I is for Illumination

J is for JK RowlingToday the A to Z Challenge continues. I’ll be posting about one letter/word on every weekday in April. Don’t want the barrage of posts? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I start doing new stuff next month!

I is for Illumination.

No matter what genre you’re writing in, the way your people light the world around them matters. Electric lighting implies a very different society than torch light, although you can have both in the same world. Whether public areas in a city are well lit at night has a huge impact on how safe the city is; the same goes for roads in the country.

In a fantasy or science fiction setting how your light is created may also be an important part of the world. Are your cities lit by magic? Has your society found a stable renewable energy source powerful enough to keep the entire world lit up at night? Are the resources your people use to light their world in short supply or plentiful? We all know many wars in our own world have been fought over oil. The same could be true in your world, or your people could be fighting over another resource that provides power.

This may never be an important part of the story you’re writing, but it is an important part of the world you are creating(or the time period you’re writing about). Even if your main character is and always has been blind, other people in your society rely on light to navigate the world around them. The majority of them might not think about where that light comes from, but they’d definitely notice if it disappeared.

Most of the worlds I write in use a combination of candles, torches and magic to light their worlds. These light sources are generally plentiful but not necessarily renewable; in one of my worlds the magic is actively dying and society is on the brink of civil war because the crown isn’t doing enough to find an alternative power source.

What do your characters use to light their world? Can you think of any books that use the world’s source of light/power to create an interesting story? Let me know in the comments section below!

4 thoughts on “I is for Illumination

  • This is really interesting, it’s true that lighting often sets the tone of a piece. I have never really thought about until reading this post, but it’s something I will be keeping an eye on in the future. Thank you

    • dlgunn

      I suspect a lot of fiction writers don’t think much about the lighting in their stories unless they’re working on film/a play. Even I only thought about it in the context of “what type of energy is used” until pretty recently. Working on stage plays or films will really make you think about this kind of stuff though.

    • dlgunn

      That’s fair. I suspect a lot of writers who create fantasy worlds don’t even think about this too much–they just assume candles and oil lanterns. But I do think really giving this some thought adds depth, even if you’re working in the modern world. After all, there are many different types of lighting in the modern world and the lighting in a room can have massive impact on the emotions a specific place draws out.

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