5. Even if you’re a panster, outline the fantastical system that governs your story, i.e. magic, advanced science, paranormal bloodlines, etc.
Example: In my Mark of Nexus series, the universe I’ve built contains four races—three of which possess some kind of supernatural ability. To keep track of who does what, and what trumps what, I maintain a color-coded spreadsheet. Even if some of the rules never see the light of Kindle, they’re there to help me shape my characters and their stories.
4. To ground the audience, make sure there are both pros and cons to this system. This ups the stakes and makes our characters more relatable.
Example: Have you ever seen the (wrongly cancelled) show Alphas? All superhuman abilities come with a cost. There’s a character who can memorize any skill in no time and repeat it through muscle memory—but it comes at the cost of her long-term memory. She doesn’t remember anything beyond the past month. (Dun, dun, dunnnn!)
3. Read other speculative fiction.
Next step: Take note of how other authors incorporate their fantastical systems.
2. Establish and incorporate clear rules for this magic system.
Next step: Think about how your rules make the world comprehensible to the reader. You don’t have to lay them out directly within the text, but we should get a sense of them while reading.
1. Be consistent.
Example: If you spend most of the book telling us water will melt your witch, but she takes a hot shower after some steamy love-making with a warlock, we’re going to doubt every other element of the story.
Question of the Week:
Is there a book you know all of the 'rules' for? :)