Have a question about how to use the law in your story? Need a character, plot twist or setting? Ask me in the comments section and I'll be glad to answer. I welcome all comments and questions.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Using the Law to Enhance Your Sci Fi, Fantasy And Horror Story

           You have to build a whole new world if you’re writing sci fi, fantasy or horror. That world will necessarily have laws. And you’re the one who decides what those laws are. Thinking about the law and how it applies to your world will open up possibilities, provide inspiration, and make your story more believable.
If you think about it, you’ll realize the law touches everything your characters do, especially in sci fi. Their alarm clock went through customs and is regulated. Does your sci fi protag buy an experimental alarm clock that runs on nuclear fusion? Their cereal box has legal requirements about how contents are listed and what claims it can make. Does your horror or fantasy hero change into something non-human after he eats cereal contaminated with a mysterious chemical?
 Pharmaceutical companies have to test their drugs extensively before your characters can take them. Companies handling hazardous materials must dispose of them in particular ways. Your characters might lose a friend or relative if someone doesn’t follow the law. Or maybe the whole world changes because something deadly was set loose.
Anything that can go wrong for your characters might end up in court, or have already been there. You think the law doesn’t affect your sci fi character? Think again. Here are some ways sci fi, fantasy and horror stories are affected by the law.
Civil Rights: If you write about monsters, do they have civil rights? In the True Blood/Southern Vampire series, supernaturals who come out aren’t allowed to marry. The undead have property rights. In V, the aliens want parity with humans for nefarious purposes.
Justice: Are the courts in your alien world fair or is justice the privilege of the few? A series that showed the futuristic courts quite a bit was Star Trek. How the justice system works in your world will define how your characters behave and how they view the world.
Corporations: Are the corporations in your world unregulated? Did they run amok and cause major league damage? Do they have civil rights like individuals or are they treated differently? They could even have more rights than people in your story. Companies gone bad are great fodder for sci fi and horror. Does your corporate villain have to hide its evil activities for fear of legal consequences, or is the bad deed out in the open?
Character building: Even if the law or lack thereof isn’t a major plot point, it still affects your characters and the way they live. Are your characters divorced? Was it contested or amicable? What’s the custody situation? If there was an accident or death, was there a lawsuit? Insurance? Is your character well off or destitute? Do they have to testify in an upcoming proceeding? Do they rent or own their home? Legal situations affect the day to day life of your characters. If you’re not making a world from scratch, you’ll want to do some research to make sure you get the law right in your story.
Thinking about the law and how it affects your stories can make them richer. You may use the law as background or as a major plot point. When you’re building a sci fi, horror or fantasy world, don’t forget about the law and the part it plays in your story. I hope I’ve provided you with some inspiration for your stories.  If you use the law, do the research. A little research can go a long way to help build trust with your readers. Make sure your plot is believable and rings true.
Now that you’re filled with ideas, start writing!


Anonymous said...

Great post!

I love how you've reminded us that our characters are subject to the laws of the society they live in. It gives the story more depth and eliminates the feeling of isolation that I think exists when characters seem impervious or unaffected by the world they inhabit.

Laurel W.

Donna Ballman said...

Hi Laurel. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I agree that providing context for the characters provides more depth to the story. Thanks for reading!