Hi, P. J. Hoover here, and I’m thrilled to be spending the next few days with you guys talking about world building. Maybe the best thing for dreaming up the future is to look back to the past. Plenty of dystopian books these days are set in the future here on Earth, and many times this future is not too far away. Maybe fifty years. Maybe one hundred years. Maybe only thirty years.
Without mentioning specifically how old I am, let’s just say I spent my youth deep in the seventies and eighties. So we’re talking roughly thirty-five years have gone by since my memories really started to sink in. You know what I loved so much about back then? Those Now and Then lists that used to come out in the paper every New Year’s Day. So in the spirit of now and then, here is a brief one from me.
Okay, aside from having some fun and nostalgia, here’s what I’m trying to say. In thirty-five years, plenty of things have changed, and yet the basic needs are unchanged. Things are the same but different.
When I was building the world of Solstice, I tried to keep this in mind. Solstice is set in the future, at least eighteen years though I’m thinking it’s probably more like fifty or sixty. That’s quite a bit of time, but then again, it’s not. So what would be the same? And what would be different?
Maybe the most important thing to consider when writing for young adults is that no matter what the year, teens are going to want to communicate. Teens will be teens. I remember talking on the phone for hours on end with my friends back in the day. Now, texting and email make everything so much easier. And faster. For Solstice, insert the FON. Sure, the FON does a ton more than today’s standard smart phone. You know how with every new version, your phone can interface to so many more things? Well, that keeps happening. The FON is a Functional Operating Node. It has a similar sounding name that some marketing genius sometime in the future came up with. But in essence, it is the future’s smart phone and it is teens’ link to the world.
The next thing? You know that restaurant you always drive by. It’s been around since 1960? Yeah? Well, guess what. In the future, that restaurant or one very much like it will still be there. In Solstice, food shortages put a damper on everything. But we Texans don’t want much to get between us and our barbeque. And so Pok-e-Jo’s BBQ, an Austin favorite, is still around. I enjoyed sending my characters there to eat.
This kind of thinking can be carried over into everything. Religion is probably going to be about the same. Streets are going to be named the same (and their nicknames, like the Drag, will, too). People are still going to want inane entertainment (like TV and YouTube and video games). You can probably still download Ms. Pac-Man in some form or another.
In my experience, this is a key thing to keep in mind for world building: keep it the same . . . but different.
Coming tomorrow . . . No world is perfect.
P.J. Hoover is March's Affiliate Blogger. To find out more about our guest author positions here at the League, click here.
P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek. Her first novel for teens, Solstice (Tor Teen, June 2013), takes place in a global warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade novel, Tut (Tor Children's, 2014), tells the story of a young immortal King Tut, who's been stuck in middle school for over 3,000 years and must defeat an ancient enemy with the help of a dorky kid from school, a mysterious Egyptian princess, and a one-eyed cat. For more information about P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, please visit her website www.pjhoover.com.
by PJ Hoover
Piper's world is dying. Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.
Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.