Thursday, August 15, 2013

Creating the Future World: Keep it the Same

Hi, P. J. Hoover here, and for the next few times I post, I'm going to be talking about world building. Maybe the best thing for dreaming up the future is to look back to the past. Plenty of dystopian books these days are set in the future here on Earth, and many times this future is not too far away. Maybe fifty years. Maybe one hundred years. Maybe only thirty years.

Without mentioning specifically how old I am, let’s just say I spent my youth deep in the seventies and eighties. So we’re talking roughly thirty-five years have gone by since my memories really started to sink in. You know what I loved so much about back then? Those Now and Then lists that used to come out in the paper every New Year’s Day. So in the spirit of now and then, here is a brief one from me.

Okay, aside from having some fun and nostalgia, here’s what I’m trying to say. In thirty-five years, plenty of things have changed, and yet the basic needs are unchanged. Things are the same but different.

When I was building the world of Solstice, I tried to keep this in mind. Solstice is set in the future, at least eighteen years though I’m thinking it’s probably more like fifty or sixty. That’s quite a bit of time, but then again, it’s not. So what would be the same? And what would be different?

Maybe the most important thing to consider when writing for young adults is that no matter what the year, teens are going to want to communicate. Teens will be teens. I remember talking on the phone for hours on end with my friends back in the day. Now, texting and email make everything so much easier. And faster. For Solstice, insert the FON. Sure, the FON does a ton more than today’s standard smart phone. You know how with every new version, your phone can interface to so many more things? Well, that keeps happening. The FON is a Functional Operating Node. It has a similar sounding name that some marketing genius sometime in the future came up with. But in essence, it is the future’s smart phone and it is teens’ link to the world.

The next thing? You know that restaurant you always drive by. It’s been around since 1960? Yeah? Well, guess what. In the future, that restaurant or one very much like it will still be there. In Solstice, food shortages put a damper on everything. But we Texans don’t want much to get between us and our barbeque. And so Pok-e-Jo’s BBQ, an Austin favorite, is still around. I enjoyed sending my characters there to eat.

This kind of thinking can be carried over into everything. Religion is probably going to be about the same. Streets are going to be named the same (and their nicknames, like the Drag, will, too). People are still going to want inane entertainment (like TV and YouTube and video games). You can probably still download Ms. Pac-Man in some form or another.

In my experience, this is a key thing to keep in mind for world building: keep it the same . . . but different.


P. J. Hoover is the author of the dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children’s, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.’s website or blog.


Jordan Dane said...

OMG! Great advice and I can't wait to read more, Trish. You are a world building goddess.

Jordan Dane said...

Looking and analyzing the past is a great tip for redefining a future world. Where I see new authors making mistakes is that they go too far astray to create lingo and a culture that isn't as well grounded in the familiar. The words they create don't mean anything and never stick with the reader. So I love your thoughts on basic needs and keeping some things the same. There can even be humor to your interpretation of what things will endure, like TX BBQ. HA! Love it.

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Jordan! I love thinking about how much and how little things have changed. And totally long live Texas BBQ! May it never go away :)