a utopian or dystopian locale for commentary. Variants of cities' names sometimes make it clear what city is the real basis, for example, Las Venturas from the video game Grand Theft Auto series based on Las Vegas, and includes a number of notable city landmarks including casinos. By making use of fictional towns, as opposed to using a real one, authors have a much greater freedom to exercise their creativity on characters, events, and settings while simultaneously presenting a somewhat familiar location that readers can recognize. A fictional city leaves the author unburdened by the restraints of a city's actual history, politics, and culture and can allow for a greater scope in plot construction and also avoid vilifying any actual group of people. In Fanfiction, fan-made fictional cities are not considered canonical unless they are authorized.

Although cities based in real life usually have enough evidence to locate the real-world inspiration, writers sometimes are deliberately ambiguous in the locale such as the un-locatable Springfield from The Simpsons television program.

FICTIONAL COUNTRIES

A fictional country is a country that is made up for fictional stories, and does not exist in real life, or one that people believe in without proof. Sailors have always mistaken low clouds for land masses, and in later times this was given the name Dutch capes. Other fictional lands appear most commonly as settings or subjects of myth, literature, movies, or video games.

Fictional countries appear commonly in stories of early science fiction (or scientific romance). Such countries supposedly form part of the normal Earth landscape although not located in a normal atlas. Later similar tales often took place on fictional planets.

Fictional countries often deliberately resemble or even represent some real-world country or present a utopia or dystopia for commentary. Variants of the country's name sometimes make it clear what country they really have in mind. By using a fictional country instead of a real one, authors can exercise greater freedom in creating characters, events, and settings, while at the same time presenting a vaguely familiar locale that readers can recognize. A fictional country leaves the author unburdened by the restraints of a real nation's actual history, politics, and culture, and can thus allow for greater scope in plot construction and be exempt from criticism for vilifying an actual nation, political party or people.

Writers may create an archetypal fictional "Eastern European", "Middle Eastern", "Asian", "African" or "Latin American" country for the purposes of their story often called a "Foreign Power".

Such countries often embody stereotypes about their regions. For example, inventors of a fictional Eastern European country typically describe it as a former or current Soviet satellite state, or with a suspense story about a royal family; if pre-20th century, it likely resembles Ruritania or feature copious vampires and other supernatural phenomena. A fictional Middle Eastern state often lies somewhere on the Arabian peninsula, and either has substantial oil-wealth and has a sultan, or features a stereotypically Muslim Extremist culture, widespread terrorism and poverty, and a country name ending in -istan. A fictional Latin American country typically projects images of a banana republic beset by constant revolutions, military dictatorships, and coups d'état. A fictional African state suffers from poverty, civil war and disease. A fictional Caribbean nation features voodoo and poverty.
Modern writers usually do not try to pass off their stories as facts. However, in the early 18th century George Psalmanazar passed himself off as a prince from the island of Formosa (present-day Taiwan) and wrote a fictional description about it to convince his sponsors.

Some larcenous entrepreneurs have also invented fictional countries solely for the purpose of defrauding people. In the 1820s, Gregor MacGregor sold land in the invented country of Poyais. In modern times, the Dominion of Melchizedek and the Kingdom of EnenKio have been accused of this. Many varied financial scams can play out under the aegis of a fictional country, including selling passports and travel documents, and setting up fictional banks and companies with the seeming imprimatur of full government backing.

FICTIONAL CROSSOVER

A fictional crossover (or simply crossover) is the placement of two or more otherwise discrete fictional characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story. They can arise from legal agreements between the relevant copyright holders, unauthorized efforts by fans or common corporate ownership.
Crossovers often occur in an official capacity in order for the intellectual property rights holders to reap the financial reward of combining two or more popular, established properties. In other cases, the crossover can serve to introduce a new concept derivative of an older one.

Crossovers generally occur between properties owned by a single holder, but they can, more rarely, involve properties from different holders, provided that the inherent legal obstacles can be overcome. They may also involve using characters that have passed into the public domain with those concurrently under copyright protection.
A crossover story may try to explain its own reason for the crossover, such as characters being neighbors (notable examples being the casts from Golden Girls and Empty Nest) or meeting via dimensional rift or similar phenomenon (a common explanation for science fiction properties that have different owners). Some crossovers are not explained at all.

