Fantasy World Building: Star Systems and Other External Influences

Updated on December 27, 2017
Tinsky profile image

Tina's passion for creative writing began in her teens. She holds a Master of Arts (Writing) and works in online publishing.

What does the solar system of your fantasy world look like?  Does it follow traditional settings similar to those in our Universe?  Or is it something else,  something magical?
What does the solar system of your fantasy world look like? Does it follow traditional settings similar to those in our Universe? Or is it something else, something magical?

Beyond your Fantasy World

Earth would not exist without the Sun. The Earth is dependent upon its external influence. Likewise in fantasy world building, fictional worlds also have external influences. Recording the relationships between your fantasy world and its external influences will help to provide your world building with substance and provide your audience with correlations for your world's characteristics and circumstances.

Without our Moon and Sun we would not have tides and the darkness of the night would be darker, more so without any distant stars. The Sun is the most influential terrestrial being in our sky. It provides the Earth with much more than just sunlight, heat and a basis for recording the passing of time.

If your fictional world is a planet or other arterial body in a traditional setting then the sun or suns which interact with your world will have a strong influence. Even if your world is not a traditional fantasy world, the concept of external influence will still apply.

Gathering information about the external influences of your fictional world provides a fictional world builder with valuable information about the cause and effect orelationships upon their constructed world. It is useful to know what the sky looks like at any time of the day. It can also help to provide credibility and continuity for plots and other background developments.

Correlations in Fantasy World Building

Imagine a world dominated by Vampires. This species of Vampire finds it difficult to survive in the sunlight particularly on the surface of the world which exists in a binary star system. Even when darkness descends on the planet every 3115 days for 23 days, the twelve moons still make living on the warmer surface of this world difficult as reflected sunlight is still harmful.

The planet exists in the perfect climate for life to exist on the surface and a humanoid race has thrived upon the surface of the planet, their numbers are have risen into the millions since the last darkness came. The vampires who live in caverns beneath the earth with other light effected creatures are slowly awakening from the sleep to look into the modern world of their ripen cattle.

In this world, the two suns work against and in favor of the Vampire forcing them to live in a society far beneath the surface of the world, while providing them with a feast above the surface every few thousand years flourishing the food supply and sustaining the Vampires.

Sun and Vampires -1

Birth of a Solar System

The Sun's Influence on your Fictional World

A solar system is a system with one or more stars. Your fantasy world can exist inside a system with multiple stars with varying ages and sizes. When a star explodes or implodes it will have a large impact on the rest of your system but until then, your fantasy world might enjoy a relatively disaster free period in which your fantasy world could support living creatures with developed cultures .

A sun can be born out of the "dust and debris left behind by novae and supernovae eventually blend with the surrounding interstellar gas and dust, enriching it with the heavy elements and chemical compounds produced during stellar death. Eventually, those materials are recycled, providing the building blocks for a new generation of stars and accompanying planetary systems."(1)

If your fantasy world follows a similar tradition and foundation of life as our own planet then life will exist where water exists. The number of suns in your fantasy world's solar system will not be as important as the distance of your world from the suns. Ensure your world is located in what astronomers regard as the "Golldilocks" zone. When creating your solar system map out an orbit of your planet around the Suns so that you can determine the closest point your world comes in its orbit and the furtherest point.

Alternatively if you don't desire 'realism' in your fantasy world, then you can place your planet in any location in its solar system and with an unlimited number of stars if you so desire. You should still consider the type of influences your suns would have on your planet such as the amount of heat  and energy that would be generated and the amount of light it would receive. Your fantasy world may have a way of processing the light and heat, so that its impact is lessoned upon the surface or it could provide a reason your fantasy races live beneath the world's surface.

The sun influences more than just the heat and the light of a planet. Solar events such as plasma bursts could affect communication channels on your fictional world or even the use of 'magic'. The sun's basic influence might extend to the culture of a world and the type of life forms that exist, the weather and it interacts with the chemical and mineral compositions of a planet including water. Ancient civilizations such as Ancient Greece and the Mayans worshiped a solar deity and this is reflected in many other cultures. Solar eclipses in many cultures have "foretold" great events including great disasters.

Did you know?

The first 'truly' habitable planet candidate found in the Goldilocks zone (not to hot and not to cold) was announced by astronomers in September 2010. The planet Gliese 581g is located about 20 light years away from Earth.

More recently in February 2011 astronomers announced that by using Nasa's Kepler telescope a total of 54 planet candidates located in the habitable zone of Suns have now been discovered with five potential earth-sized planet candidates that may support water and possibly life.

Fantasy landscapes

Alien landscape created with 'Terragin' showing a watery moon landscape. Fantasy world builders need to consider what effects satellites have on their worlds.
Alien landscape created with 'Terragin' showing a watery moon landscape. Fantasy world builders need to consider what effects satellites have on their worlds.

