Posted in worldbuilding

Worldbuilding: Currency and Wage

Part of creating an entire fictional world often comes across the question of economics. At its core, economics is the way in which resources and goods are affected by value. There’s a lot to unpack in economics, so it may help to start with your currency and their units.

Start by figuring out what your lowest value unit is. The common, day-to-day grocery shopper may not have a lot of power as an individual, but your lowest unit determines the lowest possible cost a merchant can charge. From there you can scale it up into the higher currencies. This is usually where math starts getting involved.

It might help to think of currency as a sort of rarity mark. You have extremely common, common, uncommon, rare and extremely rare. Each level of your currency has more purchasing power than the previous unit, building off each level below it.

For example, we’ll use the American quarter. It’s worth twenty-five cents. Four quarters (extremely common) to make one dollar (common). That means to get to a five dollar bill, you need twenty quarters.  To get to a ten-dollar bill, you need ten ones, or forty quarters. To get up into the rarer fifty-dollar bill, you need two hundred quarters, fifty ones or five tens. Building up to that fifty would take a little saving.  

Once you’ve determined the units and the scaling of your currency, it’s time to start assigning value to things. You don’t need to get super specific here. Instead you can use the rarity level of that particular resource or good to help you figure out how much it might be worth.

Common, everyday items such as food probably won’t be worth very much unless there’s a scarcity of it. Items that require either specialized skill or equipment become harder to produce and as a result become rarer. This is where the innerworkings of the economy begin to branch out and get messier.

For example, your common citizen. They can likely buy their common items such as food quite easily. This is something they need to either buy or produce themselves every single day. A new winter coat however, is something they’ll only need for part of the year. A fancy coat with lots of decoration and add-ons requires more skill to produce, which drives the price higher. This means the cost of that fancy coat could jeopardize your citizen’s ability to purchase the common resource they absolutely have to have. Ergo, they buy a simple coat, and the rich merchant buys the fancy coat because it won’t impact his ability to buy food.

This presents another consideration for your economy: wage and wealth. Wealth is how much access a person has to any given resource. Currency is largely a form of wealth granting access to any purchasable resource. Often, we gain wealth as a wage, either by performing a task for someone else or selling something we’ve produced.  

For the most part, this holds true across your common population. Either they’re performing a task in exchange for a wage, or they’re producing something to sell. In essence, they’re exchanging their time and labor for currency. This is the basic idea of a wage: the value of a person’s time and/or labor.

The more valuable a person’s labor or time is, the likelier they’ll earn more. There’s a number of factors in this including skill, experience and job hazards. A highly skilled craftsman can produce four items in an hour. His apprentice can only produce one. That means when the crafts go to sale, the skilled craftsman earns more than his apprentice. Over time, the apprentice can catch up and begin selling as many wares as his mentor, but to start he’s going to make less.

In theory, a hazardous job should also earn more. Though this often applies when dealing with adventurers going off to slay monsters and the like, depending on the rest of your worldbuilding and other outside factors, this might not be the case. Mining is a stressful and dangerous job. With modern technology and safety advancements, thousands of miners still lose their lives every year. In the 1900’s, a day’s wage for a miner was often only six or seven dollars—often for ten and fourteen hour days.

Another place where your wealth and wage might get a little funky is in restricted resources such as land.   

If you own land, you can sell it, but it becomes a one-time sale for that particular piece of land. Alternately, you might be able to rent it out in some cases, such as allowing a farmer to work the land in exchange for a small amount each month. This applies to buildings as well: you can sell them, or you can charge rent for someone to live or conduct their business inside. Although making money that way would take a little knowledge and thought, the effort is relatively low—yet because access to land ownership is often barred, it’s possible for landlords to make a tidy sum.

Although this is only scratching the surface of economics, these are two of the basic questions to ask when working with your fictional economy: how much do things cost and how do people earn enough to purchase those things?

Posted in Stories

Short Story: Cheat for a Cheat

Most racing dragons came from species of the only slightly intelligent kind. Horned reds tended to be a little smarter than most.

Which, as Ashlynn opened the main gate and saw that at least one had figured out the newest lock and was happily sunning himself on the roof, was why she preferred the blue-tipped quetzal. 

