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How to build a fictional world - Kate Messner

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Why is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy so compelling? How about The Matrix or Harry Potter? What makes these disparate worlds come alive are clear, consistent rules for how people, societies -- and even the laws of physics -- function in these fictional universes. Author Kate Messner offers a few tricks for you, too, to create a world worth exploring in your own words.

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TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

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  • Educator Kate Messner
  • Director Avi Ofer
  • Narrator Kate Messner

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
The world building strategies of popular books like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have been analyzed in great detail by writers and critics alike. The NPR piece “At Home in Fantasy’s Nerd-Built World” continues the conversation, taking a look at the magical creation of George R. R. Martin’s world in Game of Thrones.

If you’re ready to create your very own fictional world, it’s great to start by reading lots of examples – and read like a writer, studying the craft of world building. Pay attention to the details and ask yourself why the author might have made the choices he or she did.

When you’re ready to move forward, you may want to use author Kate Messner’s world building worksheet as a guide. Part I takes a look at the basic setting for a work of futuristic fiction. Part II challenges you to dig deep with a close look at the society – its rules and its power structure. And Part III casts a spotlight on everyday life.

Author/educator Kate Messner’s science thrillers Eye of the Storm and Wake Up Missing may serve as additional mentor texts for writers who want to build their own futuristic worlds. Kate’s TED Talk, “Building Dark Worlds to Make a Better One,” takes the conversation to the next level. How might we use these world-building strategies to create not only fictional worlds to but improve upon the real world in which we live today?
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About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Kate Messner
  • Director Avi Ofer
  • Narrator Kate Messner

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