Commerce, do you need it?
Rebecca Mikkelson, Editor-in-Chief Authors 4 Authors Publishing
The short answer is yes. The long answer is a little bit more complicated. Trade and business are inherent to daily life and shape how and why we do things, even if we don’t realize it. These are often left as implied that they’re happening, but what should you think about if you don’t want to leave it to the background?
Trade is an archaic thing, is it not?
No. It isn’t. Trade still happens every day, even as simple as, “I’ll take you to your doctor’s appointment three hours from here if you watch my animals while I’m gone for the weekend.” That’s a trade. It might be neighborly and friendly to do, but at its core, it’s still a trade.
Now, depending on what setting and time period your world will be in, almost everything will run on trade, rather than monetary compensation. Common items for trade would be livestock, food, and general living utensils like pottery, plates, fabrics, etc. You will also need to decide if you’re going to be trading within your own community or trading with outsiders where you have to travel for days at a time.
I wanted to include transportation in the section for trade because it’s one of the first reasons people would have needed a reliable sorce of transportation, the other being migration.
What kind of transportation are you going to have in your world? No matter the time period, a society can have a bartering system in place. What kind of transportation you have will help solidify the time period you’re in, however. You could have a dystopian future where people travel on hovercrafts and trade in minerals to make future tech. Or you could have a more primitive society where people still drive with a horse and cart, or horse and wagon.
This is more pertinent for novels that are set before mass electronic communication, though still useful information if you’re planning on writing a dystopian novel where all communication goes away.
The more people travel, the greater the need for long distance communication. There are a couple of ways that this can happen, depending on the town and its people. First, a trader could go to another town or village with wares and spread the information that’s happened in his town and return with the same information of the other. Second, a trader can carry letters between towns as he goes. And finally, as a society grows, a postal service can develop as more demand for communication arises.
Now, this process will be different if you have magic or magical creatures in your world. Sure, they can be the same for the cities and towns that don’t have access to the resources of magical beings. With that, messages can easily be sent back and forth using magic spells or by mail carriers on the backs of a pegasus or dragons.
I wanted to give money it’s own section in this because it’s a rather important thing. Some authors can get away with not even mentioning currency names, like my business partner and fellow author B. C. Marine in A Seer’s Daughter. I still don't’ know how she managed it, but she did, and if you don’t want to fiddle around with money names and how much things are worth, take a look at her work to see a good example of this.
However, if you do want to mention currencies, you’ll want to think about a few things while you do it. First, what are you going to name your currency? Is it going to be the same names used for currency today for easy translation to the reader? Are you going to make up your own names?
Second, what materials are these currencies going to be made out of? Historically, currencies have been everything from tulip bulbs, to precious metals, to paper, to digital money. Currency can really be anything of value if people are willing to accept it.
Third, who will be issuing the money? Currency production and distribution, at the moment, is handled by governments, but that wasn’t always the case. Pre Revolutionary War—for the United States—currency was issued by banks.
Lastly, will there be any currency conversation rates in your world? If you have more than one country, how will people spend between them? Will you have only one type of currency, many currencies, or will other countries take each other’s money without needing to exchange it?
Congratulations! Your people have prospered, capitalism has taken hold, and business is booming...but what kind of business? You don’t have to be a business expert to be able to answer this question; you just have to look around you.
But, there are still a few things you’ll want to think about for business while crafting your world. Will certain regions or cities specialize in something, like Gruyère, Switzerland being the cheese capital of the world? Or Bordeaux, France being the wine capital of the world?
Next, if there are any guilds in your world, how do people get into such guilds? Do they apprentice from a certain age until they’ve mastered their craft? Go to a trade school? Do families have their own guilds that skills are passed from son to son? And, if you do have these guilds, are they limited to certain people, like only men?
Finally, is there any governmental regulation on business? For example, we have laws protecting business owners from being run out by monopolies, and we have regulations on what age a child can start working. What regulations will be put in place to protect your people?
Next week, we’ll be having an author interview with A4A author B. B. Morgan about her novel, Stars and Bones: Thief in the Castle, and in two weeks, we’ll resume our world building series when I talk about food.
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