At least her dragon had figured out that if he opened his gate that meant a scolding. Her brother’s red however, did this at least weekly.

“Burner’s out!” she shouted it over her shoulder, knowing that if nothing else she could poke him off the roof with a broom.

The first order of business would be figuring out how he’d opened his stall gate and then correcting it before she could secure him.

Ash closed the heavier main gate behind her. She’d have reach through the hole in the bottom to undo the latch and open it, but it kept the dragons from getting out. They couldn’t maneuver their claws that well.

Not that Burner hadn’t tried.

His stall looked like any other dragon stall—bricked walls with a few rocks in the corner for him to chew on. A wooden post for him to claw at, though after a week it had been reduced to mostly splinters. An open back which would allow him out to the dust yard where he could have sunned and bathed himself.

The problem was, the roof was metal and he liked the metal.

The latch, she saw, had been sheared in two. Ash would need to find the second half before she could worry too much about how to deal with the dragon on the roof.

She nudged the rocks aside and frowned as she noted how they crumbled. They didn’t look particularly well-chewed, and even if they had been, Burner would have probably eaten them. Not only did they help with digestion, but they made it easier for him to create a spark when he needed to breathe fire.

Yet these crumbled at the slightest touch, leaving her with some sort of powder on her hand.

“What are you doing?”

Her brother’s voice made her look up. “Your dragon got out,” she retorted. “Jet, something is up with the rocks.”

“Nothing’s wrong with his rocks. I just checked them this morning.”

“Look.” She grabbed one and gave it a squeeze, letting it powder. “I’ve never seen rocks do that before. Not even when he’s spit them out.”

“They’re fine,” he insisted and snatched up the broken part of the latch.

“No they aren’t,” she said. “This sort of powdering isn’t normal. It’s almost like…” she paused. “Like charcoal.”

Charcoal, which when given to a dragon, would make them lighter over a period. They wouldn’t have the weight of rocks to keep them down, and the build-up of gases in their flame cavity would make them more buoyant.

It resulted in a dragon that could go higher and fly faster.

“I’ll deal with it in a minute,” Jet said. “Go get a broom or something.”

“Have you been feeding him charcoal?”

Jet half-froze before he glowered at her. “Which of us is the senior rider?” he demanded.

“That’s not what I asked. Have you been feeding him charcoal?”

In response, he crowded her space, forcing her to back up. “Listen. There’s only one qualifying race left for the Scale Cup and I’m not about to let anything get in my way. Dragons are dangerous. You know this. I know this. It would be terribly upsetting if something happened to your little Daydreamer over there before that race.”

Her heart dropped. “You wouldn’t.”

“Depends. You still think I’m feeding my dragon charcoal?”

Inwardly, Ash could draw out how that would work. She could tell her parents who would immediately go poking. Jet would be disowned.

It would also stain the family name. Everyone would look at her races harder too. Her parents would be questioned for how they’d let it go so far.

Her little sister, just now old enough to start learning how to race, might be shunned from the things she needed to make it a career.

“No,” Ash answered.

“Then go get a broom.”

She scowled after him as she headed towards the tack shed. There would be a broom in there, and a bridle to help steer Burner back into his stall.

The tack shed had an old broom specifically for chasing Burn back in. Ash reached up for the bridle first, distentangling it from the hook Jet kept the saddle and gear on.

Her gaze lingered for a moment on the straps used to keep a saddle on a dragon.

There was one other side effect to giving a dragon charcoal.

The day of the qualifying race, it was easy to see Burner wasn’t feeling his best. Jet coaxed and pleaded with his dragon quietly, but Burner kept turning his head away.

“Problem?” Ash’s father asked as he finished tightening down the straps to keep her in the saddle.

“I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just race jitters,” Jet said. “You’ll be okay. There’s no way we can lose. You got a nice scrub last night and afterwards I’ll get you a whole pig for a treat.”

Burner let off a low growl and Ash looked at him. “Maybe you shouldn’t race him,” she said.

“It’s the last qualifier. We have to or you’ll be the only one racing in the Scale cup,” Jet said.

“If he’s not—

“He’s fine,” Jet cut her off and she narrowed her gaze at him. “Pop, mind helping me strap in?”

