Societies in Stories

Well it’s a new year, which means new things, and new discoveries. And one thing I’ve discovered, is that I needed to change how I set up my society and government in my current WIP. I realized that the way I had it arranged didn’t fit so well with how my world was constructed or the people within it.

This got me thinking about the types of societies that are in other works of fiction I’ve read. One type that sticks out to me is the dystopian society that seems to rule in both the Divergent and Hunger Game universes. The idea of one government and system ruling everyone. This seems to be a theme it both books mentioned, and probably many more. It appears to be a very popular idea, and precisely where I went wrong.

You see, I was trying to make everything under one government. I’m so used to the idea, almost like a default. Living in America it’s all around me, and as I mentioned it seems to be cropping up in many popular novels. So naturally, I tried to set it up the way I knew. But in truth, there is much more then that, different ways humans have worked together, and different ways they’ve built societies.

As a writer, I have the freedom to explore. I realized I can look back into the past, as well as dream of the future, and use what I find however I please. And when it comes to governing and social standings there is much the could, has, and can be done.

I don’t think most writer think about it very much. I certainly hadn’t. This is probably because unless you are building a new world, you don’t have to worry much about it. If you’re writing… say an urban tale, you can use the existing world, put your own people in it, and build your story there. But for others, perhaps especially si-fi writers, there is more that can be done.

So I invite you, if you ever write a story that calls for you to build a completely different world, don’t jump straight to a society or government that you’re used to. Explore and dream. Look at the tribes from the past and even the present, look at the communists, look at the kings and dukes, or look at some vastly different society of the future. There are many ways humans have ruled over themselves, whether for good or for ill, and so there are many ways we can write about societies in our stories.

It may seem like a little thing, but I believe it can have a large effect. Whether it’s at the forefront of your story, or just a piece of world- building that never really get’s mentioned. How your story works and what fits best in it is for you to decided. But just remember that if you have a chance don’t forget to explore, and dream of brave new worlds!



2 thoughts on “Societies in Stories

  1. Ooh, this is one of my favorite things. In my blog story, “Mauchi Tales: The Journey” (which I should really return to), I made the adjacent country half American, half Nazi Germany (in government; not technology), simply because those are ideas I’m familiar with. The protagonists’ home country is actually quite different though, so I’m describing even the American ideas from the point of views of outsiders, which is an interesting exercise. Too bad the story is actually terrible.

    Meanwhile, my other stories take place in an urban fantasy, which has the fun of imposing new subcultures over the existing cultures in today’s world. See the television show Grimm for a thorough example of this.

    • Yes, it’s very interesting. I hadn’t really though about building very different societies or governments much before. But now that I have, I think it will have a lot of influence in my future writing. I also think this is a very si-fi idea, since if you build new worlds in to far future, you have ample opportunity to build new politics, governing, and culture along with it.

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