Public domain notes

It is also common for authors to 'crossover' characters who have passed into the public domain, and thus do not require copyright or royalty payments for their use in other works; a prominent example of this occurs in Loren D. Estleman's novel Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, in which Sherlock Holmes and Dracula are brought together and pitted against each other. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill is another example of this, as all of the main characters and most of the secondary / background characters are fictional characters whose copyright has expired, and all are characters of different authors and creators brought together within one massive extended universe. Many of the works of Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton family sequences (which has also been explored and developed by other authors) also utilize and interweave numerous otherwise unrelated fictional characters into a rich family history by speculating familial connections between them (such as a blood-relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan). Roger Zelazny's novel A Night in the Lonesome October combines Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper and the Cthulhu Mythos, although he never specifically identifies them as such ("The Count", "The Good Doctor", "Jack", etc.).

Occasionally, authors will include into crossovers classic fictional characters whose copyright is still held by the original authors (or at least their estates), but who are nevertheless considered iconic or 'mythic' enough to be recognised from a few character traits or descriptions without being directly named (thus not requiring royalties payments to be made to the copyright holder). A prominent example occurs within The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One, wherein a character who is clearly intended in appearance and description by other characters to be Dr. Fu Manchu appears as a significant villain; however, as this character was not in the public domain at the time of writing and the rights still held by the estate of his creator Sax Rohmer, he is not directly named as such in the work and is only referred to as 'the Devil Doctor'. Something similar occurs in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, wherein a character named "Jimmy" is clearly intended to be Ian Fleming's character James Bond, though here he is satirized as being an inept and unfavorable antagonist, likely to parody Sean Connery's appearance in the 2003 film adaptation. Another example in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is when a character is named to be the Anti-Christ, yet, despite never being named, is shown to be an evil Harry Potter.

The TV show Once Upon a Time is set in a world in which all fairy tales coexist, including Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and even Alice in Wonderland. (As a production of The Walt Disney Company, copyrighted elements from that company's productions have appeared in Once Upon a Time.) The Shrek film series is built on the same concept, and even includes references to then-copyrighted elements like Peter Pan (often in the form of satire).
FICTIONAL UNIVERSE

A fictional universe is a self-consistent fictional setting with elements that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed or fictional realm (or world).
A fictional universe can be almost indistinguishable from the real world, except for the presence of the invented characters and events that characterize a work of fiction; at the other extreme it can bear little or no resemblance to reality, with invented fundamental principles of space and time. The subject is most commonly addressed in reference to fictional universes that differ markedly from reality, such as those that introduce entire fictional cities, countries, or even planets, or those that contradict commonly known facts about the world and its history, or those that feature fantasy or science fiction concepts such as magic or faster than light travel—and especially those in which the deliberate development of the setting is a substantial focus of the work.

What distinguishes a fictional universe from a simple setting is the level of detail and internal consistency. A fictional universe has an established continuity and internal logic that must be adhered to throughout the work and even across separate works. So, for instance, many books may be set in conflicting fictional versions of Victorian London, but all the stories of Sherlock Holmes are set in the same Victorian London. However, the various film series based on Sherlock Holmes follow their own separate continuities, and so do not take place in the same fictional universe.
The history and geography of a fictional universe are well-defined, and maps and timelines are often included in works set within them. Even languages may be constructed. When subsequent works are written within the same universe, care is usually taken to ensure that established facts of the canon are not violated. Even if the fictional universe involves concepts such as magic that don't exist in the real world, these must adhere to a set of rules established by the author.

FUTURE HISTORY

A future history is a postulated history of the future and is used by authors in the subgenre of speculative fiction (or science fiction) to construct a common background for fiction. Sometimes the author publishes a timeline of events in the history, while other times the reader can reconstruct the order of the stories from information provided therein.

PARALLEL UNIVERSE

A parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained separate reality co-existing with one's own. A specific group of parallel universes is called a "multiverse", although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute reality. While the terms "parallel universe" and "alternative reality" are generally synonymous and can be used interchangeably in most cases, there is sometimes an additional connotation implied with the term "alternative reality" that implies that the reality is a variant of our own. The term "parallel universe" is more general, without any connotations implying a relationship, or lack of relationship, with our own universe. A universe where the very laws of nature are different – for example, one in which there are no Laws of Motion – would in general count as a parallel universe but not an alternative reality and a concept between both fantasy world and earth.

