Technofiction Writing Tips – Part 4 of 4 – Building Believable Economic and Political Systems

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One of the first things to keep in mind is that an economic system is not a money system. A money system is part of the economic system, but economy is so much more. An economy is about how the resources of a world are exploited and how the wealth created by that exploitation is spread around. Closely related to the economic system is the political system because that describes how the people that deal with all this wealth and activity are organized, and the two are always closely tied together.

As human history has shown there are many, many ways to organize both economic systems and governments. What is important to your believability is internal consistency. wordcraftedblog

For example: suppose you have taken time to describe a Stone Age family living in a grass hut by the beach as part of a Stone Age village.

OK… then we read…

Momma hears a ring tone, whips out a cell phone, listens, and says, “Papa, it’s the Joneses. They have half a dozen lobsters to trade.”

“Tell them we’ll give them two pearls, and not a coconut more.” grunts Dad while he is mending nets with the other men who are at the hut.

What happened here? Is it believable?

What we have here is a mix of technologies, and that mix implies a difference in economies. The cell phone is not coming from the Stone Age, barter-based economy you have been setting up.

Is it believable?

It can be if your story includes elements of culture differences as part of its theme, or perhaps a touch of humor. This could be part of a story about the lives of villagers next to a new alien city that has sprung up recently, or something ala The Flintstones. But if this is a dramatic fantasy story about vikings, sirens and maidens, this scene is going to be tough sledding. wordcraftedblog

The lesson here is: Have the economy support the story. Decide what the story is about, then weave an economic setting around that premise. The story can be about the economy, or the impact of a new technology, that’s fine, but take the time to figure out the implications of the economy or technology. Some common pitfalls

The most common pitfall I see in stories is scale. Here is an example:

The messenger rushes in, bows before the king, and relates the bad news.

The king’s face darkens with outrage. He shouts, “GENERAL MAYHEM!”

“SIR!” replies the general who moves to in front of him and salutes.

“This means war. I want you to attack The Baron’s castle at…” checks his wrist hour glass, “Five o’clock this afternoon.”

“Yes Sir!” General Mayhem salutes crisply, about faces, and marches out.

…Umm, yeah! This general is going to mobilize how many men? Have them march how far? In how long? This is a scale problem. In an effort to rush the story along, this writer has de facto shrunk the army to about twenty men, made General Mayhem a sergeant, put the Baron’s castle about five miles away, and made it about the size of a McDonald’s.


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