Designing the Empires

Though the novels I am working on this year are primarily focused on the colonies throughout our solar system specifically Mars there is some stuff happening in the Empires back on Earth. This is really the first time I written anything centred in the Empires – there has been stuff with them on the periphery and even “early days” stories that go back to the founding of the Empires and one or two shorts based on military actions around them but they have been based on boats or research stations and not in the actual urban hubs as it were.

So what am I doing to design these Empires?

Lots is the answer but I will break it down into 5 action points:

1) Start with what we know

This means I am reading up on Empire’s that have existed in our actual history, the Ottoman, Roman, British, Persian, Ching Dynasty, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Mayan etc… what made these Empires? How did they form, evolve and eventually die?

This is obviously a lot of reading but doubles as research for other things as well – a lot of other things.

And it should be noted that religions and movements also often have variants of Empires associated with them which are pretty interesting to read about too.

Then of course there are financial empires and what could happen if they truly got to rule.

2) What we can’t know

The issue is with scifi and fantasy writing and world building is that a lot of the case scenarios don’t actually exist but you need to think about this in order to build an Empire that matches and is realistic for the people you have created.

For me this means I need to think about the evolution and needs of the people in my stories – how far into the desert are semi-aquatic humans likely to go? Would the lay of the land and access to water affect how they physically built their settlements and therefore affect how the Empire grew?

Of course!

Making little check lists and flow diagrams can help with this aspect of the writing.

3) Time Lines

Empires are not made in one day so how did the ones you are writing about form? Sketching out little histories for them can be incredibly helpful, especially if you are dealing with more than one and they keep having wars!

This can help you pin down certain aspects of the Empire which can then act as a frame work for the actual story writing.

Also such notes are often of later interest once you get a fan base going or if you wish to work collaboratively.

4) Fragments and Fragmented

Empires are often made from conquered people, or merging countries due to royal blood lines and often both. This means there are a lot of little countries or city states or planets that have fed in or been gobbled up to give your empire the flavour it has. Some of these groups may well still have distinct identities or maybe they have been forced to homogenise if the later is true there will often be an under current still carrying the histories and language of the down trodden no matter how hard the powers that be try to destroy it and maybe that is all in the past and no the Empire is trying to rekindle it’s dying cultures.

This means there are traditions, clothing, music, writings, ways of cleaning the house and sleeping that you may need to think about, not to mention are any of the groups still fighting for their freedoms – are there terrorists, peaceful protests, deadly protests or just gang warfare between tribes that used to be waring?

Pinterest or drawing skills can help with this – design some of the clothing and general look of the people and they become far more solid in your mind and who’s fighting who tends to become clearer in the writing process.

5) Infrastructure and Buildings

Empires often see rapid urban growth which means there are issues with plague and sewerage and feeding people, so how are people getting around and how is that waste being dealt with? Is there anything for medical help like centralised hospitals or is it all done as family in care or even perhaps a cultural culling of the sick and dying?

If your people are not exactly human then what shape do the buildings have to be to accommodate them and how will this affect rooms, and streets and whole cities?

How do people get around? What are the transport networks – water, road, air etc… what sort of speeds are involved and how safe is it?

Remember no Empire has ever managed to expand beyond it’s communication network – if messages can no longer be reliably relayed then the Empire splits into sections where they can (then those sections often go to war).

Talking to actual town planners can be helpful for this as is watching architecture programmes and playing computer games that involve building up empires.

Posted: Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 @ 6:59 pm
Categories: World Building.
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