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Gungan to the left

New Places

By : FernWithy

Creating and using original worlds in fan fiction

I knew it would have to be a disaster-prone world, whose loyalties were in constant question. Would they follow the Empire, or risk themselves in a pact with the Alliance? It needed to have a leader who would be an enemy to both Princess Leia and Lord Vader equally, because they would need to work together for the plot of the story. And I wanted it someplace that would be politically insignificant later on, because I wanted the story to end without throwing me into an alternate universe.

Maybe an appropriate world existed somewhere in the Expanded Universe, but if there was, in all probability, it had been explored by the professional author who created it for his or her own purposes, and I needed a world that I could explore for mine. So I created one -- in this case, Ampinua, an Outer Rim world beset by seismic upheavals and constant health crises in the wake of those upheavals. The Rebellion is courting it as well as providing humanitarian aid, but it's been taken over by a despot who was once an Imperial officer -- an officer who was dishonorably discharged by Lord Vader, who continues to loathe him and who would have preferred to execute him outright. The people are physically small and have no practical power of any sort, and really couldn't weigh in heavily on either side of the war, and don't especially care to. It was the world I needed for my story, and the only way to get it was to create it.

Creating a fan fiction world requires the interaction of many elements: the physical world, its place in the Star Wars universe, its culture, its language, and its people.

The physical world

In the real galaxy, planets are complicated entities. They have vastly varied climates and are powered by complex balances of energy and gravity. Stephen Gillett's World-Building is a very good source for writers seeking to create new planets along scientific principles.

In the galaxy far, far away (GFFA), planets are not always, let us say, slaves to geology. A single climate of desert or ice may be possible, depending on distance from the sun, but a planet with a cold water core that supports the sort of life seen on Naboo is somewhat unlikely. So, in creating a physical world in the GFFA, a writer probably doesn't need to learn the equations for the thinning of an atmosphere and the relative gravity of a planet. It is probably enough to decide what kind of terrain you need, whether or not the planet is geologically stable, and what kind of weather you want your characters to deal with.

How will it matter? Setting often has an intimate relationship to plot. The climate of Hoth is what gives the opening of The Empire Strikes Back its tension -- will Han be able to rescue Luke before they both freeze to death? More often the point in Star Wars, the setting often reflects the mood and theme of a planet. Tatooine is poor and desolate, dry... but drenched with light. Dagobah is womb-like. Endor is spring-like. Bespin is toxic, with Cloud City balanced precariously high above it. Those images help set the tone for the events that occur in those places.

So is there any benefit to creating a world with a bow to science? Absolutely, and not just to satisfy the technical-minded. Setting up a world that will behave by physical rules can help drive your plot, and provide consistency to your setting. Is your world aging? Is it young and seismically active? Is it straight on its axis, giving a world with no seasons, or is it severely tilted, giving extreme seasons? Does it have a long orbit (and therefore a longer year than standard), or a short one? How long are its months (if indeed it has a moon to judge months by)? Six months on one world may be three years on another. A geologically unstable planet can help prod your plot and move your characters, perhaps isolate them or force them to work together. A planet with exaggerated seasons could require a lot of preparation (heat suits to bear the summers, technological innovations to deal with the winters), and that preparation or lack thereof could be fulcrum for your story.

The Star Wars connection

How does your world fit into the Star Wars universe?

Plotting the planet in a galactic map is probably the least important aspect of it. More to the point is its proximity to other worlds -- is it closer to Coruscant or Dagobah? On a trade route with Corellia? Likely (like Naboo) to choose Tatooine as an emergency stop? Even more important, is it a Core World, a Mid-Rim world, or an Outer Rim world? Is it in a heavily populated part of the galaxy, or a sparsely populated one? All of those elements will interact with the GFFA.

Beyond the physical location of your world, what is its alignment? Is it a Rebel world or an Imperial world (for the Classic)? Is it dominated by the Trade Federation? Loyal to the Republic? Was it recently colonized from another world, or is it an ancient culture? Is it in constant contact with other worlds in the Republic or Empire, or is it isolated, and is that by accident or by design?

If you're writing in a time not connected to the great issues of the films, it becomes even harder to place your world in the context of the GFFA. How does it respond to a visit from the Jedi? Is it a world where the Force is known? Is it perhaps a world from which a character hails, or where his ancestors come from? Or maybe it was founded by descendents? Was it once an Imperial world that tries to hide its affiliation? Is it an undiscovered world?


Geography and political alignment are important, but the real mark of a world is its culture. Star Wars worlds tend to have some internal variety (the city vs. the country, on both Naboo and Tatooine; the clean overworld vs. the seedy underworld on Bespin, etc.), but the variations are those one would expect in a relatively unified culture. Many of these planetary cultures have echoes of Earth in them, recombined in surprising and usually satisfying ways. This is one of the things that makes Star Wars fun to work with -- it combines the strange and the familiar into a seamless whole that feels both new and lived-in. Naboo has elements of the Italian Renaissance in its architecture, Chinese and Mongolian elements in the royal costumes, and Enlightenment attitudes. The Jedi combine samurai fighting with the brown robes of medieval monks. The Empire uses visual and cultural cues from totalitarian regimes throughout history. (See Mary Henderson's Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, the companion volume to the traveling museum exhibit, for more examples.) Each also has its own unique quirks added to the mix.

