How can I seamlessly incorporate my fantasy world into the real world we experience today, especially without info dumping? For example, adding cities/towns to an already well-known city? A country to the globe? Even more specifically, I’m thinking of making Washington DC a state in my story? I ask this question because, as long as you are working the real world into your story, readers will nitpick realism.
Hey Kathryn, thanks for writing in!
The question of how to incorporate speculative elements into a world is a big one, so big that I can’t really answer it in a single Q&A. First, I’d recommend reading a few of our articles that touch on the topic.
- Taming Your Exposition
- Planning Your Story’s Opening Passages
- Introducing Otherworldly Elements Without Confusing the Reader
In your case, it depends a lot on how different your world is from the real world. If DC being a state is the only difference, it’s no problem. Congress could make that happen today if they wanted to. You just have to find a reason to establish it early in the story, and your readers won’t have any trouble.
The same is true when creating a fictional town. Readers will generally accept that without too much trouble. An entire city might be a bit of a problem, since there’s a limit to how many cities can realistically fit into a given area of the country. Inventing a fictional country runs into slightly problematic territory, as American readers will generally accept a fictional country in Eastern Europe or Africa, but will get weirded out if you just plop a made-up country between the US and Canada.
If you’re going more complicated, like extrapolating out what 2020 would look like if Germany had won WWI, then the best thing to do is establish your point of divergence early in the story. Find a reason for characters to be talking about Germany’s victory on the Western Front or what have you. At that point, readers will generally accept that anything different is the result of historical divergence.
Hope that answers your questions, and good luck with your writing!