We Built this City – and that Planet.


Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Don’t forget to click the purple button to see what everyone else has to say on this week’s subject. It’s at the end of my post.


Do you use real or fictional cities in your writing? How do you incorporate them into the story?


This is the last of the posts whose writing has been influenced by this year’s NaNoWriMo project. In two days, my story will be with my editor and I can devote myself fully to writing other things again.


On with the post.

I’ve used both real and imagined places in my work, in past, present, alternative present and future settings. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.


I always like to think of the setting, whether it’s a city, a planet or a spaceship, as a character.


It might not have any dialogue (although one of my series has a spaceship with a semi-sentient computer), but it can convey emotion by its existence, mood, geography or any other thing.

Because the location can make or break the story, it gets a lot of consideration from me. In fact, the most appropriate setting is usually the first thing I decide on when I get an idea for a new story.


In general, if I’m writing about a real place in the past or the present, I do a lot of research, to make sure that anything I say, or any action that occurs, is correct, possible and could be recognised by any reader that’s familiar with the location.

For example, I used my personal knowledge of working and driving around London in one of my Andorra Pett stories, with a car chase in the area around Tower Bridge, the Rotherhithe Tunnel and Greenwich. The route is correct, as are all the features, in case you wanted to re-create it yourself.


As for creating a place from scratch, you might think this is easier but in fact, it can be just as complicated. Because it still has to sound real, everything in it needs to have a purpose and work in harmony with everything else.

The advantage of a blank canvas is that you can tweak the setting to accommodate your plot, creating places and things that enhance the storyline, influence the characters or even justify the whole narrative.

So, my fictional settlement on the airless planet Reevis, under a huge pressure dome, is a point of conflict for both sides of my story. Because they both depend on it to survive, it gives nobody the advantage but weighs on all of their actions.

Of course, the constraints of realism and possibility still control you, but these can be modified by the things your city contains.


Now it’s time for the shameless plug.

For more on world-building, I have written a book which explains how I create my worlds. You can find it by clicking on the picture.


Do you want to write Sci-fi or Steampunk adventures?
Are you struggling with World Building?
Do you want to create a world: or even a universe, but you’re put off by all the science you think you need to know before you can start?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, I’ve tried to simplify the process by showing you another way.

This guide is based on the World-building workshops that I hold as a member of the Exeter Authors Association. The aim is to show you an easier way of doing things, with chapters on such subjects as Location, Characters, Sidekicks and Steampunk. I’ll tell you the method that I’ve used to create several universes in the future and in an alternative present, maintaining realism without getting bogged down in the technicalities.
Creating a Sci-fi World contains exercises and suggestions, as well as examples from my novels, there are even some short stories to illustrate how my methods can be applied.


Until next time.



Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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Now see what the other blogs in this hop have to say by clicking below.


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7 Responses

  1. Daryl Devore

    Yes, world building is complicated but it is so much fun. And go on you for “shamelessly” plugging your book.
    Tweeted.

  2. Stevie Turner

    Rotherhithe Tunnel, Greenwich and Tower Bridge I’m very familiar with. I lived in the borough of Greenwich for 7 years. I’m sure you’ve written about these very accurately!

    • Richard Dee

      The pilot’s taxi service knew all the shortcuts to the berths on the river.

    • Richard Dee

      Characters are a law unto themselves, it can be easier to let them get on with it.

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