1. molly16
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    molly16 New Member

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    Writing Future-Set World?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by molly16, Apr 12, 2012.

    Hi!

    I was wondering what you guys think is the best way to write an "alternative future" type story. Of course there is new technology and new ways to do things. How do you address it? I would find it awkward to compare it to modern-day, because 1) it's not going to be "modern-day" for long and 2) the characters have no real idea about the times now.

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    It's in third-person, not a time traveler story either.

    Suggestions?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Let the readers draw the conclusions. Just show the world as it is for your characters. Don't compare - your characters have no notion of our world.
     
  3. Jowettc
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    Jowettc New Member

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    What's that? Do you mean a speculative future piece? If so - you do whatever way you want based on the plot. Not really sure what you're asking here tbh.
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Breaking Beard Contributor

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    I agree with this advice wholeheartedly. To add my own input, I have to say: take logical steps. This seems obvious, but it needs to be reiterated.

    Maybe your characters have no notion of what our current day and age is like, but you do. If you're basing your future on having come from this day and age, you need to take logical steps. You need to look at the global community as a whole and ask yourself, "What could potentially happen? How will the world change?"
    Obviously, the further forward in time that you set your fictional future, the more liberal you can be with the changes in society. But you do have to remember that the world you're building is coming from the one you live in now. That's a very important thing to remember. A lot of the futuristic fiction I've read in the past while has been done well, but been ruined by just a few just plain illogical factors.
     
  5. Jowettc
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    Jowettc New Member

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    I could not disagree and yet agree more. There is just as much tired science fiction out there based on the premise of what if Apple / toyota / Western digital etc. invents a....

    The starting point of any sci-fi plot need not be around what we have here and now and how it might play out - why? Because if you go back and look at what the most pre-eminent futurists said about the year 2000 and what the world would be like - they had not even a clue, why, because something amazing came along either politically, or technologically or humanistically or both.

    THAT SAID - once you settle on a plot premise, make the progression and the science LOGICAL and not jittery. Of course this depends on the specificity of the genre you are writing for - Hard Sci-fi is just that - hard. It relies on real science and understanding and the progression of what we expect now, whether that turns out to be accurate or not. BE careful, try as many things as you can and write, write, write, submit, submit, submit and hopefully you'll get some professional feedback from publishing hosues. Perseverance wins.
     
  6. EAGLE
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    EAGLE New Member

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    I write a lot of sci-fi and I have to say you can compare. Alternative futures aren't much different, you just have to realize where you are splitting our current timeline and creating your own. Once you have that down you can figure out which things you can relate back to and which you can't.

    This is from my current story I'm writing.


    "The President walked forward through the Marines and just stopped to observe the sphere that was elegantly hovering off the ground. It bobbed up and down like an old fishing bobber."

    You just can't do it quite often everything has to have it's own feel, but comparison here and there helps paint a better image to your reader.
     
  7. shangrila
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    shangrila New Member

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    You don't need to explain anything, just describe it like you would anything else. Your characters probably know what it is and readers should pick up whatever the item is meant to do during the story, so it'll work out.

    I guess, if you get really stuck, you could introduce a character who's a history buff. Then, occasionally, you could have him translate a future item into a modern day item for the reader. I might stay away from just describing things using modern day items though. For example, Stephen King does it a lot in the Dark Tower and its kind of weird reading an alternate dimensional gunslinger whos never stepped foot in our world describe things as being like a tv or something.
     
  8. PeterC
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    PeterC Member

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    I think it's important to keep in mind that people in the future will be the same as they are now (depending on how far in the future you mean) and will have basically the same problems and the same issues. As far as technology goes, my advice is to say as little as possible about it. No matter what fantastic technology you imagine your descriptions will probably sound ridiculous in twenty years. Either your imagined technology will just seem silly or we'll already have something better in real life by then. Downplay the technology and don't talk too much about how it works. Focus on the characters and what drives them. Use the technology as a backdrop.
     
