Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Storyworld Building: Creating Technology

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

This post now part of the book Storyworld First: Creating A Unique Fantasy World For Your Novel by Jill Williamson.

As I mentioned in my introductory post on creating storyworlds, there are four important things to consider with technology as these things greatly affect everyday life: communication, vehicles, weapons, and medicine. The first three work closely together in regards to government. Who has the power and controls the resources, controls the people. And a ruler with advanced technology will win over people without it.

If you don't know where to start, pick a time and place in earth's history to use as a general guide. For example, you could combine the late 1800s with the Native Americans of the 1400s. Perhaps steam power has been invented, so they can travel by train, but this is a peaceful people and they've never had need of guns, so they still use bows and arrows and spears for hunting.

Communication, Vehicles, and Weapons
Does your world have an internet? Cell phones? Phone lines? Something more advanced like communication implants? Or something more primitive like a messenger on a horse? How fast people can communicate affects the growth of a civilization. It also affects how well military commanders can get their jobs done. If a group of men were to travel back in time with CB radios, that ability to communicate could be a great resource in times of war.

Has someone invented the engine in your storyworld? Or are people still riding horses? Has someone invented guns? Or are we still using swords? Or maybe you've created a new weapon that's distinctive to one of the peoples in your story. I think that's awesome. Keep in mind, horses can only travel so far in a day. And they can travel farther if they walk rather than if they're run hard. So beware of having horses running like Gandalf's did in The Lord of the Rings, because Shadowfax was a special breed of horse, and most horses can't ride like he can.

You could have a people the most advanced technology ever known, but if they have terrible health care, they're in trouble. So consider medicine as an aspect you can play with in storyworld creation. In my book Captives, the people of the Safe Lands are dying from a plague. That forces them to kidnap other people, something they never really wanted to do in the past. But they're desperate. They want to survive.

Play With It
Take some time to brainstorm how the technology works and how it might come into conflict with different cultures. In Dune, off world people are fighting for control of the planet Arrakis. And we later find out that the natives to the planet, the people that the Emperor thought were so very primitive, really weren't. They knew how to live in the desert, and they had developed amazing technology to grow plants and had even learned to ride the worms. They kept all that a secret because it served their best interests for the Emperor to think they were not a threat.

Dune by Frank Herbert
In my Blood of Kings storyworld, those gifted in bloodvoicing can communicate with their minds, no matter the distance. They can also slip into the Veil and instantly see any place they've been before--and they're invisible to the people there. But their physical bodies aren't able to travel with them. Still, this level of communication and being able to spy on an enemy greatly helps in battle.

There are other things beyond those four topics to consider. When I was writing To Darkness Fled, I remember getting stuck trying to figure out if silverware had yet been invented. I later decided that different peoples could be at different levels of advancement there. And when Achan ate dinner in Mirrorstone with Lord Eli, he noticed that his host used ceramic trenchers, which were technically plates. But Achan had never seen individual plates, so to him, they were ceramic trenchers.

So when you go back through to edit your novel, keep an eye out that your technology matches what you've set up in your storyworld and look for interesting ways to add conflict.


  1. Thanks for the post Jill!

    This will help me out a lot!

  2. Nice post!! I always seem to forget to incorporate technology in my stories when I'm plotting them. Got to work on that.


    P. S. You said Galdalf, it should be Gandalf. :) :)

    1. There's a lot to remember when creating your own world. And thanks for the Gandalf tip. I fixed it. That's what I get for typing in the dark... I should really take a typing class.

  3. Thanks so much for this series, Ms Williamson. :) I'm really enjoying it and I know it will be helpful to my storyworld!
    Lots of things to consider when building a storyworld, but the way you break it down is helping me to step back and look at each element seperately and as they relate to each other. Thank-you and please keep them coming! :D

    1. I've got five posts left, Georgina. I do like breaking things down like this when I start a new book just to remind myself that I haven't forgotten something important. I'm glad that they've been a help to you.

  4. This will be very helpful- I'm brainstorming an idea for a futuristic cyberpunk...which has TONS of technology in it :)