History: The Past Shapes the Future

H is for History...
H is for History…

Stopping by for the first time for the A-Z Challenge? Read a short intro to the A-Zs of Worldbuilding here!

History is very important, especially in speculative fiction it is usually related to the current plot of a story.

You don’t need to know every little intricacy the history of your world, but you should know a few things at the very least.

History will affect your story at two levels – characterization, and plot.

Characterization

What events have shaped your character?

When was your character born?

If they die during the course of the story, when do they die?

What events have affected a character the most in their life?

  • These can be significant, or insignificant to other people. A seemingly innocent remark can change someone’s course in life if it’s said at the right – or wrong – time. Conversely, something that would seem a significant event to someone else may not be a defining moment for your character.
Where (literally) does your character come from?

How old is their hometown? (If they have a hometown.)

How long has the local government in that town been in place? When was it established?

Going further back, how long have the character’s people group been in that area?

Are there any challenges they, has a race, have had to overcome?

Start looking at the bigger picture.

What historical events happened to enable the inciting incident in your story?

What nations, governing forces, and/or historical figures (known or unknown to your character) were involved in those events?

Make note of how you currently think the plot of your story is going to affect the future of the inhabitants of your fictional world. It doesn’t have to stay the way you currently know, but it helps keep your writing and characterization consistent if you have a known goal you’re working toward.

Create a timeline.

Your timeline should include:

  • Events that affect the evolution of how a country came to be as it currently exists.
  • Events that directly affect your plot.
  • Birth and (if applicable) death dates for characters in your story – trust me, do this now.

To Sum It Up…

You don’t have to know everything about the history of your world, but make sure you do know everything about what affects your plot.

(Good grief, I’ve used the word ‘affect’ a lot in this post…)

Original Image used in Header image (which has been cropped and flipped) is by L_K_M, under a CC By-SA 2.0 license.

My intention is to turn the A-Zs of Worldbuilding into a workbook after the Challenge is finished. If you’d like to stay notified about that, you can subscribe to my newsletter here. Please make sure and select the A-Zs of Worldbuilding option!

10 thoughts on “History: The Past Shapes the Future

    1. It depends on how much your story plot relies on previously occurring events. You certainly don’t need to know every little detail of every previous day ever, but the major events that affect your plot? Absolutely.

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