  9. Mezza
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    Mezza Member

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    ^ Best piece of advice in this thread.

    Your world is an alternate. Therefore it's a work of fiction and that in itself gives you a world of freedom to play around with. If you want to play with a 'What if X happened' then write what you think would happen. If you want to introduce new technologies then do so. If you want to keep technology stagnant due to some event you've contrived then do it. Ultimately you should feel free to create and draw no lines to this world within your story because as stated in the above quote your characters have no knowledge of this world.
     
  10. JHockey
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    JHockey New Member

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    I have written a short story so far set in a near-future dystopia. I'm thinking of extending it to a novel and to do this I'm finding it helpful trying to build a whole background world to my story. Not all these details will come in the story, but atleast this way it gives you more confidence describing that world and making it believable. And you can have more confidence that it will turn out to be tenable and coherent this way. So that would be my advice, build up this alternate near-future world surrounding your novel or story to give it a more realistic overal setting.

    More specifically, this means considering some things that are quite boring in themselves and won't come up much in the story. But being there in the background adds to realism. Such as the economy, how people earn a living in this society, what kind of politial rule is there in the society, is there a class divide and based on what grounds: status, work, income? Also, what are prominent cultural traits, beliefs, and how are people educated. These kind of things... They can be quite boring, as I say, but having them clear in your head in the background should make the story more realistic, and so more gripping for the reader.
     
  11. Ettina
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    Ettina New Member

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    But don't go overboard with that. I don't litter my conversations with references to the 1600s, for example. Use modern-day references sparingly, and no more often than other time periods before and after. (Unless you establish that your character is obsessed with our era.)
     
  12. Kesteven
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    Kesteven New Member

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    That can be an issue too though, I mean the fact is that the reader is modern-day, and they need references they can understand. In fantasy and scifi writing I'm often thrown by 'local' descriptions. Sentences like "The zepplon fell to the surface of Glea like an oplian gobbleflex" tell me, without context, very little. I can extract that something fell to something with a surface, and that it did it much like something else might have. But it doesn't serve the function of an actual simile.

    Some writers use phrases like 'soared like an Arcturan moonfly' on the basis that we can kind of imagine what an Arcturan moonfly might look like and how it might soar. But it still often strikes me as cheesy writing. Not sure what the best balance is, really. I think it's probably OK to use modern references as long as it's clearly the narrative doing it, not the characters.
     
  13. PeterC
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    PeterC Member

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    I think this is a significant challenge with writing science fiction and fantasy. My WIP is told entirely from the point of view of an alien race. They are obviously not going to describe things in human terms. In fact the story would be much less interesting if they did. On the other hand dealing with this has been an ongoing issue for me and I'm still struggling with it.

    I've used two approaches. First I regard the work as a translation to English and the translators, whoever they are, have substituted certain English words for alien terms where that makes sense. This works fine for everyday words like "book" or "key" and so forth. As for the rest of it, I just just introduce the words I need as naturally as possible but I try to limit the number of alien words and reuse them often so the reader can build up a good idea of what I'm talking about. For example when I first mention "rigat trees" the reader has no idea what they look like except that they are some kind of "tree." As the story unfolds I mention various aspects of a rigat tree here and there as part of the normal descriptions in a scene. I think by the middle of the story the reader has a reasonably good idea of what such trees are like.

    The challenge is that I'm juggling quite a few alien words in a similar way at the same time. I agree that it if isn't handled right it just sounds silly and cheesy. Naturally I'm hoping for a better effect than that.

    I also appeal to a notion of cultural parallel evolution. Yes, my characters are aliens, but they have a technologically advanced society and are dealing with many of the same issues we have been in our society. That, of course, is part of the point of the story. Their solutions to those issues look similar, even if not identical, to ours and so the reader finds a mixture of the familiar and the alien in their world. I like that and, for me, that's what makes it fun to write about.
     

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