First of all, I'd like to say that I am as novice a writer as they come. My english is bad, and I've never ever written a fictional story beforehand. However, it's now been years since my mind first started randomly creating a story in my head, and I'd really like to try writing it down.

Since all of the elements of that story are nothing more than a jumbled mess of thoughts yet, I thought that I should best start by simply jotting down a basic timeline, character profile, and world setting.

However: I'm already struggling to do something as simple as that. This time not (only) because I've never written before, but mainly because of an inconsistency in my story.

It mainly is about the timeperiod the story is set in. Thing is: By only dreaming, and not really trying to put together a working story, I just took elements from all kinds of periods, and packed them together. In a real story, this would make no sense at all, especially given the type of objects.

Let me give more detail: My story is set on a continent of two states, who have been alternating between periods of war and "cold war", since, like, forever. However, due to other aspects of the story (=personal life of the main character), I don't want the technologies of war to be up to date, at all. Instead, I'd really like it to be a war like a few 100 years back: Preferably with technologies like in the 1600'. Now, while this may all seem well, here comes the problem: I'd like the majority of the rest of the world to be evolved close to today's standards, and some other things even past that. In my mind, I had imagined great doctors with insanely advanced technology at their disposal, being able to go as far as to identify most diseases quickly, and even partly decipher one's unconscious thoughts (I will undoubtedly have to scrap the latter and replace it by some other way to let other characters know about the main characters past/fears, because it's just way too much bullshitery otherwise... No idea yet though). At least in major cities. I also wanted citizens to already live like in today's world, with smartphones, passenger airplanes, and so on.

As you can see, this makes absolutely no sense. I can't just make the warfare really old fashioned while keeping normal lives up to today's standards.

I did think about some ways of avoiding to have to change this, for example by implementing some kind of treaty banning modern arms because of too many casualties in previous wars, but that just seems, and actually is, as if I couldnt have come up with anything better. Anything else I come up with is even worse.

That's not even everything yet, though. While I want people in the cities to live our lives, I also want some small villages on the outskirts to live like at least 100 years ago: Providing for themselves, no fancy technologies, etc etc (those villages will already be about a dozen years older once the plot comes to the cities, but still.)

As you can see, I have some major problems trying to sort out the period my story is set in. There's just so mich contradictory stuff. And I'm at my wits end.

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    This might be better asked on Worldbuilders SE. It seems related to that more so than writing. I will say though that most of the modcons we enjoy today, including passenger planes, are a result of advances made through military technology filtering down. So if they are fighting with hand weapons and basic blackpowder prone to explode, they probably won't have quite mastered jet propulsion. Otherwise, check out steampunk - it sounds like it might be what you're after.
    – user18397
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 0:03
  • Am I correct in understanding that your core question is: how can I have the two countries on one continent stay at a ~17th-century level of military technology while the rest of the world is more advanced? I agree that this would fit better on Worldbuilding, but I'd like to focus it a little more before migrating. Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 3:45
  • @Thomo Yeah, that's exactly the problem. I did also think about steampunk, but I honestly don't think that it'd fit my story either - Since steampunk often gives away this kind of "fantasy" vibe. I'll post this again in worldbuilding then, thanks! Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 6:20
  • @MonicaCellio You are indeed correct. Basically, I'm trying to either somehow make it work, or somehow change & adapt my story to fit one unified period, although I'm not sure how. Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 6:22
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    @GandalfSmith I think you will get better help if you delete this question and ask it again on Worldbuilding. I got great help there.
    – user5645
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


I agree that this should be in Worldbuilders SE, but the answer to your problem is probably in changing the focus on what drives scientifical discoveries.

In our world, many technologies were developed for military reasons, but imagine people were focused on medicine.

In parts of Italy, neighbouring towns would show-off their wealth by building these huge towers (for their time) and getting their hands on the best artists to decorate churches and cathedrals. In your world, perhaps having the best doctors is what makes civilisation evolve. Perhaps they do have all the necessary technology to develop killer weapons but they never thought of it because it's developing medicine and surgery techniques that gets you power and money.

Focusing on medicine might mean develop electricity and also machines to quickly transport people around. Creating a healthy lifestyle, without slaving with domestic chores, could be seen as a preventive for back problems. This would mean that 'machines that make life easy' would become an industry far more powerful than today's gun industry.

On the other hand, you'd have to make sure there are geographical and political reasons that play down the need for a war. Typically, war fills someone's pockets; if it doesn't benefit anyone, most governments would shy away from it.

  • Thanks for the suggestion! I guess the main problem with letting the world have such priorities, is that it is a war ridden world after all; and it'd be quite unimaginable for such a world to give the war such a low priority. The other problem is that I havent thought too much about what the war should be about yet either, I'm only sure of one thing, which is that my main character is heavily influenced by its influences (orphaned, etc). I guess I first have to flesh out more details, right? Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 20:03


In our world today, not all people have access to the same technology. There are people who live in mud huts. There are people who cook on open fires. There are people who use stone age tools and hunt with wooden arrows. Such lifestyles are quickly disappearing, but they are still there.

It is perfectly valid that not everyone in your world has access to the same weapons or medical technology. We don't give atom bombs to the bushmen of Africa, so they fight with knifes and arrows.


There are commonly thought to be two kinds of writers, the plotter, who outlines the story before he writes it, and the discovery writer, who does not know the story and discovers it while he writes it.

You may be a plotter, but sometimes it helps plotting if you allow yourself to discover your plot – without writing it.

Instead of constructing your story from your world, as you seem to try to do, you might just "forget" your worldbuilding for a while and take a few days to quickly jot down a rough outline of your story. Write something like a "summary" of your intended novel. You can then understand each sentence in that summary to represent a chapter in the novel you want to write and expand that outline and add the worldbuilding to fit the story, instead of the other way around.

  • Thanks for the answer! (1) That's true. However, while that may solve the village-timeline/city-timeline conflict, I'm not sure I can use it as an excuse for the actual military technologies - especially because I want both countries to hold about the same power, (I forgot to mention that, sorry). (2) I actually already tried out that second option, to just start writing! But it's then that I realized the problems with the story, and that it just wouldnt make any sense if I left the timeline like that. So I'm not sure where I should continue.. Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 20:08
  • Just to address your first point - while it's true that those cultures still exist, they are, without exception, still at that level due to extreme isolation and no-contact (i.e. deepest, darkest Amazon etc). Poverty and lack of ready access to such technologies, however, is a lot more common.
    – user18397
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 23:12

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