Guest Post: Building a Sci-Fi World by Author Ken Brosky

About the Author

Ken BroskyKen Brosky’s newest YA series starts with The Proving, which is available on Kindle now. His previous YA series was The Grimm Chronicles, which is available in its entirety on Kindle. He received his MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and has had numerous short stories published in various literary magazines.

Building a Sci-Fi World

Alien Ghosts! Warring clans! A group of young adults caught deep in enemy territory! My new YA sci-fi book, The Proving, has all of these things and more. Even in the first draft (otherwise known as the “rough draft,” otherwise known as the “junk draft”) these things were already cooking. This was a story I could really sink my teeth into. I had a story, I had characters, I had conflict … I was just missing one thing.

I didn’t have a world.

Since this is a sci-fi story that takes place in the future, I had a unique opportunity to step outside of the world we currently live in. Near-limitless creativity meant I could build my very own setting! This was a tremendous amount of power, tremendous in scope and in potential. It was also terrifying. I wanted my readers to experience innovation. New technology. Lives changed by medical breakthroughs and creative problem-solving. I wanted to build a futuristic world that was awe-inspiring and also believable.

But of course, building a world could be hit or miss. A quick look at science fiction movies gives you a good idea of just how drastically the idea of world-building can differ from story to story. In a gem like Blade Runner, the setting is incredible, beautiful, and creative. In bombs like Carnosaur and The Giver, the setting is general, bland, and uninspired. Too tacky. Too full of props. Too familiar and cookie-cutter. I wanted to make my world more detailed, more interesting and credible and incredible at the same time.

So obviously I went out and bought a couple books.

My first book was Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future. It was important to explore how the top minds in the world envisioned technology changing, and the book was a great inspiration to me. I also read a few essays by sci-fi greats like Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova, and Stephen L. Gillett. Sciencey stuff. Stuff with lots of calculations and math that I didn’t fully understand but grasped as meaningful and so I forced my eyes to focus and absorbed as much as I could.

I had my believable planet. But I still didn’t have a world.

I pondered this. I pontificated. I deliberated and contemplated and mused. It wasn’t until I started exploring our own world—planet Earth!—that I found the missing piece.


See, I’m a visual learner, which means oftentimes I need to see things in order to fully comprehend them. For me, it’s not enough to get a description of a wildlife corridor … I need to see it. I can read all about the Mesni Zagovezni festival, but once I see a picture it’s ten times more real in my mind. Even buildings work in this way: go ahead and tell me all about that super-cool new architecture going up, but it won’t have the same effect on me until I see it.

I went down a bit of a rabbit hole. I scoured the best photography from all over the world. Photos of buildings. Photos of natural wonders. Photos of cultures and customs and war and death and peace and birth and life. The stuff that inspired me? I saved it all right here so I could use it for inspiration in my futuristic world. It became a diverse, interesting, creative world. Where my first draft contained a few neat buildings and a few futuristic robots, by the third draft those same buildings had curves and definition, and the robots had gyros, weeding pinchers, and optical sensors.

Oh, sure, I changed some stuff. I modified some cool buildings I found and gave facelifts to natural wonders and evolved some of the cultures. But what I was doing was creating a unique, interesting world. One filled with the familiar, the beautiful, the menacing, the strange.

Inspired by our own planet.

About the Book

The ProvingIt’s been 133 years since the Specters invaded Earth. Like ghosts they haunt the planet, devouring anyone foolish enough to venture outside the last remaining protected cities. For some, venturing out isn’t a choice–it’s a necessary evil to prove yourself to your clan as you come of age.

But when a team of ambitious youth—New Adults—undertake a mission deep in Specter territory, they discover a terrible secret. Everything they’ve learned may be wrong … and Earth is in grave danger.


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