Screenwriting is more than characters, dialog and plot. Before writers even decide on the particular theme of their film scripts, they need to make decisions on the world their story is set. A story world is more than just the location. It also relates the mentality and functionality of where the story takes place.
If you’ve decided to write a screenplay set in a supernatural, sci-fi or fantasy world, you can really let your imagination run wild when you create the rules of your story world.
Where do screenwriters begin to create a story world from scratch?
Here are some questions to help you decide:
What is the fantasy factor of your world? Is it grounded in a recognizable reality or is it completely fabricated? Often it will be a combination of both.
How did the world come into existence? What critical events have shaped your physical world?
What does your world look like? Is it green and luscious or is it barren and harsh? Are there hills, rivers and oceans or are there craters?
What is made from? Earth elements or something else, like plastic?
What’s the atmosphere and temperature like? Is it hostile or welcoming?
Is it a linear or non linear world? Are there parallel universes or universes within universes?
Is your world static or changing?
Is your story set in the past, present or future?
Who lives in your manufactured world? Is it humans, aliens, goblins, wizards, dinosaurs or creatures we’ve never heard of? How long have they lived there and how have they evolved over time?
Where do they live? Are they above ground, below ground or in a protected environment like a space ship?
Do they live alone or in family structures? Are they nomads or do they live in sophisticated societies?
Do they have any special powers or weaknesses?
How many species live in your world? How do they interact? Are they friends or enemies?
Do they have genders? If so, how many? Are they fixed or fluid? How is gender identity expressed?
Are your inhabitants peaceful or aggressive?
What is the social structure of this world? Is there a class structure? Are they born into their social class or can it be acquired? How do inhabitants move between social classes?
Is it an individualistic or pluralistic society?
What are the cultural structures like? Are there subcultures? Is diversity encouraged?
How is your world governed? Who are the elite?
Who has power/ influence in your society?
What are the laws? How are they enforced?
What is the day to day life like?
Do they have pets?
What do they eat?
Where and how do inhabitants work, get educated and entertained?
How do they interact with their environment?
What conflicts are they likely to face and how are they dealt with?
What do the inhabitants value?
Are they more materialistic or spiritual?
Are they free to express their ideas or is freedom of expression tightly regulated?
Is there a moral code that inhabitants must abide by?
What punishment is given to those who transgress their moral code?
What do they aspire to?
What do they fear?
What are they forbidden to do?
What behavior is encouraged?
How are outsiders treated?
What do people believe in?
Is there a higher calling or do individuals happy to maintain the status quo?
Is there a God/ deity or spiritual code?
Is there are religious doctrine?
Where and how do inhabitants worship?
What do they worship?
How technologically advanced is the world?
How is this expressed in their clothes, habitats, transportation and communication?
How is technology used to gather and analyze information?
Is technology used purely for survival or for advancement?
Is technology used for good or evil?
These rules also apply to screenplays set in the real world. It is especially important if your writing is set in defined communities such as a particular faith, sport. profession, artistic pursuit or politics. The main aim is to make your screenwriting feel authentic.
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