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Economy to Money

By Daniel Yocom

Last month we discussed the need to consider a larger picture of the economy behind the story you’re working on. I had an email about how that would affect some aspects of their world creation. Our discussion went a little deeper. But the main point was a concern about what “money” should be used. I had the chance of sitting with a couple of business and economic professors recently and posed a question and then sat back and listened (listening to others talk about their areas of interest is a great way of learning new things).


One part of the discussion was about how much money is available and what it is worth. Money is worth what we perceive its buying power to be. Gold is so many times the standard in fantasy settings. This is because gold is a standard form of treasure that everyone accepts is worth trading for other goods. In the more rural areas of a fantasy or medieval setting, gold probably plays a lesser role of importance while more mundane items for survival are raised to a higher level. This would mean where gold is less likely to be traded, due to the lack of resources, the cost of items in gold would be higher and lower for something the person could more easily use.


This same standard applies to current economics. If you are someplace where paper money is easy to obtain and trade, i.e. a metropolitan area, many goods and services are less than where that money would not be as easily recognized. That is a little harder to fathom in our world because we are so used to having paper money being the standard. However, we are currently facing a slightly different trend.


In many modern-day places paper money is being replaced by electronic funds. You can’t easily send cash to a website, but you can pay with a credit card, Venmo, PayPal, or even Bitcoin. It is true that each of these is backed by the currency of the country. But no physical currency is traded. This set up the economy to react differently.


In many science fiction settings credits are used. This is usually considered to be another form of universal electronic funds. Something that has gone beyond a currency guaranteed by an individual country, or government. It is something that has to be universally accepted by all the countries, planets, solar systems, or even galaxies would have to agree on.


In times past I’ve had to go to a bank to exchange U.S. Dollars for foreign currency when I needed to travel. Our current use of credit cards does something similar, but it is handled behind the scenes by the bank. I ran into a problem one time in which the country I was traveling in didn’t accept Visa and only took MasterCard, that is a different story to tell. But consider if the world you are writing in has characters travelling from one economy to another. Here are a couple of simple questions to consider.


Does each economy use the same form of money?

If they do, who is the entity backing the value of the money?

If not, how do your characters exchange their money for what they need?

Is this an element that impacts your story, and if so, how?

Do your characters need to rely on a different form of barter or trade because they don’t have any of the local currency the rest of the people are willing to accept?


Your story might not be impacted by any of this if you are in a narrow setting where multiple economies aren’t involved. It is something to consider even when characters are traveling to other areas of the country that use the same form of currency because of what is available (that is how merchants throughout history have made their money).


The little complexities we consider in our writing makes the writing better. They don’t have to be included, but if we have thought about them and given fitting resolution for the characters in the settings they are in, readers usually find it easier to relate to the situations we are writing about.

Daniel Yocom writes about geeky things because people always say to write what you know. Their love of the geeky, nerdy community dates to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. They’re an award-winning writer with hundreds of articles on these topics for blogs, magazines, and gaming companies. They also have short stories and books published.

They enjoy attending conferences, conventions, festivals, sharing on panels, and presentations. This has included being a presenter for The League of Utah Writers and at FyreCon, panels at LTUE, FilmQuest, SaltCon, and FanX. They serve on the selection and awards juries for FilmQuest. And has been a guest at ProtoCon, Salt Lake Gaming Con, TimpCon, Southern Utah RPG Summit, St. George Gaming Convention, and GenCon.

As the current president of the League of Utah Writers Infinite Monkeys Genre Writers, they want to help every writer to become the writer and/or author they desire to be. You can get to know them better at



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