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I want to be able to apply tools or methodologies to help ensure consistency in my world. For example:

Burning world

Imagine a planet with a land mass around the equator on which a great fire rages East to West at a rate allowing for regrowth by the time it gets back to it's starting point, so that it never ends. It would interrupt suspension of disbelief to see buildings on such a planet that are susceptible to burning and are too big to be built quickly in the time between one passing of the fire and the next. Similarly I would not expect to see trees taller than can grow in the allowed time, unless they have some way of surviving the fire. I would expect to see either short, young trees, tall spindly fast growing but young trees, or old trees with very thick spongy fireproof bark and a shape reflecting a growth pattern of repeatedly having the smaller branches burned off and regrowing from the older, thicker branches.

Slow quiet world

Imagine a world where travel is slow and there is no electronic telecommunication. A journey of more than 100 miles cannot be completed in a single day. In such a world foods available in a market should be either local or long lasting, in order for it to be realistic that they reached the market in sufficiently good condition to sell. Similarly news of events from the previous day should only cover a maximum radius of 100 miles, and for most news much less than that.

Methodically checking for inconsistency

While I can think of these specific examples, this doesn't assure me that a world I build is free of inconsistencies that don't happen to occur to me. How can I test a world as I build it to highlight inconsistencies? Are there approaches used in other fields that can be applied to consistency in world building?


I first came across the idea of a planet with an unending circling fire in the following book, which I have hidden in a spoiler block since the planet is introduced near the end of the book, although I wouldn't expect that knowledge to detract from enjoyment of the book:

The Player of Games
Iain M Banks

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe I understand where you're going with this - you're basically after a process of error checking to make sure times/distances/external factors line up? Unfortunately all I can think of at this point are proof readers/testers $\endgroup$ – Liath Sep 19 '14 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ Yes exactly. When reading someone else's work such mismatches can jump out at me without me even looking for them, but if I've become familiar with my own work while working on it I may overlook things that might be obvious to someone else. I want a more methodical approach that doesn't depend on me just happening to notice. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 19 '14 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Liath it may turn out that the only useful approach is showing the work to others as you suggest. That would make a perfectly good answer. I'm hoping that there are other answers too, perhaps known methodologies that are used in other fields that could be borrowed for world building. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 19 '14 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure "across scale" is the right term here. "within the world" might be better wording. Really you're talking about making the virtual world internally consistent in all directions - not just having a city in the same place on a continent map as in a region map. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Sep 19 '14 at 10:53
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    $\begingroup$ @TimB having thought about this I see your point, and I don't think restricting to that one kind of inconsistency is adding to the question. I'm considering removing the reference to scale and making this a question about consistency, especially as neither of the 2 answers so far would be invalidated by this. I'll decide based on how many upvotes this comment receives. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 19 '14 at 21:27
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The best way to catch problems is to have someone else check your work. Have them read descriptions, look at maps, and read definitions. Ask them if they see and slight inconsistencies. Even a small problem, or something that annoys/nags them could lead you to a true problem.

Then, do this with several people, to catch all the mistakes.

Finally, accept the fact that you will make some mistakes, and be prepared to fix them. Don't be discouraged by things you miss. It happens to everyone.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is really the purpose of this stackexchange, and the reason why I'm so happy to see it going live. $\endgroup$ – neph Sep 22 '14 at 19:47
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okay here's what I would suggest, create a calendar for your first area

Day 1 of month 1 is the first day that the flames should be hitting the area Last day of month 1 is the day that the storm has moves on

So the days in which the flames are coming back will be the end of the year.

Divide up the rest of the year into months of the same size as the first, or smaller units if you need.

For the sake of simplicity, I'll use a 30 day month, with 12 months.

So "January" would be the fire days. Then you can map out what should happen in that area each month. Trees start growing back in month 3, should be a foot tall in month 4, 6 feet in month 10 etc.

This can also be translated into distance and movement. At 3 months, the fire is 1/4 away around the world. For the purposes of travel, characters who travel 1/4 of the way around the world, would have their calendars turned back 3 months.

If you keep track of how much time passes, and where they are, you should always be able to determine where the fire is and what is happening where they are right now.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea of a calendar to keep track of things - I can imagine that would apply well to lots of different worlds, including slow news propagation too. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 19 '14 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, a map and a calendar are the basic tools to locate events in space and time. I guess the main problem is to find the right balance in between too little and too much specification (too much could mean you'll get lost in details). $\endgroup$ – celtschk Sep 19 '14 at 21:09

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