World building

by Consty

Question: The super humans in my novel wear tunics...has this been overdone?

If I tailor a new costume for my super humans for instance a sleeveless short dress tied at the waist with sash, would that be one way of adding a new dimension to my setting?
There are no cars and I was relying on tunics to set the time for the novel in the medieval period.

Answer: Well, Consty, I have to say that it will probably take a lot more than tunics to establish the setting of your novel.

If you are writing a historical novel set in medieval times, you will need to do some research on what life was like in that period, in the part of the world your story is set. Clothing alone was a very complex matter in medieval Europe, for instance, as it was used to signify social rank, occupation, etc. Certain fabrics could only be worn by certain people, etc.

However, I suspect you what you are really writing is a fantasy? (The superhumans are a give-away.)

In that case, you have to decide whether the story takes place on earth in the medieval period, or in a fantasy world that is not earth. If it's a fantasy world where civilization is roughly at a medieval level, you'll have to design the world: its government, culture, technology, traditions, customs, history, furniture, architecture, lifestyles, spiritual beliefs, medical practices, etc. If it's set in a real historical period, once again you'll need to bone up on your history so you can describe it with reasonable accuracy.

Knowing the world of your story thoroughly, in all its aspects, will allow you to depict the characters and the action authentically. Little details sprinkled throughout the story can make the world come alive for the reader.

Of course, you can go overboard. If you find yourself spending years designing an extensive history and geography for your world, most of which will never be included in your first book, you're going too far. You may not need to plan the costumes down to the each individual stitch either. But you should be able to describe other aspects of the setting. If there are no cars, do people ride horses? Or are those only for the middle class and higher? What are the roads like? What do people eat? Do they use steel or bronze? Etc.

Comments for World building

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Oct 11, 2011
More thoughts,
by: Consty

Glen, thanks for your answer, it gives more insight into the setting and ...more questions cropped up. On earth, my MC and the other guys wear trousers and jackets. The problem however is with the super humans who occasionally visit earth. The super humans belong to a-one-man realm,and I've worked on the hierarchy, they all live in a fortress, ride horses, and uses sword and wears tunic and legendary belts... which means they are distinct from men on earth. The major problem is mentioning the exact date in the novel. Do I have to write e.g 1788, in the novel? Or with all these descriptions scattered through the novel, the readers would guess the period?

Oct 11, 2011
More responses
by: Glen

You might want to check when jackets and trousers (and tailoring in general) came into fashion. I'm not sure the date myself, but there was a time when women made all the family clothing and most of it was fairly simple garments (tunics, togas, saris, etc.).

That said, I suspect that super-humans (or gods) often are portrayed dressing in an older style (and leading a more old-fashioned lifestyle) because their lifestyle and technology was envisioned by the people who first wrote about them and does not progress once those stories are written.

Not that you have to be bound by such rules.

Other writers have made their super humans more technologically advanced than today or created technologies that look old-fashioned but are highly sophisticated (e.g. the recent Thor movie or the steampunk genre).

What matters is that the world of your novel is internally consistent and expresses an aesthetic you and the reader find appealing.

As for the exact date, it depends on your story. If you choose a date, you should be aware what was happening in the world at that time and place, as those events might inform your story. You might have parallels between what's happening on earth and what's happening in the fantasy world (e.g. in Harry Potter, the wizard, Grindelwald, is defeated about the same time as Hitler, and they were both racists).

On the other hand, if your scenes in the real world are confined to a village far removed from the changes and politics sweeping the world at that time, the precise date may be less important.

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