In the Night Sky

Nighttime on a rotating and orbiting planet like Earth occurs on the part of the planet that faces away from the sun. If your fantasy solar system lies in a binary system, night time may not be a regular feature for your world. A world in a system with more than one sun may not always experience a dark night if both suns are in close proximity to your world. A multi star system may also have a less regular day - night - day - night pattern to the amount of light that arrives upon the surface. It will all depend on the orbit of your world and its distance to the suns in its solar system-

Other planets or terrestrial objects of significant size that lie close to your fantasy world could also be the reason for creating night time by blocking out the sun's light. A world of extreme eclipses. A total solar eclipse, where the Moon moves directly between the sun and the Earth are infrequent. NASA states that the people who see the eclipse are at the centre of the shadow. It effects only a small portion of the globe. But imagine a world with numerous satellites like the moon, which move into the correct alignment to create an eclipse with their star on a regular basis. Would it be a world ruled by superstition? Perhaps, confused nighttime creatures play havoc in the shadows forcing the day-timers back into their abodes?

The moon is more than just a pretty object in the sky. The moon's gravitational force combined with the sun effects the movement of our oceans, seas and to a small extent, large lakes. Significant bodies of water, bulge in the direction of the moon, pulled by its gravitational force. How do moons interact with your fantasy world? Are they responsible for the rise and fall of the oceans? How many moons does your fantasy world have?

One of the most popular scientific theories hypothesize (Giant Impact Hypothesis) that the moon was once a large asteroid or planet that collided with the earth. The moon is currently pulling away from the Earth and out of the Earth's gravitational pull. If a similar impact occurred with your fantasy planet what influences could it the collision have had? Could the two bodies have shared atmospheres and exchanged material? Perhaps even the first elements of life as is speculated by some schools of thought about Earth?

Another consideration when developing your own star maps for your fantasy world is the number of planets that exist in your solar system, the location of those planets and proximity to your world, whether life exists on those planets and what type of interaction those planets have with your own fantasy world.

Constellations have not just been used for predicting the future or characteristics about a person based on their birth and the alignment of planets. Constellations have been quite handy for developing religions in many societies and are still used as a navigational tool for seaman and other adventurers.

The night sky has many fascinating elements that you could utilize in your fantasy world and as part of your science fiction and fantasy writing. Passing asteroids, black holes, shooting stars, comets and UFO's are fascinating things to have interacting with your fantasy planet. Of course you could come up with your own fantasy stellar object like a plasma star bridge that joins your fantasy world to your moons or other dimensions.

Starmap created for my geo-fiction and fantasy world, Azur
Starmap created for my geo-fiction and fantasy world, Azur

If you are developing your fictional world for a fantasy story, using the information about your solar system in your story can be challenging particularly if the interaction of stellar objects is subtle and not weaved into the storytelling as a main or secondry theme.

Navigational star charts might be useful to create if you have a seafaring or other travelling or nomadic characters. Desert cultures might also use the stars to navigate across the expanse of ever changing sea dunes. If you have characters who are involved in religions and other types of cults then they may be influenced by astral events and could discover meaning, purpose and symbolism through happenings they see and experience in the sky.

If you are a fictional world builder or geofictionalist than you may want to dig deeper into the external influences of your fantasy world. Learning how Earth is influenced by external factors will provide you with a good foundation on how to approach and apply the external influences to your fantasy world and it will also help to foster your imagination.

Opinion Please!

If your world was a computer generated program, which external influence would you consider most important?

See results

Questions & Answers

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      • poppyr profile image

        Poppy 

        44 hours ago from Tokyo, Japan

        There are a lot of great ideas here. Thank you for sharing!

      • cam8510 profile image

        Chris Mills 

        2 years ago from Hartford, CT

        I could have used this article a year ago when I wrote in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. In the first round, I got SciFi which I had never written before. I'll keep these tips in mind just in case it happens again this year in the challenge. Good work on this hub.

      • profile image

        Ethan Digby-New 

        3 years ago

        I really enjoyed reading your article, your insights were incredibly helpful. I can't wait to read more from you!

      • Nadine May profile image

        Nadine May 

        4 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

        What a great article on the very topic I'm drawn to for several reasons. Foremost what we can imagine we can make real. I have several Navigational star charts and have collected a great many scientific articles in order to understand our meanings, purpose and symbolism we all have. Thank you!

      • htodd profile image

        htodd 

        6 years ago from United States

        Nice article ,I really appreciate it

      • profile image

        KDuBarry03 

        6 years ago

        This is definitely a very important Hub for any SciFi/Fantasy writer. I have a feeling that this kind of information should be memorized, like the back of your hand (I know, cliché), when creating an artificial world. One suggestion I would make, for any writer, is to base their solar system around a discovered star and build it from there. Say you are basing your artificial world around Altair the star, you have to consider luminosity, mass, heat, and the distance of planet-to-sun for their to be a form of habitable life (as we know it). Overall, this hub is definitely insightful and I will be finding myself here again and again for recapping.

