I’m continuing my thoughts on building the world your characters inhabit. Although this blogsite is geared toward paranormal romance, which includes science fiction romance, all of our stories are set in a certain world. Whether your story takes place in the past, the present, or the future, you will build a world. If your story is set in the Regency time period, you’ll need to consider the politics and customs of the time. Same with a story set in a post-apocalyptic era. Who is governing? Is anyone in charge?
I am a plantser—a combo pantser and plotter. Mostly I write by the seat of my pants, but I do (eventually) have to plot. Since I just plunge in and start writing, I don’t even think about government. But, like plotting, eventually I have to. While writing my Outer Rim series, I had to consider who maintains the peace on out the Frontier. My stories take place far from the “civilized” planets. Some things I had to consider are: is there a sheriff in the settlements? A mayor? Or does chaos reign? Is it survival of the toughest? Or has the central government sent out security forces to maintain law and order? If so, why?
Usually, we start out thinking about the microcosm surrounding our characters. If the bad guys beat up the hero, is there a recourse or does he have to resort to revenge? Are there authorities he can go to who will arrest the baddies? Are the authorities reliable or corrupt? Are there laws in place to protect the innocent? Who made the laws? All things we take for granted in the present day. Considering the stories in the news, we have much to think about that could influence our stories.
In science fiction, we tend to think broader than just the outpost, village, or city where our characters live. What type of government exists on the planet? Or is it like Earth today with multiple governing bodies of differing types? Is the government a representative type, a monarchy, a dictatorship, a confederation? Think the United Federation of Planets (Star Trek) or the Empire (Star Wars). How does that world impact our stories?
Just like with the background of the characters, you need to know everything about your world. The reader doesn’t. If you’re writing a series or a group of stories loosely connected, that world may evolve. In the majority of the Star Trek television shows and movies, we know a bunch of planets have joined together into a confederation. Knowing how this came about isn’t necessary for the episodes or movies. It’s just there. The exception is in the series “Enterprise,” which focused on the early days of space exploration and the formation of the Federation.
In your story, you get to decide what to focus on. And how much the reader needs to know. Like salt in food, use a light hand.
Diane Burton writes science fiction romance, as well as romantic suspense and mysteries. From a resort town on Lake Michigan to the Frontier of space, her characters occupy a variety of worlds. She’s currently writing the third book in her Outer Rim series. FMI, visit her website: www.dianeburton.com