The consequence of some ideas can be so distant in the future or so foreign to most people that creating a relatable setting or character to exploit them can be hard, I'm being told.

In particular, the real human life expectancy is about 80 years (lets round it to 100). So, any consequence on much larger scales (for example : million, billion years or even more) would probably be completely unrelatable to us. Questions like "what's the point of accumulating knownledge when everything cease to exist in bazillions years ?" may seem very unrelatable.

So, how do you make these questions more relatable ? How do you make more relatable, for example, a character who fought for immortality and was pretty successful until he realizes that this quest was impossible ? That now he has to face not only his own death but also the end of this dream ?

  • 5
    what have you tried and why were you not satisfied with your attempts?
    – NofP
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 15:05

3 Answers 3


You've just done it. Maybe we're not all fighting for immortality, but your character in the last paragraph is facing death and failure. Everyone can relate to that, and I'd read that story.

You'd show why it's important to your reader by showing why it's important to your character. If it's an idea that's foreign to the reader, that could be what makes the story interesting.

That said, if you're creating a setting or character to exploit a particular philosophical idea, you're already in danger of the character becoming less relatable. They would benefit from more depth. What else does this character think, and why do they believe what they believe? Above all, how does it fit with the story?

If the philosophical point becomes more important than the story, that's unlikely to be a good outcome. If it feels like hard work, it might be because the story doesn't want to go that way.

On the other hand, if writing fiction was easy, anyone would be able to do it.


I think that it's him coming to the realization that his dream doesn't die. He's just not understanding his dream properly. That is, he will never achieve his dream of accumulating all knowledge by learning on how to be immortal. Remember the famous Thomas Edison quote. When asked why he made 99 attempts to make a lightbulb before getting it right, Edison retorted "I didn't do that. I learned 99 ways to not make a lightbulb." Your character could realize that there is no possible immortality. It's not the answer most people want to hear, but he's not motivated by helpful knowlege. Just knowledge. He has learned many attempted ways to achieve immortality do not work and that is knowledge that has led him to conclude it not only is impossible but is counter to his dream.

To someone motivated by knowledge for knowledge's sake, he must come to realize that there exists a phenomena called qualia: a characteristic of a thing that cannot be described in words. Color is an excellent example of this: Color can only be described in it's relationship to things that have color as a characteristic. If I ask "What is Red?" You would describe it as the color of an apple, or its computer RGB values (255, 0, 0) or it's wave length on the light spectum... but you cannot describe the color we see that we call red, without pointing to something outside of the question. If I cannot see red, then your answer is Red is whatever color I do see when I look at an apple.

One other fun bit about the nature of colors. The human eye can see in a wider range of colors than can be digitally duplicated. There are shades of colors you cannot google and see completely on your screen... Nor read in a book that has been printed in a modern printing process, nor can words describe it in a way you can see. You must go to the things of these colors and see with your own eyes, if you want to truly know what it looks like.

That is qualia. Knowledge that can only be aquired through personal experiance and defies any ability to communicate to anyone. To be an immortal, is to shut yourself off from one of the most famous questions ever asked: "What is it like to experience death?" No one can describe it from the point of view of the dead. It must be experienced. To the person who dreams of knowledge of all things, Immortality, if possible, is denial of a piece of knowledge. The dream of knowledge cannot be achieved if he does not know what it is like to experience death.

If nothing we do matters, than all that matters is everything we do. We can relate to a character who finds meaning in the importance of death because everyone tries to make sense of it. In the parable of the Starfish, from the point of view of the man, the boy's actions are meaningless as the boy cannot possibly save all the beached starfish and shouldn't matter to the boy as so many will die and his actions won't change the world. The boy responds that from the point of the Starfish, what he does next will change the world.

  1. The first step is to answer the philosophical question.

    If you want to explain to your readers what it means to live a billion years, you must first know what it would mean. Common answers are: boredom, wisdom, enlightenment, or power.

  2. The second step is to relate your answer to your readers' everyday lives.

    All of us have either experienced or witnessed or thought about boredom, wisdom, enlightenmend, power, and anything else you might come up with to some degree and we can imagine what it would be like to have more of the same.

  3. Find a powerful image for the relation.

    Show your immortal character experiencing the answer that you chose in a way that immerses your readers. Let the character be unable to get excited over even the most intensely joyful or sad events. Show them wield the godlike power they have amassed.

    Examples for what many people can relate to are: Feeling nothing at the birth or death of one's thousandth child. Wiping out the life on a planet with a gesture. Truly understanding what it means to be someone else. Being no one and affected by nothing. And so on.

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