I was told, quite accurately, that time would speed up as I aged. Though the experience for sending off for a toy after collecting enough cereal box tops is one that is restricted to children of the 80s and 90s, everyone can remember being a child and having to wait for something. And sure enough, as I get older my understanding and perception of the passage of time has changed.
When I was in middle school Sunday afternoons stretched into infinity and my summers lasted forever. Now, I blink and a month has passed. Just as a person’s perception of time changes throughout their life, so to does our perception of time when we move from reality to fiction.
Part of this is of narrative necessity. After all, if decisions really took as long in stories as they did in real life, we’d still be waiting when the story was over. Combat would last 60 seconds or less, and the test the hero has to take would last the full duration of the story. Our goal with stories is to witness the highs and lows, not experience the excruciating details in between.
But what does this have to do with worldbuilding?
Since we experience the worlds that we build through the implicit and explicit stories that we tell in them, recognizing how time passes in your world is incredibly important. If you don’t, the underlying structure of the world will not be able to support what you create.
Let’s look at a practical example.
Javin crashlands on a planet of humans who have regressed back to the middle ages. Interested in helping the populous advance to the point that he can generate fuel for his spaceship, he begins to teach them about technology.
In this case, the rate at which time passes will matter incredibly as it will influence how quickly technology spreads, is adopted, and iterates. This, in turn, will determine the rate of change in your world, as well as the direction your world takes.
Stay tuned for more writing from the WorldCraft Club as we explore worldbuilding and the crafting of fictional settings to inspire your creativity.
Seth is a host of the Worldcraft Club Podcast and he wrote this blog. He writes a Gamelit series called Nova Terra that you can find here on Amazon. He currently lives somewhere in Pennsylvania with his wife, kids and neurotically cuddly labradoodle.
We’re happy to host guest blogs on here whenever we can, it gives James a break and let’s other people contribute their ideas. Let us know if you have a worldbuilding concept or strategy to get off your chest, we’d love to hear it.