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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ecosystems and Plot Points.... More Sustainable Living

So let's wrap up yesterday's post on sustainable living, definitions and why they pertain to writing.

Biomass Majority

Why you need these: This is my own term for all the creatures that fall in the center of the food web in an ecosystem. They aren't at the bottom, but they aren't at the top. They are the links that keep the ecosystem working. These are the things big enough to eat, but small enough that they won't eat you. The prey animals, really. You need them on a sustainable planet unless your characters are living off of rations or algae byproducts.

Possible Plot Points: Creatures falling into the Biomass Majority will probably figure into your culture's trade as an import/export. Trade is always a good source of conflict. Dig a little deeper, pull an HG Wells, and make your character a member of the Biomass Majority, suddenly they are an import/export AND a food! That should keep the pace up!


Apex Predators
Why you need these: In most cases, the characters you deal with are the Apex Predators on the planet. One way or another, they are at the top of the food chain. Even if your characters aren't the top carnivore, someone needs to be. Without apex predators to keep populations in check you wind up with over-population, disease, famine, and wide-spread death. Trust the biologists, we know of what we speak, it's better for a few members of the Biomass Majority to die than for all of them to die slowly because there are no apex predators.

Possible Plot Points: You have seen Jurassic Park, haven't you? Apex Predator 1 meet Apex Predator 2, there are some very successful movies based on this concept. Any imbalance in the predator-prey relationship is risky. Good for conflict, bad for characters. :o) The ascension of a new Apex species would make for a good book, as would the view from the falling species.


Rare Species
Why you need them: Anything limited is valuable. We haven't started discussing imports, exports, and incomes but rare species figure into the wealth of the planet. From an ecologists stand point, rare species are indicator species. The fewer there are of a given species, the more small changes affect their population.

Possible Plot Points: You will only get away with this in science fiction, but introduce the concept of Indicator Species but having characters mention that there are fewer frogs this year, or pygmy hippos, or hyper-intelligent shades of the color blue. You can use these creatures to foreshadow. You can also make them the object of a quest or obsession. Or the main characters could be the rare species. You're only limited by your imagination.

2 comments:

  1. This is such an awesome and succint post that I just had to blog about it. I know your world building articles are aligned towards science fiction readers but I think they're just as important for fantasy readers. Keep up the great work!

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