Creating New Worlds: Part Nine: Technology

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

I think that this part requires the most research of all when creating your new world. There are so many different levels of technology from our own history to get inspiration from - and then you can even mix and match!

In all of my stories, save for one or two, I have the technology similar to the medieval ages. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, horse drawn carriages, old style ships, etc. So I have had to do a lot of research on ship terminology and different sorts of carriages.

That may not seem like a lot but what without electricity how did they light their way? Depending on what time we are talking about there were candles, oil lamps, fire places, etc. I did research on candles once to find out what they were made of back then, how they were made, and how long they would burn! I wanted to be as thorough a I could. I was even able to put it into a scene as a side thought of the character. In trying to think of anything else than the character's current crisis, she began to clean her house and realized she needed new candles because they would only last another day or so. So while I didn't go into a huge detail about it, it was nice to now that when describing the room earlier with the "melted nub of candle sticks" I was pretty accurate.

Water is really important! How did they bathe back in the day before we have indoor plumbing? Those who were able to, would have a maid (or the Mother or wife) fill a HUGE tub (usually made of wood) with water heated from kettles on the fire. I learned this through research of course. It adds some great scenes in my stories on how much of an effort it is for the characters to enjoy a warm bath.

What about drinking water? Wells with the bucket on a chain! Squeeky water pumps that sat in the middle of town. Again, these types of things could make for great scenes in your story - a conversation around the well or someone is thrown down it! All sorts of scenarios can be cooked up with a little research to learn how things really were back in the day.

And then of course what about futuristic? Well this requires a different sort of research. You can make up your own futuristic technology - like flying cars or whatever - but it must be believable. This is where research into what cars can do today and what say planes can do today can be good. How could you put them together to make a flying car? Does the car have wings that retract when it's on the ground? You don't have to go into a huge amout of detail - like that the wings actually fold underneatht he car and cause issues with bumps in the road - but the reader needs to have enough information to believe it's possible.

I know some sci-fi writers that don't explain anything at all and just say the name of the advanced thing. This can present it in a believable way as it sort of just says "Yes, it's real cuz here it is." This can be an effective way to write futuristic technology but it needs to be handled a certain way. I recently read a book called "Hope's Folly" by Linnea Sinclair and the book mentions something called a "Carver-10" and a "Carver-12" In the context of the conversation about these items, you know that they are hand guns without the author going into a ton of detail about why or they're made of. In Star Trek, you have "Photon Torpedos". Well everyone knows what a torpedo is, and for those that aren't Trekkie fans or science majors that KNOW what a photon is, it's still enough to make your brain clue in that it's something "not normal in today's society" or as I say "futuristicy".

So even with making up future worlds a little bit of research is needed so that the technology makes sense - espeically if you only going a few years into our own future. It's 2010 right now so how much would we really change by 2050 (without a catestrophic world wide event of some sort)? But if you go into say 3050 - things could change drastically.

All in all, as I've said before, it's important to KNOW how things work before you can write about them with any real intelligence. That sounds harsh I'm sure, but it's true. I recently spent an entire afternoon researching about piracy and a pirates way of life. I probably will not use every single bit of information I read, but I do have a clear understanding of the lifestyle and what they did, and why. I can now write an effective character or plot with that information. And that's the key with Fantasy and Sci-fi -- well any story really -- have a clear, and accurate, plot.

1 Response to "Creating New Worlds: Part Nine: Technology"

Dawn Embers Says :
May 5, 2010 at 1:49 AM

You are quite the researcher. I don't often do much research, but I need to work on my world building. It's the one thing I'd say my bf does much better than me, for sure, when it comes to writing. I like research, I'd just rather write first and research later.

This has been a great series and I'm glad you picked the topic. You've done very well with it.


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