A Fistful of Silver

One of the challenges of creating imagined worlds is ensuring that they feel lived in and tangible to readers who will never be able to visit them. It’s one thing to describe a futuristic cityscape, but it’s another to get the reader to taste the bitter exhaust of starhoppers, feel the wind battering their skyscraper balcony, and see the glittering planetary rings arcing overhead. Getting just the right touch of details can help make the reader truly believe in the imagined world as a place that could exist, even if it not in our reality.

This is where research can come in handy. For example, I once wrote a story about a cynical knight who is hired by a poor village to save them from a dragon. One detail that my workshop group appreciated was that when the villagers gave the knight their pooled savings, many of the coins were still crusted with dirt from where they’d been buried. That little detail helped make the fantasy world more tangible just by noting where the peasants stored their savings.

Quinarius coin from the Roman Republic

Roman Republic Quinarius coin. Photo by Wikicommons user Carlomorino; released into the public domain.

I thought to include that detail because at the time I had been studying the history of the late Roman Empire, where periods of instability in the Empire correlated with the frequency of coin stashes left buried in the ground (because their owners had been killed or displaced before retrieving them). I filed that detail away and then brought it out again when I could use it to add texture to my fantasy story.

This is why I keep a file of all sorts of interesting details I run across, because the right anecdote can help flesh out your story’s universe into a place readers can imagine living in.


One thought on “A Fistful of Silver

  1. Cassandra

    A details file for stories is such a good idea! I’d never thought of having one before, but I’ll be starting one tonight. I bet you have a ton to draw on from your history studies.


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