Wednesday, October 17, 2012

World Building Wednesday: Money...

Whenever you read a fantasy story, there's always some sort of cash involved. Characters purchase supplies or pay for a night at an inn and always drop a few coins into someone's outstretched hand. Some of those stories have markets where you can either buy or barter. But is it necessary to work up a monetary system?

You betcha.

Money is the all mighty motivator no matter if you are just living day to day in the real world or you're absorbed in reading about another world. In Harry Potter, the first book, I'm sure there was a collective sigh of relief when everyone discovered that Harry's parents and had left him a sizable amount of gold. Seriously, you didn't think his aunt and  uncle would fork over anything for Harry, did you?

If you're a fantasy writer, you'll know the standard forms of acceptable payment is copper, silver, gold or platinum. Or all of the above, including brass. Copper is the cheapest. Think pennies. Silver is next, then gold and highest is platinum. Some fantasy worlds don't even deal with platinum or brass. They aren't "standard" forms of currency.  Sometimes gems are involved, but how do you put a price on a gem? By size? Possibly. There are all sorts of types of gems, so you could base your monetary system around that.

Other worlds like to use bartering. But you can't really barter for everything. Sometimes a copper is needed.

No matter what, you can't get away from money. It is something we're all familiar with, it is something everyone wants more of whether they are real life or fictional. The more money, the more power. But what if more money didn't mean more power? What if it meant the opposite and you couldn't get rid of your money fast enough to save your life? Food for thought.

In my world, I have several types of currency as well as bartering engineered into my monetary structure. A Dract is gold, a Kemya is silver, a Barou is brass and an Aurn is copper. The Elves and Dwarves use gems. The highest being a sapphire, then an emerald and lastly an amethyst. One kingdom goes rogue in the currency department and their names for the gold, silver, brass and copper coins are Falah Tree, Herring, Sheaf and Gull. There's a whole story behind it, don't ask. Or ask later.

One island uses different gems and minerals for their monetary purposes. The highest is jade, then ivory and finally onyx.

Most of the time, I don't get too detailed in the information of what coinage or gems are being passed during a transaction. Mostly I refer to the money as coin or gems. The mention of the gold Dract is prevalent due to Farrehn and Vendras always betting on silly things. A gold Dract is always at stake. Also, gold is pretty easy to come by in my world, not everyone has it, but a very large percentage of the population does.

11 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I just realized - there is no mention of money or credits or anything in my books...

Mel Chesley said...

Some books don't need to mention it, Alex. It's sort of in the background that the character has 'cash'.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I love this post. When I set about to create a financial system for my book, I wanted to use liquid life instead of gold. So that's kind of the direction I used for it (similar to how the currency in the United States used to rely upon gold reserves). Anyway, I think you are correct that money is oftentimes overlooked.

Mel Chesley said...

Ooh liquid life... that sounds really cool! What a way to think outside the box. :D

Allison said...

Too bad there isn't much variation in sci-fi... it's usually credits or something similar.

Allison (Geek Banter)

Mel Chesley said...

Very true, Allison. But hey, whatever works. :D

Antonietta Scrofani said...

Hello! New follower from bookblogs.

Mel Chesley said...

Yay Antoinetta! Welcome. :D

Jamie Gibbs said...

One of the best forms of currency I've come across is in Brandon Sanderson's the way of kings. The currency is based on how much Stormlight a coin can hold; it's pretty cool.

Jamie

Sarah McCabe said...

I have to strongly disagree. Just because money is what makes our world go round doesn't mean it has to be that way in an imaginary world. Fantasy is all about the freedom to create alternate realities. If you can't imagine a different way for a society to handle trade... how can you call yourself a fantasy writer?

Mel Chesley said...

@ Jamie ~ That sounds really cool. I like that!

@ Sarah ~ Not everyone will agree with either of us. Some people who write fantasy like to have a structured system. Some don't. Personally, I like all ideas, but sometimes it gets a little 'out there' and hard to follow. Now just because I said you should have a monetary system in place doesn't mean it has to be money. Any sort of system will do and that is where the broad perspectives come into play. There are lots of really good fantasy writers out there who do use money. And they proudly call themselves fantasy writers.