What does politics mean in your world?
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week we talked about governments, and naturally, what will follow are politics. Politics will be a large part of your book whether you intend it to or not, and I’ll tell you why.
“Politics” is a word that makes you groan when you hear it because, today, the world is so divided by politics, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it at all costs in your world building. There are politics present in every part of government and relationships between countries and peoples. A few things that you’ll want to think about are how your leaders are chosen, how long they’ll stay in power, and if you have different political parties, what they stand for and if they dissent with each other.
How are your leaders chosen?
This is a simple answer, depending on how your government works. In monarchies, advisors/politicians can be appointed by the king or queen to their position, inherit their position, or if they’re a constitutional monarchy, they can be elected into the position by the people. But, for your world, how will you do it? You could create a totally unique way of getting leaders for your country; perhaps a test of endurance, intelligence, or cleverness will do the trick for your people. For all we know, at the moment, you might have a Sci-Fi novel reminiscent of The 100 that has a leader of the people chosen by the kind of blood that they have and their fighting mettle, and is implanted with a device that imparts all the wisdom and memories of the leaders before them.
How long will they stay?
For your politicians, you’ll need to decide if it’s a lifelong commitment or if it’s something only lasting for a few years, a couple of terms, or something else entirely that you decide. Is being a leader in politics going to be a full time job for your leaders, or will it be as it was in the time of Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson, where a job in the government was only held in certain months of the year? With whatever decision that you make for this, make sure that it not only fits in with the way that your story is planned, but the type of government that you choose.
Bear in mind, the longer that a politician stays in power, the easier it is to become power hungry and corrupt, which can lead to many interesting revolution stories.
Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Whig—these are all names that we’ve heard for political parties around the world in some form or another. You can have whatever name you’d like for political parties in your world if you decide to have them, but you’ll need to know what it means. I don’t mean the definition of the word, per se; I mean what it is to be part of that political party. Does one stand on a platform of oppression? Does another stand on a platform of utopianism and world peace for all? Is there one in the middle ground that wants world peace without the risk of creating an unsustainable economy?
No matter the political parties that you choose for your world, make sure that it fits within the government you’ve chosen. Another thing you’ll want to think about is if your political parties are diametrically opposed (foes) or if they have some things in common, and how that plays out in not only the government, but for the people as well. If you live in America—or anywhere, really—you’ll know the destructive power of dissenting sides of the political spectrum.
Hierarchy of the political spectrum
Lastly, in this section, I want to talk about the hierarchy of the political spectrum within your world. What will it be decided by? If you have a monarchy, will it be decided by the rank (duke, earl, viscount, etc) of the person, or will it be dictated by the position of the person within the government? Would you have a low born man like Thomas Cromwell rise through the ranks and become an advisor to the king? Would your position in the government and respect be based on how long you’ve been there alone?
There are a lot of options that you can go with in your story, but as you’ve heard me say many times before, and will hear me say many more times over the next nine weeks, make sure that it fits within the type of story that you’re telling.
Unless your country is an isolationist, there are going to have to be some sort of foreign relations with the countries surrounding it. What exactly will this mean? Well, it could be anything from race relations to geopolitical ones.
When you have relations with your neighboring countries, you’ll have dignitaries and ambassadors who will work on your or another country’s behalf. How your ambassadors behave is up to you and the country’s customs and people, but remember that these people will always be working in the best interests of their home country. This might mean that they’re going to be spying for their government, making magnanimous deals, or blackmailing foriegn leaders to ensure that they get what they want for their country’s, and sometimes personal, gain.
Ambassadors will also be the people who bring forward treaties to different countries and help work out the details based on the needs of their country and the approval that their leader gives them for trading power.
I spy with my little eye
Speaking of spying, will you have any spies in your world? Maybe they’ll go unmentioned; maybe they won’t, but there are many useful reasons to have spies. They can help bring down governments, they can improve governments, and they can also make wealthy families wealthier with information used for bribes and blackmail. Spies also make for great central characters and moving pieces on the political chessboard.
I touched on what kind of races that you can have in your world in You’ve Got the Whole World in Your Hands, but now I want to talk about what that can mean if you have problems between races. Now, this doesn’t have to be only between fantasy races; it can also be between ethnicities of people as we’ve historically seen in the United States, but because this is a very touchy subject, I’d like to avoid getting further into it other than it can be a good example of systematic oppression of peoples that can lead to rebellions in your work.
There are a couple of things you’ll want to think about when writing about race relations, first being: How just how different are they? Are you going to have water races and land races, or closer to home, black versus white? And is it frowned upon to mix the races—Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, has talked frankly about his upbringing in South Africa and how he was the product of a crime: a mixed race couple loving each other. If there are mixed race people, what do they pass as? Is it obvious that they’re mixed race, or do they look like the dominant race of the world—do they have easier lives because of it, or is there a “one drop” rule?
Another is how races interact with each other. Is one race looked down on as inferior? Are they called names? And what names are they called? I don’t think I even need to mention what words have been used as slurs against different races throughout history, other than to say that they’re awful. But what kind of things will you have in your world? Let’s go back to the water and land-based race example: will they be called air-breathers and water-breathers with derision? Something a lot meaner that I’m not willing to come up with?
Unfortunately, poor race relations can be seen all over the world, and you don’t necessarily have to make it prominent in yours, but you do need to know the answers to these kinds of questions if they ever come up in your work.
I can’t talk about foreign relations without at least mentioning geopolitical relations because they go hand in hand. Now, if you’re wondering what geopolitical relations are, I’ll tell you. Geopolitics is the analysis of geographic influences on power relationships between international countries.
Just to give you a made up example to maybe help make this a little bit more clear, let’s say that Country A has a resource that Country B desperately needs, and it’s naturally and abundantly occurring in Country A. Country B will petition Country A to give them some of their resources in exchange for the one that they desperately need. Now, Country A knows that Country B will fail if they don’t get this resource at a steady rate, so Country A can now extort Country B for whatever it wants because neither Country C or D have this resource that Country B can ask from instead.
Mawwage… Mawwage is what bwings us togetha...today.
Marriage can be a very powerful tool in the world of politics, particularly if you have monarchies in your story. Historically, entire countries have been created by marriages. Take Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. After their marriage and the uniting of their countries, Spain was founded only a short time later. Granted, it was after they conquered other countries on the Iberian peninsula, but without their marriage bringing enough power and resources to their cause, Spain might not even exist today.
Countries aren’t the only thing that can come out of a political marriage. Marriage can bring in vast resources another country needs, an amount of money that a country might need to survive for the next couple of years, and allies for future wars—or to prevent the desire from future wars if the allies are powerful enough.
Join me next week when I talk about war.
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