An alternate universe (AU) is, in case anyone isn't aware, a story taking place in a fantastical, alternate historical timeline that usually kicks off from a specific event in actual history that takes a different turn from the one that it did in reality.
Alternate universes are fascinating. From classics like The Man in the High Castle to pop-culture hits like Inglorious Basterds, AUs are always fun!
So I thought I'd discuss today some of the things that are necessary in order to create a good AU that feels plausible and realistic.
1. Know the actual history very well
When preparing to write an AU, it's good to know the actual history well, especially when it comes to the forces and variables involved and with which you will be toying. Knowing how things resulted into the events or status you wish to change is key in order to be able to believably change the circumstances that could have brought a different outcome along. It's also crucial in order to write the new sequence of events. What, for example, would have happened if Hitler hadn't tried to backstab Stalin? What if he didn't micromanage his generals? What if he didn't survive his assassination, but that fact was never disclosed?
The possibilities are endless. But you'd need to know Hitler to tweak enough things in his life or environment to make him make different decisions, and also know Stalin well enough to suggest a plausible set of reactions of his own (hint- he also liked invasions and stuff).
2. Know what you want to explore
Why are you writing the AU? What is it you're looking to experience, find out, or say? Is it political? Social? Romantic? All of the above? Knowing that will help you keep the story in focus as the new historical events are taking place, and narrow down the stuff you will be centering in on.
3. Keep everything else constant
Just because the history changes doesn't mean that everything else does- you still need to research the era as you would for writing an actual historical novel. The culture, the fashion, the norms, and the history up until the point of divergence remain the same, so you should know it well.
4. Have some grasp of the era's world history
The history of a country doesn't happen in vitro. When you change an event in a country's history, it's highly likely that this will affect the neighboring countries (and thus their reactions to the country of focus). This may or may not be vital or even relevant to your story but know it nonetheless. It will surface in your dialogue or other elements of worldbuilding, and make the immersion even better.
And that's it! Have you ever written an AU? Would you ever try it and if yes, on which historical point in time?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Nov. 2, 2019
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