Whether your world is set on a future earth, in a spaceship speeding to a ringed planet, or in an alternate medieval high fantasy with fantastic magic, it must have an internal logic that satisfies readers. Magic needs rules and constraints, a techie world must have gadgets that match the level of society, and aliens must speak a language that makes organic sense in their environment. A military guy in an advanced world wouldn’t use a prehistoric club to bash his enemy’s skull in. In a post-apocalyptic world where the lights have gone out, people can’t have access to iPhones or even flashlights.
It’s invaluable to create a “bible” of setting elements and characters that you can refer to so that your world details remain consistent. Things to consider are: the type of government that’s in place, cultural preferences, the state of science and medicine, fashion, food, and even etiquette. Is the society repressive or liberal? What happens to those who break the law? Is there any law at all, or is there a wild anarchy? You can have endless fun imagining various combinations of these elements and playing out the “what ifs” before committing to any one system.
My new YA sci-fi, Ruby’s Fire explores the time period past a dystopia. You could call it a post-post apocalyptic era, where the world is slowly regenerating. I wasn’t interested in a novel only about a repressive government, or young adults in the midst of fighting a horrific border war. I wanted to explore what happens after that, when things take a turn for the better, when the toxic air is finally clearing a bit, when there are underground caves growing much-needed crops. I was interested in studying the people who were traumatized. When things get better do they relax? Start to share more? Or have they been so hardened by their struggles that they’re permanently scarred?
My main character, Ruby, who has escaped a dangerous desert cult, is ashamed when she finds herself falling for Blane, a boy with a terrible past, who’s the resident bodyguard at the boarding school she lands in. She worries that she’s attracted to someone as edgy and violent as the people she left behind. Or is there more to Blane, she wonders?
Many of the sectors on this changed earth are still struggling, but one in particular—Vegas-by-the-Sea—is becoming a boomtown and regaining much of the technology, lost in the disastrous border wars. The colorful George Axiom, a sharp dresser and entrepreneur governs it. His giddy enthusiasm for rebuilding takes him into shady territory when he offers to hold a student contest for big money.
That perilous balance between healing, and falling back into destruction fascinates me, and what kinds of things might disrupt that shaky equilibrium. Thus, character creation also becomes a world-building exercise.
That’s what I love about speculative fiction! I can make up entire worlds, whether spun out of highly likely terrestrial scenarios, or with fantastic alien two-headed beings that will never exist in reality.
Well… never say never!
About the Author
Catherine Stine writes YA, New Adult and middle grade fiction. Her YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One, illustrated by the author won finalist spots in both YA and Science Fiction in the 2013 USA Book News International Book Awards. It was also granted a 2013 Bronze Wishing Shelf Book Award and a 2013 Indie Reader Approved notable stamp. Her YA Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Middle grade novels include A Girl’s Best Friend.
Fireseed One sequel, Ruby’s Fire is earning advance praise from reviewers and authors:
“Ruby's Fire, returns to the sun-scorched earth of Fireseed One. In this long-awaited sequel, Stine delivers a thrilling adventure led by a new and exciting cast of characters. Ruby, Armonk, Thorn and Blane are memorable, and the romance is really well handled. Favorite quote: " It feels wrong to lean on Armonk right now with Blane staring at me, a hungry, lonely look in his eye. It’s as if he’s never been hugged, never been fed, never been loved..." ” -YAs the Word
More and more, Catherine enjoys writing speculative tales where her imagination has wild and free rein. She has taught creative writing workshops at the Philadelphia Writing Conference, Missouri University Summer Abroad, The New School and in her own ongoing NYC writing workshop. She loves her readers, and enjoys blogging.
If everything about you changes, what remains?
Seventeen year-old Ruby, long-pledged to the much older Stiles from the Fireseed desert cult, escapes with only a change of clothes, a pouch of Oblivion Powder and her mute little brother, Thorn. Arriving at The Greening, a boarding school for orphaned teens, she can finally stop running. Or can she? The Greening is not what it seems. Students are rampaging out of control and as she cares for the secret Fireseed crop, she experiences frightening physical changes. She’s ashamed of her attraction to burly, hard-talking Blane, the resident bodyguard, and wonders why she can’t be happy with the gentler Armonk. She’s long considered her great beauty a liability, a thing she’s misused in order to survive. And how is she to stop her dependence on Oblivion to find a real beauty within, using her talent as a maker of salves, when she has nightmares of Stiles without it?
When George Axiom, wealthy mogul of Vegas-by-the-Sea offers a huge cash prize for the winner of a student contest, Ruby is hopeful she might collect the prize to rescue her family and friends from what she now knows is a dangerous cult. But when Stiles comes to reclaim her, and Thorn sickens after creating the most astonishing contest project of all, the world Ruby knows is changed forever. This romantic fantasy set in 2099 on earth has a crafty heroine in Ruby, and a swoonworthy cast, which will surely appeal to the YA and new adult audience.
How do you keep your story world consistent? Do you keep a "bible" for your fictional world?