I am writing a fictional story (could be considered science-fiction) about slightly primitive people. It is set in cold environment where a day cycle takes a whole year. Inspired by Antarctica, with the weather being more of Canada. The story also includes a cave network with groundwater heated by volcanic activity, and natural crystals that glow a soft blue light.

Most of it (other than glowing crystal) could happen in a natural environment such as Earth. Although perhaps would be more understandable in an environment such as a make believe world. My only concern in setting the story in a make believe world is that it seems to me, unless done very well, the story would feel unrealistic and be harder to get absorbed in.

Would this be more believable set on Earth or in another world?

  • Welcome to Writers! It would help if this question were clearer about what it's asking. For example, the title seems at odds with the text of the question, which seems to be asking for worldbuilding suggestions. If help building a fictional universe is what you want, I can send this to the worldbuilding site. However, if you're concerned with the believability of an imaginary world, that's on-topic here; let's edit the question to make that more apparent. Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 18:09
  • @NeilFein I do not see how the text does not ask the same as the title. However, I have updated the last sentence.
    – user14025
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 20:39
  • If you're target audience is scifi readers, then your example won't be hard to connect to at all. There have been plenty of scifi stories with way, way weirder settings. Your arctic setting sounds very plausible. But if your target audience is, say, people who like to read crime mysteries/dramas, then it will be a bit harder to connect with them. If for some reason you're still paranoid about it, then use your characters to do that connection. The characters should go thru struggles so that we sympathize, the more basic struggle the better, e.g., worrying about where to find food.
    – DrZ214
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 4:56

4 Answers 4


A story set in another world is harder to get into as the differences between what we (the readers) experience compared to what happens to people on the other world.

The other answers are incorrect that it has to do with how good of a writer you are. What matters is how well the story you are writing connects to the reader. Plenty of fiction (mostly sci-fi) occur off earth, and plenty of those don't talk about or even mention earth. But the people, the emotions, the experiences are similar in fashion, though the environment is different.

Think of it like this: if you're writing about the Amazon river but have never been to it (like most people), it'll be a foreign environment. That doesn't mean that now it's harder to connect to...unless everything remains foreign. Because we can't connect to what we don't understand, and we don't understand what we don't know or see. So deliver something for the reader to experience, with familiarity in some fashion, and slowly expand from there.

  • Could you clarify some? I'm lost in your third paragraph
    – Towell
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 18:28
  • Sure. Writing about something you've imagined and/or researched, and potentially experienced, is great. That doesn't mean anyone else has experienced it. But the sense of wonder you get when, say, seeing a tall mountain is something universal to human experience. It's an emotion of enormity, of something so much more wildly massive than ourselves. So focus on writing about the feeling to connect with the reader, not just the details of the environment. That way, you share the experience, not just explain it.
    – Jamezrp
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 19:45

ultimately it depends how how good your writing is! Some are able to very fluently create alternative worlds and places and have a natural ability to describe the nuances that matter.

So really it comes down to your skill as a writer.

But then why do you need to specifically state where it is? Describe your world as a place that will have an earth feel to it, but with occasional details thrown in that will make the reader wonder...

I would say that the first task is understanding your own ability to create that world, so maybe write some short pieces and develop your skill in that area. Get some feedback and go from there...

  • I was thinking the best way would be, like you said, not state where it is set at all. It is however good to know, so that subtle implications stay consistent. Thanks for the answer! :D
    – user14025
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 20:34

The short answer is no, having a slightly fantastic setting won't make your story harder to fall into, unless you do things that break your readers' willing suspension of disbelief.

Rather than write a bunch of stuff about suspension of disbelief, I'll just direct you to this question from a few years back:

What breaks suspension of disbelief?

My advice is explain what you need to about your setting so readers understand what's going on, but leave your setting as the backdrop. Don't spend too many words on it. People who choose to read science fiction stories know what they're getting into; they just need to know the rules of the fictional world.


I'm no professional writer but it depends on your target group for a young adult audience I would think to set it on earth despite some of the unrealistic parts I don't know much of other audiences but I think the main thing is the target audience

  • Perhaps. My target group is actually teenagers. Thanks!
    – user14025
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:14
  • Then I say put it on earth probably further in the past that tends to be a good timing for your target audience. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 22:37
  • For a younger audience (such as teenagers) you can stretch the suspension of disbelief much more. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 22:41

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