Worldbuilding

What Makes an Antagonistic Group Problematic?

The White Orc from the Hobbit films.

Antagonists are an indispensable tool of storytelling, and a lot of stories require large groups of bad guys to oppose the heroes. But in addition to all the technical challenges of crafting antagonistic groups, we have to consider when these groups become harmful in real … read more »

How Can I Use Realistic Disease in My Story?

questions and answer talk bubbles

Disease and infection were deadly, particularly before modern medicine, germ theory, vaccinations, etc. However, having the main character get a coughing fit, diarrhea, and pustules does not usually make for a great adventure story. You can’t outwit or outfight cholera. You mention “A Basic Understanding … read more »

Explaining the Urban Fantasy Masquerade

Evil Stiles and his minions from Teen Wolf

Speculative fiction storytellers will go a long way to make fantastical situations feel plausible. Sure, they will never be perfectly plausible because magic isn’t real, but it’s still no good if our audience is wondering why the hero won’t use teleportation during our tense climax. … read more »

Five Epic Fantasy Conflicts Other Than War

A classical painting of a market town.

I’ve got nothing against a good war – in fiction anyway. War provides immediate, large-scale conflict for our stories and as such will always be a valuable tool. But just like no one wants to eat the same thing every day, it’s boring if every … read more »

Five More Underused Settings in Spec Fic

A skeleton facing a strange stone statue.

Novelty is one of the four critical elements that make stories popular, and in speculative fiction, settings are a great place to harvest a novelty crop. I’ve got nothing against castles, forests, and space battleships, but mixing things up creates opportunities for new kinds of … read more »

Siege Warfare Before Gunpowder

The fantasy genre is stuffed with sieges, even in series other than Lord of the Rings! From the Battle of Winterfell to whatever Prince Caspian was doing at Aslan’s How, fantasy storytellers are always eager to show us battles of catapults and scaling ladders. But sieges are complicated, … read more »

How to Make Time Travel Logical

It’s often assumed that time travel would break the laws of logic. However, according to some philosophers, most famously the late David Lewis, this need not be the case. Scifi is full of time-travel stories that are fun, exciting, and gripping while breaking the laws … read more »

How Do Cannons Affect Your Naval Combat?

Recently, I went over the naval tactics your characters might use in a world without gunpowder. This raises the natural question, what happens when gunpowder is introduced? As you might imagine, the answer is complicated. Gunpowder isn’t a single toggle switch. There are hundreds, possibly … read more »