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World Building - 5 Top Tips For New Authors and SciFi Fans!

I've been a lifelong science fiction fan. That means I've journeyed through countless galaxies and timelines, experiencing many worlds that resonated with me. World-building in sci-fi is an art form, a delicate balance of imagination, science, and storytelling.

In my debut novel "The Unravelling" - the world is not too far away - 14 years to be precise. So how does it look? What's in it? In my second novel (unreleased) the world in 100 years in the future - so what does that look like? How will it make the reader FEEL?



A dystopian scene of London in the year 2038 as depicted in the novel "The Unravelling".
London, 2038 - roughly 4am. The detail of my world allows the detail of the picture to come to life.


Here are my top five tips for creating a compelling, believable sci-fi world;


1. Start with the Technology or the Science


Science fiction, at its core, is about exploring the 'what ifs' of technology & science. Begin by understanding the technological principles that will underpin your world. This doesn't mean you need a PhD in telecoms enginerring or astrophysics, but a basic grasp of the relevant concepts is crucial. Whether it's understanding how a warp drive might work, the implications of artificial intelligence, or the ecology of an alien planet, your world's science needs to be plausible enough to really draw your reader in. "The Unravelling" is not too dissimilar to today, except it's faster, slightly more sanitised and boring, VERY woke, and it's filled with automated everything.


Top Tip: I used my experience in the telecom industry to forecast cetain technological theories as a springboard for my world. For instance, I'm well versed in how wireless technology works, and how systems integrate to each other. So it's not a stretch to imagine that in just over a decade we won't need a phone, it will be something else that helps power our world. Step forward "The Rig" - this is a key element of my world.



A picture of a man in the year 2038 using his smart glasses to order his lunch while standing in a large city.
The "Rig" in 'The Unravelling'. Think the @raybanmeta glasses that are out now, but with WAY more integrated power and AR/VR capability.


2. Define the Rules of Your World


Every world has its rules, and it's essential to define these early on. These rules can be about technology, society, politics, or even basic physical laws. Consistency is key. If in one chapter, your characters can't teleport because it's deemed too dangerous, they shouldn't be able to do it later without a good explanation. In my second novel, we are introduced to "robo-butlers" who are basically servants for the mega rich, passed down between generations and regularly re-booted and re-skinned. We encounter some more working class people in the story, and they couldn't even dream of owning one of thee machines. See below for the "Tesla Optimus" robot that can fold a shirt. It's not a huge stretch to see a much more capable humanoid form with latex skin and wearing clothes being a part of our world in 100 years is it?





Top Tip: Write down the rules of your world. This can include how technology works, the limits of space travel, or the social structure of alien societies. Refer back to these rules to maintain consistency.


3. World Building means Creating a Rich History and Culture


A world is more than its physical environment; it's also its history, culture, and people. Develop a backstory for your world. What historical events shaped them? What are their beliefs, traditions, and conflicts? This depth makes your world more immersive and believable. The '1984' concept of the "never-ending war" is a real backstory element in "The Unravelling", and I've used the currect Russia/Ukraine conflict as the backdrop for that, and I painted out how it continued, and continued, and then abrubtly ended.


Top Tip: Draw inspiration from real-world cultures and history, but twist them into something unique. Maybe your spacefaring civilization is based on ancient Rome, or your alien species has a culture reminiscent of a lost Earth civilization, but with a distinct alien twist. WHat do your future governments sound like? How do their leaders behave?


4. Focus on the Sensory Details


The devil is in the details, especially in sci-fi world-building. Describe the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of your world. This sensory information brings your world to life and makes it more tangible for the reader. In one early scene in "The Unravelling", we see the protagonist wake, and we walk through his journed towards leaving the house and starting his day. The automation powers this scene, he talks to his "HIM" system to make his coffee and prep his shower, and it even orders his car for him.



A picture of a man in the year 2038, getting ready for the day and watching the news on a series of screens in his New York apartment. As portrayed in the novel "The Unravelling".
Morning time in 2038 as our protagonist gets ready and the high tech nature of his world is revealed.


Top Tip: When introducing a new setting or technology, take a moment to describe it in detail. What does the air smell like on your alien planet? What does the hum of a spaceship sound like? What is happening in one of your cities? What can you see, smell, hear? These details enrich the reader's experience.


5. Remember the Human (or Alien) Element


Ultimately, a world is defined by its inhabitants. Develop well-rounded characters who interact with and are shaped by their environment. Whether human or alien, their perspectives will offer a window into your world. Their struggles, joys, and journeys make the world relatable and engaging. In "The Unravelling", the struggles of the protagonist are clear as he feels constrained by the heavy governmental control that even rations alcohol. His irritation is clearly spelled out in his back story.


Top Tip: Create characters with diverse viewpoints. A scientist might see the world differently than a space explorer or a rebel leader. Through their eyes, different aspects of your world will be revealed.



A picture of a "gender switcher" as portrayed in the novel "The Unravelling", dressed in dystopian make up but wearing a silver dress all the while identifying as a male.
A "switcher" in "The Unravelling" preparing for the SUki concert at the party in Singapore. One of many very diverse characters that help paint the world.


Conclusion


Building a world in a sci-fi novel is a complex but rewarding process. It requires a blend of technological and scientific understanding, creativity, and attention to detail. By starting with the tech & the science, defining your world's rules, creating a rich history and culture, focusing on sensory details, and remembering the human or alien element, you can create a sci-fi world that captivates and enchants your readers. Remember, the best sci-fi worlds are those that leave readers yearning to explore them further, long after they've turned the last page.


Speak soon!

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