The actual quantum-mechanical hypothesis of parallel universes is "universes that are separated from each other by a single quantum event."

Fantasy has long borrowed an idea of "another world" from myth, legend and religion. Heaven, Hell, Olympus, and Valhalla are all “alternative universes” different from the familiar material realm. Plato reflected deeply on the parallel realities, resulting in Platonism, in the upper reality is perfect while the lower earthly reality is an imperfect shadow of the heavenly. The lower reality is similar but with flaws.
Modern fantasy often presents the concept as a series of planes of existence where the laws of nature differ, allowing magical phenomena of some sort on some planes. This concept was also found in ancient Hindu mythology, in texts such as the Puranas, which expressed an infinite number of universes, each with its own gods.[1] Similarly in Persian literature, "The Adventures of Bulukiya", a tale in the One Thousand and One Nights, describes the protagonist Bulukiya learning of alternative worlds/universes that are similar to but still distinct from his own.[2] In other cases, in both fantasy and science fiction, a parallel universe is a single other material reality, and its co-existence with ours is a rationale to bring a protagonist from the author's reality into the fantasy's reality, such as in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis or even the beyond-the-reflection travel in the two main works of Lewis Carroll. Or this single other reality can invade our own, as when Margaret Cavendish's English heroine sends submarines and "birdmen" armed with "fire stones" back through the portal from The Blazing World to Earth and wreaks havoc on England's enemies. In dark fantasy or horror the parallel world is often a hiding place for unpleasant things, and often the protagonist is forced to confront effects of this other world leaking into his own, as in most of the work of H. P. Lovecraft and the Doom computer game series, or Warhammer/40K miniature and computer games. In such stories, the nature of this other reality is often left mysterious, known only by its effect on our own world.

The concept also arises outside the framework of quantum mechanics, as is found in Jorge Luis Borges short story El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan ("The Garden of Forking Paths"), published in 1941 before the many-worlds interpretation had been invented. In the story, a Sinologist discovers a manuscript by a Chinese writer where the same tale is recounted in several ways, often contradictory, and then explains to his visitor (the writer's grandson) that his relative conceived time as a "garden of forking paths", where things happen in parallel in infinitely branching ways. One of the first Sci-Fi examples is Murray Leinster's Sidewise in Time, in which portions of alternative universes replace corresponding geographical regions in this universe.

While technically incorrect, and looked down upon by hard science-fiction fans and authors, the idea of another “dimension” has become synonymous with the term “parallel universe”. The usage is particularly common in movies, television and comic books and much less so in modern prose science fiction. The idea of a parallel world was first introduced in comic books with the publication of Flash #123 - "Flash of Two Worlds".
In written science fiction, “new dimensions” more commonly — and more accurately — refer to additional coordinate axes, beyond the three spatial axes with which we are familiar. By proposing travel along these extra axes, which are not normally perceptible, the traveler can reach worlds that are otherwise unreachable and invisible.

TIME TRAVEL & ALTERNATE UNIVERSES

Parallel universes may be the backdrop to or the consequence of time travel, their most common use in fiction if the concept is central to the story. A seminal example of both is in Fritz Leiber's novel The Big Time where there's a war across time between two alternative futures manipulating history to create a timeline that results in or realizes their own world.

The concept of "sidewise" time travel, a term taken from Murray Leinster's "Sidewise in Time", is often used to allow characters to pass through many different alternative histories, all descendant from some common branch point. Often worlds that are similar to each other are considered closer to each other in terms of this sidewise travel. For example, a universe where World War II ended differently would be "closer" to us than one where Imperial China colonized the New World in the 15th century.

COUNTER / CONVERGENT EARTH

The concept of Counter-Earth is typically similar to that of parallel universes but is actually a distinct idea. A counter-earth is a planet that shares Earth's orbit but is on the opposite side of the Sun and therefore cannot be seen from Earth. There would be no necessity that such a planet would be like Earth in any way though typically in fiction, it is usually nearly identical to Earth. Since counter-earth is always within our own universe (and our own solar system), travel to it can be accomplished with ordinary space travel.

Convergent evolution is a biological concept whereby unrelated species acquire similar traits because they adapted to a similar environment and/or played similar roles in their ecosystems. In fiction, the concept is extended whereby similar planets will result in races with similar cultures and/or histories.

Technically this is not a type of parallel universe since such planets can be reached via ordinary space travel, but the stories are similar in some respects.