Brainstorming Series: Science & Technology

Developing the technology of your world

When you set out to write speculative fiction, many times you’ll be writing within a world very different from our own. Whether your story is set in ancient times or the far future, your people will still have a set understanding of science and, thus, a certain level of technology.

In order for your readers to feel oriented within your fictional world, it’s important for you to establish what kind of technology they can expect to find within your book. Any deviation from what is “normal” will need to be clarified and used consistently. If your world is mostly medieval but they’ve discovered radio communications, that needs to be made clear and it needs to make sense…otherwise the random radio in the middle of the stone, torch-lit castle will be very jarring.

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So your fictional world needs its own language, huh?

I guess your first question should be: How much of a language do you need?

There are several levels of fictional language that you can utilize for your world. It really just depends on a.) how/how much you’ll use it b.) how important it is to the setting and story and c.) how much work you as a writer want to put into your world that most likely won’t make it into your novels.

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Brainstorming Series: War & Conflict

Deepening Social and Political Conflict in your Fiction

In many speculative fiction works, war or civil unrest is common. Sometimes a given. And yet so often, these grand, world-shattering wars are shallow when looked at straight-on. If you think about the history of the conflict or the spark that sent the nations to war, you can come up kind of dry. A lot of readers are tired of “WAR” being the default backdrop of a story, especially when it’s used as a prop rather than handled with the care it should be.

So how do you make sure that your social and political conflicts don’t just provide a canvas to your story, but help deepen and strengthen the world and the characters therein? Simple! Just do a little thinking!

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Characters as World Building Tools

“DON’T INFO DUMP,” said every writing-advice-giver ever.

And that advice is so annoying, isn’t it? You’re going along, writing your first draft…or maybe you’re revising your old draft…whatever stage your in, if you’re trying to build a world in a well-paced, interesting story, then it can be difficult to find places for brief bouts of exposition and backstory.

It would be so much simpler to just have a paragraph or seven where you spout out all of the relative information in one go so you can get to the meat of the scene. Or maybe you could find a way to use your powerful brain waves to transfer all that information to your reader. Or…can information be absorbed intravenously?

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Brainstorming Series: Religion & Belief

Creating belief systems and religions in your fiction

Perhaps you need to flesh out an elaborate, convoluted system of religions and philosophies. Perhaps you just need a facade, with a few bits of detail to give it the feel of depth. The kind of belief system you write into your novel–or the presence of one at all–will rely heavily upon the scope of your book and the world it’s set in. So take these questions, prompts, thoughts, etc. and use them as you see fit. You might only want a handful of things, or you might find it beneficial to go through the whole list. It’s all about what you and your story need. 🙂

The First Big Questions

What are the belief bullet-points of your religion? The 5-6 most important things that sum up the belief system as a whole.
Those bullet-points might answer these questions:

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Brainstorming Series: Politics & Government

Establishing your fictional government

If you have a society of any kind within your story, chances are there is some form of government. It might be a relatively new group of rebels trying to settle a home, or it might be a millennia-old empire.

Now, if you’re like me, grasping the formation and nuances of politics is really hard. I’m pretty sure I slept through most of my polisci classes in college and I definitely barely scraped by with a C. Unfortunately, even those of us who are polisci-indifferent often have to consider the impact of government within the stories we write.

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Brainstorming Series: Map Making

Creating maps for your world

There are so many ways to go about making a map for your story, that I’m almost intimidated to try and make a useful post. I’ve done a few things regarding maps in the past, but this will be a more comprehensive look at the physical act of getting the image of your world down on paper. Or, at least, fanning the spark of your idea and developing it further.

Method One: Freedraw

This is my preferred method. I sit down with a pencil (or a drawing tablet, more often) and sketch a wiggly line in a nonsensical shape. I usually end up with something like this:

A single country. peninsulas, islands, bays, the works. Inevitably, I see silly faces in my land masses and I always make a point to name them.

That’s not meant to be advice, just…a me thing. Anyway…

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Brainstorming Series: Civilizations


Creating functioning civilizations in your fiction

Let’s be frank: a lot of this section is likely to be left out of your novel. Why? Because the ins-and-outs of how a city or village functions on a very basic level isn’t really that enthralling. Here and there, a detail will peek through into your narrative, but whole chunks of these thoughts will be jotted down as notes and then left alone forever.

So why does it matter?

Like so many other aspects of worldbuilding, you–the writer–knowing every tiny detail will help you create a full, vibrant world on the page. You might not actually outline the history of your city’s sewage systems (ahem. we can’t all be Victor Hugo.) but if you’ve thought about these logistics and answered them even in a brief note to yourself, then the parts of your civilization that you do see on the page will feel consistent and real in an important way.

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