Creating the culture is the fun part of creating a world. Raid your history textbooks. Comb through National Geographic. Find images and thoughts that pique your interest, and imagine how they could be juxtaposed with one another, then with the level of technology known in the Star Wars universe. You may start with an idea of what you need in a world for a plot (as I did above), and choose cultures that reflect it. Or you may start by deciding that you want to have a neo-Classical world, then decide what sort of story you'd like to tell on it. The two approaches will almost always end up feeding off one another (eg, a world created with a vague culture to feed a plot -- a religious schism combined with a natural disaster -- takes on specificity by using Earth history, then that history begins to impact the plot because it changes the way the characters behave).

What you want to avoid is exact duplication of an Earth culture. The Salem Witch Trials or the Black Death may be of great interest to you (okay, they are to me, so I'm using them as examples), and both are great jumping off points for fiction. But they are extremely specific to their times and places. To bring them into the Star Wars universe, and therefore your own story, they need other influences to balance them. Say, for instance, that a trading ship brought an infection to Theed... its response, because of cultural and technological differences, would most likely not be the same as the response in Genoa was, and it would be different from the response elsewhere in the GFFA as well.


What about language? Does your world have its own, or was it colonized by another world that bequeathed one? What is the effect of the language on the speech patterns as you'll represent them in English?

Some writers enjoy making up a full language, including words they never plan to use in their stories. J.R.R. Tolkien once commented that he created Middle Earth to be a home to his created languages. Most writers aren't quite that dedicated (or quite as gifted as linguists as Professor Tolkien), but there is something to be said for knowing at least the basics of languages spoken by large numbers of people on your planet.

Say you want your characters to have an accent (like Gungans, Toydarians, Neimoidians, etc). Understanding the basics of the language they speak among themselves will provide consistency to the created accent. What kind of grammatical structures and sounds would be likely to create the Neimoidian accent? How can Shmi's accent be accounted for without reference to Pernilla August's real world identity (should you want to do so)?

A language may also give clues to the culture. What do they have no words for? What do they have many words for? A culture that has twenty words that mean "freedom" (with minor variations) is going to be different from a world in which that word needs to be expressed tangentially. In other words, you might wonder about the political situation on a world whose Senator translates freedom as "no-soldier-ness" or the cultural situation on one whose reporters translate it as "lazy-sprawl." What are the idioms of the language, the little tics that might translate into different phrases in English? What's a linguistic taboo, and what's everyday speech?

The people

Culture, language, and affiliation are all artifacts created by the people of a world. But what about the people themselves? Are they one of the many human societies that exist in Star Wars (Corellian, Alderaani, Naboo, etc)? Or are they non-humans?

For a human world, a great deal of description of the inhabitants probably isn't necessary -- most of us have an idea of what humans look like. Differentiations will probably be in cultural areas, like clothing and architecture, and in language. Minor phenotypic variations among humans in the GFFA don't seem to draw a great deal of attention -- whether a species tends to have blond hair or brown hair apparently is not of great interest in a galaxy where a better question is whether or not they have gills and or wings.

Alien species need a bit more description. It's human nature to assume we're talking about humanoids unless we're told otherwise -- maybe not fair, but true, so if your world is populated by non-humans, be up front about it. Are your aliens smaller or larger than humans? (Or, if your viewpoint character is a known alien, stronger or weaker than that character?) Do they have special attributes, like wings or extra limbs? What kind of planetary environment might those attributes have evolved in response to? Conversely, if the world you've created has a particularly odd feature -- say, it's entirely covered with at least a few inches of water at all times -- what traits might evolve in an intelligent species native to it?

As Qui-Gon told Anakin, it's unlikely that anyone has been to all the planets in the galaxy far, far away... and that leaves a lot of room for those of us who want to visit places the movies may never have seen.

Article Rating

Current Rating is 7.82 in 33 total ratings.

Reader Comments

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Author: Mcily Nochi  (signed)
Date posted: 12/25/2001 8:32:53 PM
Mcily Nochi's Comments:

A complete and helpful article for anyone trying to create an original planet.

Author: Rori Firehawk  (signed)
Date posted: 1/19/2002 10:03:09 PM
Rori Firehawk's Comments:

Very helpful article- I have a fic I'm cowriting with someone else outside TFN, and we've created a coupla worlds... we've sorta based part of our plotline on the Russian Revolution, hehehe. The planet's really hot in the summer, and really cold in the winter... :-P

Author: Muurnk  (signed)
Date posted: 1/27/2002 1:24:35 PM
Muurnk's Comments:

Ya know I made a lot of planets, one, Sierra Verrn had to be colonized inside of it, because in the spring its 103 degrees, in the summer its 250, in the fall its -4 and in the winter its -150!

Author: Starly
Date posted: 1/16/2016 2:58:11 AM
Starly's Comments:

I'm so glad that the inrtneet allows free info like this!

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Uploaded: Monday, October 8, 2001

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