“That’s what I’m here for,” he said.

It only took a few moments and inwardly, Ash went over the planned race route in her head. She knew the curves on some of them might be a little harder on Daydreamer and reached forward to gently scratch at the feathers on his crest.

Three gongs sounded, signaling racers to their marks.

“You ready?” Her father asked and Daydreamer cooed, shaking his feathered tail and starting forward. She grinned.

“Good boy,” she said.

They were number six, owing to the fact they’d placed higher in the last two pre-qualifying races. Her brother of course, moved ahead to head one line. He leaned over. “Just race your best. At least one of us will be in the Scale Cup,” he promised.

“One indeed,” she muttered and inhaled before she leaned down. “Ready, Daydreamer?”

He responded by clacking his tongue against his teeth and shaking his tail again.

“On ready!”

Ash gripped the loops on the saddle, knowing that it would be connected to his bridle. He clicked his tongue again, telling her he was ready.

“Wings up!”

Daydreamer’s wings, feathered along the membranes lifted. For a moment she was closed in by the sight of sky blue and bright gold feathers. He would lose the gold soon, replacing them with red for signs of mating season.

A thought for later.

“Away!”

Daydreamer shot into the air, managing to twist and pull ahead of the fifth racer almost before they’d even gotten all the way off the ground. The powerful wingbeats shoved him even farther ahead, and she knew as they managed to get into line with the third racer that the first turn would be the true test.

Her gaze shifted to where Jet was competing to get to first place.

That first turn wasn’t the sharpest, but it was around a vertical plane. Racers only had two options. Get high enough to get over the seventy-foot wall, or turn right to go around it. With it being the first turn she knew it wouldn’t be easy to get enough height to get over it.

Jet, still competing for first, was forced to turn right.

As he did, his saddle slid sideways, rotating. Several people gasped and Burner, already uneasy, dove to prevent his rider from injuring himself.

Disqualification was immediate.

Daydreamer however, paid no mind to this, turning with the gentlest tug on his handles. Ash smiled to herself as he managed to pull ahead, taking the newly-opened second place.

There was nothing she could do to help her brother. Not with such an important race.

She only had to focus on staying in the top five competitors today.

Third place wasn’t a bad place to finish, not for a qualifier and once she’d finished untacking and oiling Daydreamer’s scales, she went to see how her brother was doing.

Furious, as it turned out. “What did you do to my saddle?” he demanded.

She shrugged.

“If you don’t feed a dragon the right kind of rocks, it loses weight. It gets thinner.”

“And?”

“And that means the straps from his previous fitting would have been too loose,” she said as she headed out.

“You cheated,” he said.

Ash looked over her shoulder at him, catching sight of another figure coming up towards Burner’s stall. “Actually, it’s not. Both his previous straps and the new ones were to regulation. I did nothing.”

“You disqualified me.”

“Actually, son. I think you did that all on your own. Thank you, Ash. I think your mom and sister are waiting to congratulate you and get Daydreamer back home for some special treats.”

Her father’s tone told her what would happen next and Jet’s face paled. “You told him.”

“All I did was ask him where your old straps were,” Ash replied and sauntered off. “Pop asked all the rest of the questions.”  

Posted in worldbuilding

Worldbuilding: Folklore

Part of building a world completely from scratch includes figuring out what the myths and legends of the world will be. Folklore is such a big component of how we view the world and conduct ourselves that it can be impossible to get away from it completely. Every culture on earth—our very real world—has folklore in all its glorious forms.

Don’t be fooled by the name. Folklore isn’t just the stories and myths. It also crosses into the songs, proverbs, dance and traditions of a culture. The largest difference between folklore and culture in worldbuilding is that folklore exists to help teach and preserve a culture.

Although folklore is intended to teach and preserve, many of its forms are also meant to entertain or celebrate. Folklore is often used to pass on wisdom and advice to children. Many fairy tales carry a moral message and even superstition relies on doing right or wrong as evidenced by things like ‘step on a crack, break your mother’s back.’

