Getting from Here to There by Diane Burton
When I was growing up in the Detroit-area, all the adults I knew worked in the auto industry. They either worked at the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler, or GM) or they worked for an automotive supplier. In Michigan, we love our cars. I still dream of owning a red Mustang convertible.
With my background, it’s natural that I think about vehicles when doing the world building for my science fiction romances. I have to preface this by saying I build my world as I write. I’m more a pantser than a plotter. I make assumptions about my characters and the world they inhabit, then as I write I copy each detail into a separate document. Many people use Scrivener which, as I understand, has places for all those details within the same document as the story. I use MS Word and just keep a document with separate headings (characters, flora/fauna, food, government, transportation, etc.) so I can easily find the detail I’m looking for. Whatever word processor you use, find a way to keep track of your world building. Easier to find the detail without having to search your story. Plus, you may need the details for a sequel. There’s no right or wrong way to build your world. Do what works for you.
The first thing I determine for my worlds (I have two series, different worlds) is that they have mastered interstellar travel using faster-than-light speed (FTL) engines. While writing, I have a rough image in my head of what the starships look like. To flesh out the ship, so to speak, I’ve found Pinterest is a great place for ideas. I can’t believe the number of concepts.
But what kind of ship would my characters use? The type of transport depends on the character and the character’s lifestyle. My heroine in The Pilot has led a hard-scrabble life. She’s fiercely independent and barely makes ends meet as a cargo pilot who owns a small freighter—old, rebuilt, utilitarian, not pretty. The hero, from a well-to-do family, has a sleek, faster-than-fast personal ship that the heroine would give her eye teeth for. In my current WIP, my hero has a “yacht” with elegant surroundings and all the amenities. In my Switched series, much of the action takes place on an exploration ship similar to Star Trek’s Enterprise. Your story, your ship(s).
What about on land? First, you need to determine the type of place. A desert colony or a highly-developed urban setting? For the desert, the natives might ride animals similar to horses or camels. If the colony’s inhabitants are from other worlds, they might have brought sophisticated technology. Speeders or skimmers (think Luke’s speeder in Star Wars IV) that hover above the ground. No potholes to worry about. (A major concern where I live.) In an urban setting, you could have ground transportation (like we have on Earth) or the vehicles—single or multiple passenger cars, buses, taxis—could elevate and travel in “lanes” at different levels above the ground. What about marshlands? The characters could use airboats (like in the Everglades) or a skimmer that doesn’t touch down except on entering or exiting. Any vehicle could be driven by the character or auto-driven and voice-activated. (I would love to have one of latter on long trips from our home in Michigan to our son’s in Arizona.)
Do your characters live underground? Are they on an inhospitable planet and live in a type of bio-dome? Moving sidewalks, like at airports, might be a way to get around. Is there a form of public transportation like a subway? One of the considerations necessary to using a type of vehicle is emissions. Pollution in an enclosed area? All things to think about.
When we build our worlds, we (the writers) need to know everything. The reader does not. Filtering in info, without dumping, takes a delicate touch. I don’t need to know how my car works. I just get in it and drive. So too the form of transport your characters use. As with any type of description, let your reader see it through the eyes of a character seeing it for the first time. Some writers and readers (mostly male) enjoy detailed explanations of how things work. As much as I like their stories, my eyes glaze over at too much detail. Keep your reader in mind when deciding how much to reveal.
How your characters get from one place to another is entirely up to you. Transportation is a small but necessary part of the world you build.
About Diane Burton
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and The Case of the Bygone Brother, a PI mystery. Diane and her husband live in Michigan. They have two children and two grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com
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