How does one properly go about creating a fictional world? I have no idea! But I can tell you how I’ve tackled it so far. The characters in my story come from life – they’re like a Frankenstein monster, made up of different personalities, features, and actions from people I know and read about. They come from the best and the worst.

Today’s Autumn is the world I want to live in, but it’s the product of a tumultuous past, a mixture of real American struggles and artistic flourishes. The visual beauty and development of the city comes from that slow progression. If you’re intrigued, please step into the fictional world of Autumn…

The goal of worldbuilding is to create the context for a story. Believability is essential.


If the setting is Virginia, then what else is in the description?

I grew up in a suburban area in the bayou city with flat land all around. I knew I wanted to place this fictional city in a more impressive environment with better vistas and weather. The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia became the perfect destination.

Autumn represents the best of Virginia so I want it to exist in a partially obscure location somewhere in the western side of the state. This gives me enough leeway to interact with real locations but also build and grow where I want.

City planning

The foundation for a fictional history has to start almost in the same way as an actual city does, from the ground up. For the sake of consistency and historical accuracy, that means planning is necessary. Where to start? How about with the layout of roads?

Juggling events that come later with a layout that is mostly permanent is difficult, but important. Wherever I need things to feel real and last long term, I rely on real places for information. The city layout, then, is a mix of real info and artistic license.

There are two ways to go. One is an organic type of growth that creates pockets of neighborhoods to get lost in (Old Paris). The other, a strict geometrical layout forms long vistas towards specific landmarks, but also has a sense of sanitation in its shape (New York). I’m looking for a blend of the two and one that makes sense in the context of history and the story.


Jeffersonian architecture is prominent in Virginia; red brick and white trim. I fell in love with it the moment I moved there. The history of architecture also rapidly changed throughout the late 19th century with Greek Revival, Second Empire, and Victorian styles becoming prominent. There’s a lot to choose from, and there must exist a lasting relic of old styles in Autumn for it to feel like an ideal city, in my eyes.

Modern architecture, in most cases, relies on cheap materials, conceptual ideas, and relatively temporary structures in contrast to beauty and permanence. But I can’t ignore history. Old buildings went out of style and were often torn down. Therefore, my story must look for a way to include a traditional “Main Street” style that also incorporates the 20th century architectural trends. Fortunately, Virginia has plenty of communities that accomplish this so this will be my model.


The whole point of setting the project in Virginia is to appreciate the natural environment that exists throughout the region. Why would I go and destroy that for the sake of urban growth?

New York may have a beautiful series of parks, but I don’t want a futuristic looking Metropolis.

The philosophy behind my ideal city is that it is a balance between nature and urbanization.  The dominant side should always be nature. Trees, parks, mountains should take precedent over steel and concrete. How can a city become prosperous without destroying the surrounding land? That’s one of the questions I’m looking to answer with this project.


I proudly claim Houston, Texas as my hometown. The food, comfort, and diversity are wonderful aspects of the city. Appalachia, however, is not exactly known for its diverse population.

How can I rectify that fact with the ideals of my city? It’ll take some finagling and some special fictional moments to alter that timeline. Autumn will be quite an exception for the state, and it’ll be the characters that bring about that change.

The Past

I talk a lot about history and the importance of incorporating it into this project. When artists and writers create new worlds, they have the freedom to add whatever historical events they need to support their modern society.

I’ve chosen to rely on regional timelines to build my city. I can’t contain my fascination with it, but my goal is not to be a strict historian. I want to create. I’m looking to take real people and mold them into new characters; to look at real events and movements and to weave them into my city’s history.

The past, specifically the American story, is an important aspect of the way Autumn evolves and exists in modern times.


The music, art, food, and entertainment of Virginia is rich and unique, but it’s not the only culture I love. Like the diversity argument, I’m planning to bring in new groups of people to add to the mixture of cultures in Autumn. These will be expressed in various ways like restaurants, festivals, characters, etc.

Bluegrass and Tejano music together!? If I love it, it’ll find a way into the local mix.


Here’s where I have the most freedom. The characters are my pawns to do with what I please. I can exert pain and suffering or pleasure depending on where I think the story needs to progress. They may represent people I know or historical figures, but they are the voices through which I express my ideas.

I get to play with good and bad, right and wrong, privileged and underrepresented figures. This is where the stories flourish. Tycoons, union workers, activists, students, mayors, gardeners, civil servants, immigrants, tourists…

The Future

What’s in store for the future of Autumn? Hey now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m very cautious about depicting the progress of a city ahead of the present for one reason – it will become dated.

You look at artwork that predicted the world in 1900 and you’ll find horse and carriages next to zeppelins. I really would like to delve a few years ahead of time for the story so I don’t have to alter too much of our past, but it can’t be so far ahead that it falls beyond our visible horizon.

We live in a very unpredictable time right now with technology advancing so fast. I’d like to concentrate on using our past lessons to create a present world we’d like to live in.

My Utopia

This may be the most difficult idea to explain clearly. I consider Autumn to be my utopia project, but it is not a utopia.

I remember in school, we would occasionally have a project where we were instructed to create our perfect world. Some had amusement parks, others had Kool-Aid water fountains everywhere. Whatever the case, we added things we loved without understanding the consequences of those additions. We may have not realized that building an amusement park required demolishing natural land or might lead to noise for local residents. And Kool-Aid fountains? Think about the sanitary aspects of that or the dental effects of a constant flow of sugar water to children.

My point is that it’s hard to separate wants and needs when thinking about the perfect place. I’ve come to a realization, also, that humans will always be at least partially unhappy with their lives. We always find ways to complain no matter how much joy we have in our lives. It’s natural. Make a trip to the “happiest place on earth” and tell me there aren’t plenty of frustrated parents who are constantly complaining.

Autumn will not be a Shangri-La with perfect people walking around with smiles plastered to their faces.

So what is my utopia exactly? It’s the infrastructure; the successful long term projects of society. The buildings, programs, and organizations that create a framework for being happy in life. These provide the best opportunity to live with the focus of community and improvement.