The article below is a list of the basic tools I used to begin and continue to use to write my graphic novel, The Gyro Universe. The information is very general because, for me, generalities help keep me creative. With that being said, I am not a literary savant or even an English major for that matter. I am but a fan and a creator who wants to share what helped me create my series.

The general structure or shape of a story, boiled down, is very simple. A story needs; Its Main Character(s), and they will start at the beginning of their story and go through as many good, bad, and neutral events that the author can dream up until their story reaches an End. I oversimplified this because it will make your story easier to approach. In my experience, when you try to think big picture about everything that your story encompasses, it can be very overwhelming. Find your foundation and then build out a step at a time. You might not know the end or the beginning of your story, but if you have a checkpoint, start there.

(If you have 20 minutes, watch the link beneath this article. The Legend, Kurt Vonnegut, breaks down the shapes of different stories.)

With this in mind, let’s build out a Science Fiction/Fantasy world. Everything below can be applied to all stories, but I, “*” the categories I find most important to Science Fiction and Fantasy.

General Plot: Because you need to know what you’re working with.

EX. Alien Invasion

Character(s): With fantasy, every stone is meant to be turned over. Find the perspectives needed to turn those stones.

EX. A Family on Earth. The Aliens on Earth invading. The Aliens on their home planet who sent them.

*A Connector: What connects all corners of a world/ Universe?

EX. To use two ultra-successful examples, let’s take a look at Star Wars and Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA).

For Star Wars, The Force is what, “…binds the galaxy together”. Thank you, Obi-Wan. Every piece of Star Wars content is told with the context that The Force surrounds everything. Even when some characters in the series don’t even know what the force is or if it exists

In ATLA, the whole theme of the series is that the world is separated into nations of element benders. Water, Earth, Fire, and Air. Thank you, Katara. The Elements drive the nations to be who they are and to solve or create conflicts. Every nation in the ATLA universe has that in common.

*Geography: Giving your world geography is the easiest way to build it.

  • Each of the series I mentioned above has different nations or planets in which their characters travel to and fro. Those nations and planets have different; biomes, settings, creatures, and people that work to create different stories, so their characters are not solely carrying that burden.
  • Ask yourself what types of places you want in your world. Give them a name, and then give them a history. Once that’s done, you can set your characters loose in one of those places and see what happens.

Now ask yourself, where do you want your characters to start and where do you want them to be?:

Emotionally, Physically, and Spiritually. Get from A to B. One point to the next point on a long overarching journey,

EX. To get more specific, let’s go from A to B (Physically).

A – The Family is safe in a bunker. A Thoughts– It’s important to my storyline that they leave the bunker, but why would a family leave, in that situation?

B – Fort Devens. is a confirmed Military Safe zone. B Thoughts – Well that’s the destination, time to make the Journey interesting. Write your Good, Bad, and Neutral Events).

A Journey B More Journey…… Don’t Stop…

*Miscellaneous Notes:

  • People take spaceships seriously, so make sure yours is cool!
  • Fantasy stories are supposed to be fantastical. They need to be unbelievably believable.
  • It’s my opinion that if you’re going to make something trippy, it should be in color. At least partially. I’ve seen trippy things get pulled off in black and white, but it’s rare. 
  • Dialogue – Have fun with it. Make up words, use slang, anything to help flavor your world. 
  • Maps
  • Drop a reader in the world, don’t walk them there. Give them a chance to use their imagination.

If you’re interested to see what happens with my alien invasion story, check out @thegyrouniverse on Instagram & Kickstarter

Kurt Vonnegut – Shapes of Stories Lecture