      • Tinsky profile imageAUTHOR

        Tina Dubinsky 

        6 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

        Hi Shape Shifter, Glad to see your enthusiasm for world building and writing. Its my fav pastime I'm off to check out your preview of Critical Mass :)

      • Tinsky profile imageAUTHOR

        Tina Dubinsky 

        6 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

        Yes. But like myself, you can purchase a license to use it. I purchase licenses for images that I use from places such as istockphoto.com or dreamstime.com (not too expensive to use). Both sites have a great database of images which are perfect for adding imagery to text created world.) Sometimes I find a whole new fantasy world can be born from the imagination when appreciating someone else's art.

      • profile image

        bleeding_black_blood 

        6 years ago

        Is the image copyrighted????

      • shape_shifter profile image

        shape_shifter 

        6 years ago from The Free Waters of Planet Earth

        Great topic, and great writing! As a sci/fi writer who had to create two different worlds, I definitely understand what you are saying about external influence of surrounding stars (their sun, etc) and planets... it's the basis for my entire world... believeability is very important to me in fiction!! I usually even start out with systems that really exist, then add my own planets and details. (Check out the binary relationship of the planets, and even the twin moons, in Critical Mass the novel I preview here on HubPages!) Great hub! You're a great writer!!

      • Tinsky profile imageAUTHOR

        Tina Dubinsky 

        7 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

        @Astra Nomik, @Robert Teague & @Mr. Smith - Thanks for your encouraging and kind words. If you have any areas on Fictional World Building that you'd like to know more about or discuss, let me know. Happy to put some more thoughts and ideas together if it will help any fictional world builder.

      • Tinsky profile imageAUTHOR

        Tina Dubinsky 

        7 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

        @M. T. Dremer - I have found similar incongruities in my own geofiction which is quite condense in parts and at times the amount of information I am creating can superseed consistencies if I need to "get it all out". Because I use a lot of the information to ensure my text role playing follows the rules of the world I am making - I sometimes find the inconsistencies as I'm roleplaying. I use a wiki style CMS for my geofiction and it does help a little to cross reference information more easily. I don't think that making errors hurts writing, so long as they are fixed when noticed, although for some very good authors I don't think errors matter at all. If the story is super intriguing then I, as a reader, can overlook a few misplaced geographical placements (though it might be worth a shared chuckle with hubby).

      • Tinsky profile imageAUTHOR

        Tina Dubinsky 

        7 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

        @ThePelton- I have been giving some considerable to your response and I guess it would all depend on the physics that exist in the universe / solar system for Tattoine. Since I'm not a star wars fan I'll have to leave it up to other commentors to throw in here for some help? Though, I dead read recently, a news science article on the discovery of large planets that roam outside of solar systems in our own Universe. Perhaps this could eventually by the outcome for Tattoine?

      • ThePelton profile image

        ThePelton 

        7 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

        One problem I could forsee is that having multiple suns could perturb orbits of planets, causing them to vary greatly in their path or distance from the suns. That scene of the double sunset in "Star Wars" was interesting, but could Tattooine have remained in a proper orbit?

      • Mr. Smith profile image

        Mr. Smith 

        7 years ago from California

        You really put it all together for the fantasy writers who struggle with focus. Great job!

      • M. T. Dremer profile image

        M. T. Dremer 

        7 years ago from United States

        This reminds me of a problem I had recently with my fantasy novel. I wrote a scene where the sun set over a lake because I liked the visual it created. However, I soon realized that I had written a similar passage elsewhere, depicting the sun rising over the same lake! And it wasn't the other side of the lake either, I had accidentally risen and set the sun in the exact same place. I could make all sorts of arguments to make it make sense, but the reality of the situation is I just hadn't been paying attention. So I had to go back and fix one so that it rose in the east and set in the west. You don't necessarily think you'll be nit picking over where the sun is when you start writing a fantasy novel, but it's just an example of how every little detail counts.

      • Robert Teague profile image

        Robert Teague 

        7 years ago

        Very interesting stuff, Thank you for this, it can be very helpful information.

      • Astra Nomik profile image

        Cathy Nerujen 

        7 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

        This is very interesting. I read fantasy a lot as a girl, and want to get back to reading it (and maybe writing it) again. This is a great hub, and it is encouraging to read how you see the world in this interesting way. Thank you.

      • Tinsky profile imageAUTHOR

        Tina Dubinsky 

        7 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

        Thank you for encouraging feedback. I really am glad to be inspiring your creative juices. I am working on my next geofiction topic which I am aiming to publish before the end of the week.

      • W. B. Isley profile image

        W. B. Isley 

        7 years ago from Monett, MO

        A fabulous piece of work! You have given me many things to think about. I have many different worlds in my scifi series. Thank you for putting these articles out here. I'll be reading more of them in the future.

        Bless you and keep up the good work.

      • CaitlinRose17 profile image

        CaitlinRose17 

        7 years ago from Mississippi

        wow, this really made me think about the fantasy book i'm writing! This must have taken a long time to write with lots of research and hard work. thanks for sharing! I am all inspired to get "cracking" on the invention of my own fantasy world. :) voted up fo' sho'

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