Making an Alien Setting Feel Human

One trap you can fall into when placing your character in a setting is making creatures and settings so alien that they are unrelateable.

The first and most often given advise is for you to give your character problems that are familiar. While good advise this is not the only thing you can do. If you’re are going to do it however, the easiest way is to stick to the basics, food, water shelter, saving a loved one, basic primal urges that everyone has.

Once your story progresses you can and should expand, but make sure before you do that that your reader cares about your character.

You could also show that he acts very human, that he makes mistakes. Basically show that he thinks like a human, maybe contrast it with someone or something that does not.

Lastly you can do the opposite, make the reader hate the enemy of your character and root for your character just because he is the enemy of the bad guy.

This CAN work, but its hard to pull this off. And for the love of god give your character at least one or two good qualities.

Making Your Setting Feel Alien Quickly.

By alien I mean different, so this could mean the future or more literal aliens.

Having an alien setting feel alien quickly is something you likely will have to do, never forget the first page of your book is by far the most important.

The first thing to keep in mind is that alien should not mean incomprehensible, it means different. Don’t go overboard too fast, always make sure there is enough understandable stuff for people to understand and relate.

You can start by changing simple things just enough to be noticed. For example the units of measurements, or the color or shape of things. If you describe a car as being spherical or say that your three plinks late for a meeting you establish that you are not in 21th century earth.

Another thing that you can try is to casually mention one of the big differences between them and us. You don’t have to describe it, just casually mention something that makes them different.

For the start of the book do that, mix the familuar with the new until the new is relateable.

Review: Justice league (9/10 stars)

To be clear I did not have high expectations for Justice League. I was thinking it was going to be Batman V Superman but with more characters and plot turns. So worth watching for the action, but little else.

But boy was I wrong, it was very good, surprisingly so.

Going through the list of things I though would tank it but it did well instead:

First they had to introduce three new characters, Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg. I though this would drag things down or the characters would end up flat because they could not afford enough time to flesh them out.

Neither happened, little time was spent on them but it was time well spent. They showed the characters, they did not just tell us about them. We did not get much backstory but we did get to know them as characters. The actors of all three characters deserved all the money they got and then some.

Second I thought it would have a consistent joyless tone through the whole movie. While the start was kind of joyless, it was not near as bad as Batman V Superman. And unlike in Batman V Superman the tone at the start helps the movie. Its a movie about making things better, so starting joyless works (like horror movies starting happy). Things get better as the movie progresses and there are even jokes (good ones even).

The third was that the plot would be too complex and would twist too many times (looking at you spiderman 3), and they would leave you in the dust trying to deal with that AND all the new characters.

That did not happen partly because they knew their limits and kept the plot simple but workable. The bad guy was not complex, as he is not the point of the movie, he starts the ball rolling but he is not the star.

While simple the stakes are shown to be very high, and the bad guys power is never in doubt. While I do hope for a more complex one in the next movie, in this one the focus had to be on the league.

One final note is I really like where they are taking Batman. He is old and he shows it, they did not have him take on things that a normal guys should not be able to. The movie as a whole can be seen as him trying to hope, trying to be more like superman. He fails sometimes but he tries, again and again. THAT is a batman I want to see on the big screen.


The Three Levels of Culture

Probably the hardest thing to make when writing a novel is to make or alter a culture. This is even harder if your writing something set far enough in the future for things to be different but not far enough for all the current trends to be washed away.

I tend break down culture to three groups

The first is what I call the transitory level.

This would be things like individual politicians who rise and fall in prominence, or pop stars or anything that last less then a generation then has little effect afterward.

Everything on this level will be completely different in twenty or fifty years. Feel free to change everything here, you hardly even have to justify it.

The second is the core identity level.

This would the things that the culture holds most sacred, truths they hold to be so true they don’t have to prove them. For example “Freedom is important, and is worth dying for.” or “Human life has value and should not be wasted.”

These are often so ingrained they are more emotional then rational. These either shift very slowly, or require a very large impetus to change quickly.

They effect everything about that society, if you change one even a little then you will cause rippling effects that need to be plotted out.

The third is often overlooked, that of biology.

By biology I mean urges and such that we all have, things that push us all whether we want them to or not.

Not to say you can’t fight it, but if you do it pushes back. The best example of this would be the sex drive. One thing that all civilizations have had in common is that they have had whores, often they were not legal, but they were still there.

Even if you go ten thousand years into the future, if humanity is (somehow) unchanged then it will have certain commonalities, certain urges that remain.