For that reason, folklore actually becomes very easy to create. You might already have a few pieces of it already, to explain things like seasons or why night and day exist. You can expand on these by creating stories or rhymes about what happens when a person or animal obeys or doesn’t follow the advice or morality of the tale.  Take a look at any of Aesop’s Fables for examples of how this goes.

When creating a proverb or even an old wives’ tale, you can be more direct about the message or lesson. The key with these is that they should be short and memorable. If it helps, try creating an analogy between natural actions and your proverb. For example, wild birds will often fly away when startled or threatened. A tame one however, remains in hand and has no need to be recaptured. Forsaking what you have at home for the unknown of the wilds isn’t always a good idea. You may end up with nothing, even when there’s supposedly so much out there—after all, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.  

I’d love to know! What’s some of the folklore in your world?

Posted in worldbuilding

Worldbuilding: Law and Enforcement

No matter what sort of genre you write, if you’re doing any sort of worldbuilding it’s a good idea to take a look at your laws and how they’re enforced. Anarchy isn’t generally a great backdrop—dystopian settings and Armageddon excluded.

There’s two ways you can start this. One is to figure out who polices the population and where their power is derived from. This is especially key to finding out where the flaws in your enforcement system are. It’s unlikely you’ll have a perfect enforcement system. Power after all corrupts, and when you’re dealing with people who are there solely to maintain order, they have a fair amount of power.

The other place you could start is figuring out which laws need the most enforcement. This gives you a bigger look at your society, but also opens up a lot of other questions such as why those laws in particular need enforcement. If thievery is your biggest problem, ask yourself why your civilians find it necessary to steal. Is it possible that the general public lacks resources, making theft a survival tactic? If it’s a lack of resources and power driving their crimes, why hasn’t your enforcement agency stepped in to correct this?

Regardless of where you start, it’s a good idea to have an answer for both. Knowing who does the enforcing and where they need to enforce the most is crucial in building a justice system. This gives you a base for expanding from simple enforcement officers such as police or guards into the larger judicial system of judges, juries and executioners. Ask yourself how trials are conducted. Do your enforcement officers carry the task of both catching and condemning criminals? How is the system balanced between stopping a crime and protecting the innocent?

Lastly, now that you know how your system works and what drives it, ask yourself who would join the ranks of your law enforcement. Are these willing volunteers with good intentions? Are they chosen because they meet certain criteria, and if so, who does the choosing? Are these desperate people hoping for a chance to protect their loved ones from the brutality the system inflicts on the populace? Are these men and women serving because they’re required to do so by some legal stipulation?

What does your world’s law and enforcement system look like? If you feel like sharing, drop a comment below!

Posted in writing

Writing as Exploration

One of the most alluring things about reading fiction is the glimpse it gives us into other worlds and possibilities. Although most of us probably won’t get into a swordfight with a tyrant, or travel to another world, we can read about the possibility of doing just that.

Unfortunately for us writers, we still have to come up with some idea of what that possibility might mean. The trifecta of writing includes characters, setting and plot. We might have an idea of one or even two, but what happens when we just don’t have any ideas for that third part? This is where you might find something like flash fiction coming in handy. Take the ideas for plot, setting or character you have, and start asking questions.

Think of things like how an average joe, everyday character might be forced to take part in your main conflict. What’s the first major law someone from another country or world might break, intentionally or unintentionally? What do the basics of life like grocery shopping, housekeeping and even hygiene look like for your everyday people? Jot down at least three or four questions and write a page of a scenario that answers those questions.

This even works for fiction stories that take place in the real world, without the addition of magic or anything else. Start asking questions about who might uncover a secret? What secrets might they uncover, either from their family and friends, at their job, or from a passing stranger. How do they discover these secrets? How do they handle this new information? How does it affect their life?

If you’re really struggling, it might also help to take a scene or a chapter from another story you’ve enjoyed, and rewrite it as if it’s happening to your characters in your setting. Use that other scene as a skeleton structure. Copy the basic elements such as number of characters present, general location (like house or hospital) and major goals or events of the scene.

Even though these exploratory pieces may never make it into the story itself, it still gives you as the writer a good way to immerse yourself in the possibilities of your story. Your readers may only get a glimpse of the story’s possibilities, but the more details you can find, the more enticing the glimpse will be.