Last week I shared 10 important questions writers should ask themselves when creating Science Fiction worlds. As I said before, world-building is one of the most important gears in the machine that is Science Fiction writing. It is the art of convincing a reader that a fictitious place exists. Your science fiction world must be built upon a well-founded history and abide by fixed rules. This will help to persuade your readers to believe in the fantastic elements you introduce. Here are 10 more questions Science Fiction writers should ask themselves when creating their new worlds.
Creating Science Fiction Worlds Part II: 10 More Questions
Why Is That City There?
Cities happen for reasons. Access to fresh water, arable land, mineral resources, and fishing waters are influential in whether an area can support a large number of people. As society becomes more advanced, trade and commercial considerations come in as well. War-like people will make city-building decisions with defensive considerations as well.
How Many People Live In This City, Country, And World?
A town of a thousand people has a different feel to it than a village of a hundred, or a city of ten thousand. Anonymity, as well as access to various goods and services, goes up with population. Smaller settlements have a more intimate feel.
For countries, the larger the population, the more cities, the more bureaucracy to keep it all running. The larger a land, the more opportunity for corruption, inefficiency, and operating without the knowledge of those in charge. The smaller the land, the more it will be reflective of the leadership of its ruler.
Is your world a megalopolis (Coruscant or Trantor), or is it more sparsely populated like Endor. You can also have a world with vast, unspoiled frontiers yet to explore. Pick whichever you feel fits your story better. Bear in mind that in an old world with few people, the settled areas will be only the choicest, since there is little competition.
What Sort Of Architecture Is There?
Architecture tends to track with the advance of civilization. You can lend permanence to a setting in your Science Fiction worlds by making the buildings ancient but still functional. You can make a setting seem new with in-progress construction of great works. A society in decline lets buildings and infrastructure fall into disrepair, while a thriving one will create new and better, seeking to outdo the old standards.
Even at a simple level, seeing how people adapt their buildings to their environment tells you a lot about them. Living in a rainy land with leaking roofs is an unmistakable sign of a primitive or destitute people. Living in a harsh environment and shrugging it off by ingenious building is a sign of a more advanced people.
What Government System Rules Your Science Fiction World?
Is it a monarchy, a republic, a democracy, a dictatorship or something altogether different? Will you clearly described its internal workings or purposefully leave them hazy (as in the rule of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings) to create a sense of mystique or ominous tyranny?
What Sorts Of Laws Are There?
Generally, you can gloss over laws but there are opportunities to introduce conflict in unjust or ridiculous laws or even just laws that have recently changed. The upset to society in your Science Fiction worlds can provide friction between those who have to obey the new laws and the ones who now have to enforce them. Laws that restrict freedoms or forbid things that are essential to the characters are the most likely areas to bring laws to the fore.
What Is The Political Climate?
Just because there is an established hierarchy doesn’t mean that everyone is satisfied with how it works or their place in it. Utopian politics have their place, more often it’s useful to have the friction and conflict of intrigue and rebellion. What is the class situation in the society you are focusing on? Does any one group enjoy more favor over another?
Is There A War Ongoing, Or Upcoming?
A society at peace will behave much differently from one that is fighting a war or preparing for one. Fear of spies will make outsiders less welcome. There will be restrictions on travel either by decree or practicality. The cost of certain items (weapons, armor, and imported goods) will rise dramatically. A city under siege is a prison that contains thousands.
What Is The Rest Of The World Like?
Are there other types of government and inhabitants? What is the relationship between the people you’re writing about and the rest of their world? Are they the dominant culture, or are they dominated? When you create a Science Fiction world, remember to include the types of societal differences we have ourselves.
Technologically, How Does The Science Fiction World Compare To Our World?
Is it more or less advanced, or does it have a mix of technologies? When creating a Science Fiction world, use small technological details where appropriate to create a strong sense of your fictional place as a distinctive world.
How Does Its History Influence The Present?
What wars, alliances and other situations are relevant? Every place has a history, even if there’s no intelligent life living on it. But history is even more important when you have an alien society or a completely different human society than our known ones. How has society changed because of the events in its past? What are a few major events in the history of the place that effect the present? They can be political, religious, natural or foreign in nature.
If it was a natural phenomenon, how has it affected the housing and transportation, for example? Any atrocities in the distant past that people are still ashamed of? How about a big turn in religious beliefs, based on some major event? What event could shatter the belief system of a society? Whichever you choose, you must at least know a couple of them in order to understand where these people are coming from.
Was there an attack by an outer force? If so, how has its attitude toward strangers and its defense systems adapted to that? And if there aren’t any people, what does the state of nature tell you about the ecological history of the planet?
Your Science Fiction Worlds
When you create Science Fiction worlds it needs to be extensive enough to create a plausible setting and background for your story, but it cannot substitute for the actual writing of your book. In other words, be careful that you don’t get so bogged down in or fascinated with your world-building that you neglect to actually write your book.
If you’re ready to create your Science Fiction world, the Now Novel Story Builder asks additional questions that help you work through your ideas and create a blueprint for your story that is easy to build on.
What are some questions you ask when creating your Science Fiction world? You can Comment here…
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