Friday, March 18, 2011

Where are your earthquakes?

In the wake of the disaster in Japan, a question for every writer who's building their own world: where are the earthquakes?

We've probably all at least heard of plate tectonics: the crust of our planet is broken into a number of plates of various shapes and sizes, and they are all moving around, scraping and shoving. In some places, the plates are sinking and in some places the plates are growing.

We've probably all heard of the ring of fire around the Pacific Ocean, where the crust's getting squeezed down under the continents. The movement causes earthquakes and the abundance of melting crust causes volcanoes. On the other side of the planet, the Atlantic Ocean is growing, inexorably putting the squeeze on the Pacific.

This is all a massive simplification, of course. But you don't have to be a geologist to build a world.

Does your world have a rift where the plates are spreading? Magma bubbling up from below and forming new rock? And if so, where is the squeeze happening? Where are the plates pushing and grinding?

More importantly, what do the people living in the area think is going on?


  1. Great post! I LOVE world building.

    I'm going to seem like a D&D nerd right out of the gate here, but one of the coolest resources I've come across for this is the D&D World Builder's Guidebook. If your aim is to design at a planetary level, it starts you off with realistic ways to map out tectonic plates and prevailing ocean currents, etc. From that, you can derive the climate conditions and then drill down from there, all the way to how this influences local culture, customs, and holidays.

  2. great post. very cool analogy of earthquakes to conflict in fiction. love it. well done