How Just a Bit of Realism In Your Story can Deepen Your World and Enthrall Your Reader
Last summer, I spent many late nights toying with the idea of a space novel. There were so many questions I had, so many things I wanted to know about the world I was attempting to create, and at times I had no idea where to begin.
As school began and I got busy, my space novel project got worked on less, but I kept world-building in small ways when inspiration came.
Now, on this extended break from school, I have had much more time freed up. One of the things I have done with that time is watch Star Wars The Clone Wars, which is, in my opinion, an incredible expansion to the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars The Clone Wars TV show was one of the many space-fiction stories that inspired my story. Star Wars is something almost everyone, even someone who isn’t a fan, will recognize as trendsetting space fiction. It was a pop culture phenomenon at its birth and continues to be today. I have always loved the light-saber as a weapon, the many well developed characters, and the expansive galaxy enriched by each new location we visit in the franchise.
Through my writer’s eye, I saw the show in a whole new light. With many different military groups, independent systems, the Republic and the Separatists, the Trade Federation and each different type of planetary government, it is an incredible example of how intergalactic politics might work!
While the plot, characters, and lore remain interesting, and model-worthy as well, I did notice a pattern of something missing. Let’s face it, if there is anything this show lacks, it is the realistic elements of science that pull the reader, or watcher, deeper into a new and different world.
Science fiction doesn’t necessarily have to be very realistic, but some great science fiction (Adrift by Rob Boffard and The Martian for example) have used more realistic depictions of other worlds and future technology to make us believe we are reading something that could truly happen in the future, or is happening in a faraway galaxy.
The Clone Wars, for me, raised many questions about some scientific things not fully explained, or certain elements of the “realism” in the story that if tweaked or expanded upon, might make your story much more realistic and appealing. So without further ado, here’s my writing tips takeaway!
Firstly, how do species on different planets evolve, it seems very unlikely they could all be humanoid, get creative! More creatures like Jabba the Hut! This also rings true for making planets at different stages of carrying life, maybe not all planets your character visits have sentient life forms yet. Keeping with life forms, many planets in this show seem to have only one environment. While that can be cool, remember how diverse Earth is! Depending on how you write your story, a planet with multiple environments and lots of different flora and fauna will certainly enrich the story.
Speaking of planets, perhaps the biggest thing that takes me out of the story in this show is the fact that every planet our Jedi heroes visit appears to have the same atmosphere composition, gravity, and relative temperature. Not even two planets in our solar system have the same gravity or atmosphere.
Instead of ignoring these scientific elements, use them! Create a challenge for your characters and interesting worlds with limited gravity that causes cities to be tethered to the planet! Create technology that filters nitrogen or sulfur-rich air so it is breathable. Have suits that need to be worn by your characters in certain acidic or too hot/cold planets for survival. Play around with the environment, and show how your characters would adapt!
Some more questions to ask; How do the conditions of a certain planet affect how life there has developed if there is life? What would an organism from that planet need to survive if it left? How would a sentient being from a specific planet talk, based on air composition (guttural, high pitched, etc.)? Are there different languages, different races, and cultures on each planet? The more diverse a planet, the more real I find it becomes to the reader/watcher.
These are many of the major questions Star Wars The Clone Wars made me ask about my own book, and they inspire a lot of creative thinking for world-building. For my fellow aspiring writers, perhaps the best piece of advice I can offer is to constantly ask questions about the things you write about, challenge the way you think about things to broaden your creativity, and don’t hesitate to add flair and detail to the world you are creating.