*The resident blog owner is frantically packing her office, so she can frantically unpack her office at the other end and then frantically finish a book. How in h*ll this move feels “surprise” I don’t know, except we didn’t expect the deal to go through till last minute. And because it was a short sale, I’m on phone to contractors twenty four seven, even in my sleep, mostly trying to get estimates. It was hilarious to have the doctor come in late to her office, and I’m on the phone. I think she appreciated the irony. there was a little smile. On that front, I have had a steroid shot, I’m on antibiotic, but they didn’t have the steroid cream anywhere in town, so I’m waiting on that. The shot worked to the extent it’s now merely a very bad auto-immune attack, not a near-fatal one. OTOH Dan threw out his back, so I REALLY have to go and do stuff.*
Worldbuilding: a question of depth – Sabrina Chase
A really good story is one that you keep thinking about long after the last page is read—where you think about living in that world yourself, or worry about what happens to the characters later on. As the proud recipient of a fine collection of reviews from readers complaining that I “made them” keep reading until the wee hours or demanding further adventures, I think I may have figured out one or two ways to suck the reader in and keep them submerged. Happily.
Make your world consistent:
If there is an impediment in chapter 1 it had bloody well better be an impediment in chapter 20, or you must present a really good reason why it isn’t any more. No waving of hands, either. Somebody will have had to work at solving the problem, and usually on-screen. E.g. in the Sequoyah series, there is no FTL data transmission. Every message has to be carried on a physical courier ship, and the delays from the frontier/war zone are on the order of weeks. This has the effect that in some instances, the characters can’t call the high command for instructions when an emergency comes up. They have to use their initiative and really, really hope they are right when the board of inquiry convenes.
In a similar vein, if the Holy Bunny Slippers are the most important religious artifact in your world, the characters should act like that all the time—or feel very daring and wicked when they make tentative jokes about wearing them. Nothing makes the reader surface like an exploding submarine faster than being told something is important, and then seeing it treated like a stale sandwich.
Oh God, the dragon is moulting again:
What do ordinary people in this world worry about? Most of the action in the Sequoyah series is in artificial environments—either space stations or ships. (or a planet, Bone, where there isn’t enough oxygen to breathe all the time). So, people worry about air a LOT. Think about our expletives. They tend to feature things we feel a sharp spike of emotion about. Sex, violence, blood, religion. So, to the Fringe people, anything to do with compromised breathing environment is a Bad Thing. Expletives I used in the series are things like “hissing leak”, “leaky gasket”, “pissing air”. And then, see step 1 above, BE CONSISTENT. Do not have people acting all nonchalant about leaks later on.
Crimes are committed by people who want what they can’t get, for whatever reason. In a fictional world, you can have new stuff they want, or you can have ordinary stuff that for some reason is very hard to get. If you have a scarcity that is unusual in our world, there won’t be a corresponding crime wave here-and-now. But in your alternate world, this need will have people finding criminal ways to scratch the itch. Example: on the Fringe, labor is scarce. And people can restrict mobility easily, by restricting access to spaceships for escape. Ergo, slavery happens. It has happened enough, and is enough of a temptation, that it is a capital crime in this world.
Biological science is also much more advanced. Therefore gene theft is a real thing, and also has severe punishments. Culturally, people regard it in the same light as sexual molestation—a violation of a person’s privacy and body. Moire, from our time with our mores, thinks her crew will not be willing to take the risk of rescuing the artificially created human slaves, but the crew thinks of it a gene theft and wonder why she thinks they wouldn’t take action.
Don’t change everything:
Assuming your characters are human, there will be some universals. Parents will still brag about their children and show the equivalent of pictures to all victims that can’t get away. Interactions will still involve status evaluation and negotiations. People will still get lonely/jealous/bored. Every large human gathering will have the equivalent of CMOT Dibbler trying to make a fast buck. It might be mimmoth on a stick, or Venusian mudgrub, or a cultured protein nodule, but the basic concept remains the same. The credulous and the bored will read gossip magazines with highly improbable stories—only the details of what is improbable will change. Sequoyah has the equivalent of the National Enquirer, and it features “deranged gestational facility worker switches babies” (advanced biotech=artificial wombs, but people still worry about getting the right baby back from the hospital, oh yeah, and some people are just plain nuts) and “pirates attack” (that is a hardy perennial from all eras. Everyone worries about Bad People doing Bad Things to them.) And of course, the bureaucrats you shall always have with you.
There are other ways, but these have worked for me. I hope these prove useful to you, as well.