I is for Infrastructure

From Google:  in·fra·struc·ture



  1. the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

Think of your setting as a real, physical place.  Imagine your character is thinking of living there.  What did you think about the last time you moved?  What kinds of things do you want to know about your potential new home?  What would he need to consider before moving?

  • Layout–can you easily find your way around?
I love you, London, but your streets are like a plate of spaghetti. 

I love you, London, but your streets are like a plate of spaghetti.

Image:  stanfords.co.uk

  • Types of housing
  • Utilities–costs, what’s available (in rural areas, you might have to arrange for propane delivery)
  • Schools–primary and secondary, university campuses
  • Transportation–are there other ways to get round instead of driving? Buses, etc.
  • Parking–is there a place to put his car?
  • Employment–factories, etc.
  • Ports, shipyards, and other maritime facilities, if the story is set by the sea

A large place may have public transport.  If it has trains, it will need tracks, tunnels, stations, etc.  If a river runs through it, it needs bridges.  These things can either help or limit your protagonist.  Use them!   He’ll have a harder time traversing a city whose infrastructure has crumbled after a disaster/epidemic/invasion.  Alternatively, keep the city intact but throw a disruption his way.  Look what happens to London when the tube goes down.

Bloody hell; I’m going to miss Game of Thrones. 

Bloody hell; I’m going to miss Game of Thrones.

Image:  London Evening Standard, standard.co.uk

Imagine him trying to get through that mess for a very urgent reason!

The term hard infrastructure refers to facilities, roads, bridges, train/bus stations, power grids, forts, etc.  School, health care, and financial systems, as well as law enforcement and emergency services, are called soft infrastructure.  Political systems fall into that category too.  So you will need to consider how your city will run.

Anyone who has played video games like Sim City will understand what goes into urban planning.  Even if you haven’t, you already know how things work where you live now.  Drawing a map may help you get started.  Here’s a rough one I made of Martinsburg, the town in which I set Tunerville.

Martinsburg map

Image of the inside of Elizabeth West’s head

Okay, that’s really rough, but you get the idea.  Once you have the basics, you can extrapolate from there.  If you’re working on a larger scale, such as with counties, states, or countries, you can add things like energy sources (oil or gas pipelines, etc.) and conflicts in the soft infrastructure, such as wars, that provide backstory.

So your protagonist now has an apartment with covered parking for his car (lucky him).  He works in the shipyard loading containers onto big-ass boats and attends night classes at the local university.  What you’ll do with him next is up to you.  Throw some aliens at him!  A failed relationship!  A sharknado!



Image:  Syfy / cheatsheet.com

Time to stop now.  Tomorrow we’ll talk about journeys.  Expect more Dark Tower and Lord of the Rings nerdiness.  I’ll see you then.

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