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I fear that my fictional nation may be too similar. It is based on Great Britain, and is in high fantasy, but this is the description:

Similarities:

  1. It is an archipelago.
  2. It is somewhere similar geographically to where England would be.
  3. While it is not the first country to industrialize, it is the first to have an industry that affects history.
  4. It is called a "Commonwealth".
  5. They have a powerful navy.
  6. They have an overseas empire.

Differences:

  1. The archipelago is 3 times bigger than England.
  2. It is more west than the real England.
  3. Their empire is not as expansive.
  4. The monarch still has a high authority.

For more information, this fictional country takes place in a fictional world, but some of its geography is similar to the real world, most specifically their equivalent to Europe, Asia, and the northern part of Africa.

I just want to hear your thoughts, want to know if it is too much like Britain, and/or if it is, if that is okay? Another choice is to suggest how to make it more different.


For those who are asking some questions, here are some helpful details:

  1. I am not trying to make a political statement.
  2. This is for the world of an open-world fantasy RPG.
  3. This post is also asking for some ways and suggestions to make it different from Britain.
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    Is this story only for fun? Or is it a way to express some political views? This all determines whether it is ok. There are a lot of movies/books/tv that has all make a fictional nation similar to an existing one to express disapproval to that nation without actually pointing it out to avoid trouble.
    – Faito Dayo
    Apr 11 at 3:16
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    "it is okay" in which sense? "Can I be sued for it?" "Would a potential publisher welcome this idea?" "Would my audience like it?" or "Would it make sense from historical standpoint?"
    – Alexander
    Apr 11 at 3:26
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    When you say "more west than the real England" are you saying that this is a fictional country set in the real world? Or a fictional country in a fictional world that vaguely resembles our own world?
    – linksassin
    Apr 11 at 5:36
  • Your third point about "ways [...] to make it different from Britian" is off-topic as "What to write". However the rest of your question is fine.
    – linksassin
    Apr 11 at 5:39
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    Please define 'more West'. Politically? Or if you mean more west of 0deg longitude, what defines 0deg? Greenwich? Apr 12 at 2:05

6 Answers 6

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Absolutely. Many sci fi and fantasy authors have done it openly. The Shire was rural England. Ankh-Morpork is London. Prydain was more or less Wales.

The thing to decide is if you are commenting on the UK or not and be aware that beyond a certain level of similarity, people will assume that you are.

Tolkien, for instance, was often accused of writing LOTR about WW2 and the Scouring of the Shire about communists in the UK, which annoyed him greatly.

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    Ankh-Morpork isn't London. It's based on a few cities, London among them, but isn't supposed to be a direct London equivalent. From WP: "In The Art of Discworld, Pratchett explains that the city is similar to Tallinn and central Prague, but adds that it has elements of 18th-century London, 19th-century Seattle and modern-day New York City..
    – terdon
    Apr 11 at 11:55
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    The point of only basing a city on a real one is that you can add bits of other cities and no one can say it’s wrong. That said, Gotham is totally New York. Apr 11 at 19:49
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    Let's also not forget Westeros, as another example of a sort of giant England/UK.
    – N. Virgo
    Apr 12 at 1:34
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    There's a sci-fi book series with "totally not England", "totally not France", and "totally not the USA" as solar system/multi-solar system nations. "Totally not France" even has a a revolution lead by Rob S. Pierre. Apr 12 at 7:31
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    @candied_orange I think the canonical convention is that Metropolis is New York, while Gotham is New York at night. Apr 14 at 6:42
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Note: This answer was written on Worldbuilding.

A dice-and-paper RPG has different requirements from a novel. You should decide if you want to use the similarity to inform your players, or if it will lead to distracting preconceptions for your readers. To stress differences, there are several options:

  • Drop the name Commonwealth if there a powerful monarch. The country isn't about the common good, it is about the l'etat, c'est moi. Or use it exclusively, a king without a kingdom, let alone multiple united kingdoms, just a king of the Commonwealth. (Names don't have to make sense, after all.)
  • Introduce a few highly visible differences. The monarch is still active, so drop the House of Lords? Change the nature of the Commons? Use titles other than king and queen? Have them ecclesiastically subordinate to a mainland church?
  • Change the geography. More than just two big landmasses? Make it so that there is no fictional counterpart of Ireland, or if you need a colonial possession of this kind, make it many smaller islands or not quite as near (and not just to the West of the main landmass):
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  • @gidds, my point was that Ireland had a role to play in the makeup of the historical UK/England, and removing it would reduce the "instant recognition" factor a little.
    – o.m.
    Apr 12 at 17:31
  • That's rather better, thanks — though I doubt ‘colonial possession’ has been a fair description for over a century. (I'm not Irish, nor an expert in its history, but I see far too much ignorance and oversimplification over its complex and tough history as well as how things are now.)
    – gidds
    Apr 12 at 21:21
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Of course it is. Countries don't have trademarks on their culture, or cities, or anything else.

I'd worry more if your fictional country is too close to some published author's fictional country. Too much similarity there, if not based on a common reality, could be infringement.

For example, don't set your story in Hogwart's. Even if you call it something else or change a few details, if Rowling objects and a jury thinks you are too close, this could be bad for you. But basing your fictional city on San Francisco or Seattle or London or Mexico City, that's not a problem. It can even be an easy route to realism; obviously London's layout "works", while inventing your own layout from scratch might waste a lot of time you could have been writing, and you still might miss something you didn't think to consider, like waste and power plants, drainage, public transportation, traffic laws, where police and courthouses are housed, etc. If you need any of that halfway through your tale, just consult a map, and make up new names for the streets or districts.

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There are a few different ways this could come across, and mainly, you want to minimize the misunderstandings.

Sometimes, people invent a fictional country as an allegory. Other times, they invent a fictional country precisely so that their work won’t be read as a message about a real one. You want the country to be clearly similar enough or dissimilar enough that most readers won’t be confused about which one you meant.

The kind of ambiguity you don’t want is where only one thing is different, you meant that to show that the fictional country isn’t exactly the same as Britain, but some of your readers think, “That’s nothing like the Suez Crisis of 1956! What a bad analogy.”

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Silly Exceptions

My advice if you are concerned about seeming to make a political statement, put some silly exceptions into your world. In particular slap down some silly things about the most politically charged bits of Britain. For example the queen; former conquest and enslavement of half the planet; the Irish Troubles; nuclear bombs; Boris Johnson having bad hair; Churchill's knees, . . . The list goes on.

It is hard to read a political message in a world where the queen is replaced with a bag of centipedes with a badly drawn face in brown crayon.

If this is the only exception in your world then it might be interpreted as republican rather than nationist but in a silly way. If this is too much for you then also lampoon the nationalists so it is clear you have no loyalty to either side.

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It’s totally normal and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s fiction country. I read a lot of stories where some fiction countries were very much like real countries.

If you are concerned about the issue from an ethical or political point of view, I suggest adding a note that this is a fiction country and has nothing to do with the real.

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