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World Building and the Little Things that Matter

Once you build a world for a novel, you need to fill in more and more details. Like currency. Because the characters talk about paying for food or services, about salaries, rent and other mundane things, I had to actually set prices.

My novel “Can Machines Bring Peace? Hope in a Post-Apocalyptic Age” is set in the future. But I also wanted a more old fashioned world.

So, this backstory appeared: “After war ravaged most of Earth, Japan survived, just barely. Foreseeing the danger in 2077, the prime minister ordered the massive building of underground shelters. After 250 years, the first visits to the surface were made. Radiation levels were surprisingly low. The bombs that destroyed most of Japan were conventional, not nuclear. The rest of the world was literally bombed back to the Stone Age. A lot of systems failed and had to be replaced with mechanical solutions. So, 200 years after resurfacing, the world resembles the 1930s. Basic energy sources (not oil, but hydrogen) exist, but electronics are only making their first appearance. Society is traditional and strict, because that was the best way to survive underground.”

Once you have a world, you need to fill in more and more details. Like currency. Because the characters talk about paying for food or services, about salaries, rent and other mundane things, I had to actually set prices. In real life, $1 is about 107 Yen. But since the book is in English, it felt weird to have to pay more than ¥200 for bread, for example.

So, I found a list of living costs in Japan and converted that to 2436 prices. Doing oddjobs, Aisake makes ¥63 a day. A fairground attraction costs ¥25. A homemade meal costs ¥45, and so on.

It’s not something a casual reader would notice, but I wanted to pay attention to all the little things that matter.

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