Story Scale and Threat Level (SF Version)


I’m curious to know how big are your SF stories? Do you write grand epics that pit space fleets against each other or do you write small stories closer to the heart? Is all existence at stake?

Vote on the world scale if your story takes place on a single world. Vote on the cosmic scale if your story extends to outer space or an interdimensional megaverse. Let me know in the comments to let us know how your books reach these levels and why you chose it! And have fun!

World Scale

  • 10: Worldwide / global threat
  • 9: Continental / international
  • 8: Large country
  • 7: Small country
  • 6: State / province / region
  • 5: City / fortress
  • 4: City district / fortified institution
  • 3: Bringing down the house
  • 2: Group of people
  • 1: Personal threat

0 voters

Cosmic / Interdimensional Scale

  • 10: Universal threat
  • 9: Intergalactic
  • 8: Galaxy
  • 7: Quadrant
  • 6: Star cluster / belt
  • 5: Solar system
  • 4: Sun / star
  • 3: Inner belt / systemwide colonies or outposts
  • 2: Planetary cluster
  • 1: Planetary threat

0 voters


Most of my books are on a global scale–so there’s lots more to write. A few are on a universal scale and that takes some time to iron out. (And I don’t mean that figuratively either. lol)


It’s a good point to stop and realize that there are different ideas of scale.

How big is a setting, in terms of story? It depends on how rich a set of interactions the setting can provide. So a small island with three cities on it, as written by one author, can be bigger than entire planets written by another.

Because that small island with the three cities has three independent governments of different forms, four religions (eleven if you count separate cults of polytheistic religions as separate religions) with two religious hierarchies opposed to each other and the other two having more nuanced differences with all of the others, eight pretenders to various noble and royal titles, intrigues, dozens of different guilds, thirty or so competing organized crime families drawn from four different ethnicities/traditions, one government with an ascendant and another with a degenerate hereditary aristocracy and three families of different titular ranks trying to improve their fortunes by managing to get themselves detached from one and attached to the other, several non-aristocratic wealthy families all trying to play other factions against each other for personal advantage, etc etc etc…

And the planet has, basically, a single story-significant entity which speaks with a single voice, whose subparts and factions if any the protagonists never see or interact with.


True, although it depends on how deep you go into worldbuilding. That’s often a conumdrum for many authors!


Oh I imagine there are several scales for measuring the scope of a story, of which size of the conflict and level of detail are only two. Each would probably need it’s own poll. Maybe I’ll consider building another after I get my fill for threat levels, unless someone else beats me to it. :wink:


Sometimes…I will go deep–done it many times over the years. Others…? I’m just going to do some “light” writing; nothing too strenuous. Something fun and imaginative–not expected to make any sense to the average reader, but you know…it’s fun for me.


In my Sci-fi book time travel is the main thing, although really no one knows about it except for the government(s) and the teens that get kidnapped to be prepared for time travel so this is really difficult. I chose a group of people as it’s not affecting humanity but rather a group of teens, if you know what I mean?


That’s actually a fairly popular model, especially in adventure fiction. I love stories that show the journey and struggles of a group of travelers through various encounters. They usually climax in a conflict with a central antagonist but not always. One of my books, Whispers from the Void, follows this model too.

Good luck!


Prefer thinking in terms of scope and drama. I don’t really have a consistent level of either. It depends on the story.


I’m having a hard time fitting in. I mostly write sci-fi mystery stories, so my scope usually extends between district and city level. However, the threat level concerns only ‘the people involved’ - a tiny fraction of all people living in the city.


Nothing wrong with a small, personal story. The key there is to get readers invested in your characters.


Indeed, though I feel this kind of small scope is somewhat rare in SF. The results of the poll support this, anyway - and I wish I could somehow stress that my scope is smaller still, just to see where I fit in the results :slight_smile:


The first series and all “appended” works are all multiversal in scale. The end of the story leads to problems being solved across vast expanses of the multiverse. Stories afterwards are only planetary or galactic at most.

Something to take into account is that while the dangers are of a multiversal scale, they wouldn’t affect the multiverse given its sheer scale. Only pockets along the limits of the multiverse would cease to be. The most prominent civilization in the story, for one, would emerge unscathed either way, but Earth and other “Clonal Earths” (alternate Earths created by an ancient alien race) might not.


My book’s got the ‘help the world is ending’ vibe. The reason why the world is broken isn’t really explained yet though. Some people also say it’s a bit of a tragedy, because a lot (and I mean a lot) of people are dying, which I can understand…


In mine the world’s already ended. Earth life (all the “natural” species anyway) has been wiped out by a bioweapon and the planet is now uninhabitable, with absolutely nothing left that isn’t fatal to any kind of life we have today.

But that’s depressing. Fortunately that’s not what the story’s about.


So wide-ranging catastrophic effects but not total oblivion. Got it. :wink:


Sounds pretty cool. What is the mood for the piece? A somber, introspective look on the failings of society? A thrilling adventure to save the day? Or does the mystery of the threat take dominance?


I’m guessing your plots take place off world?


Yes indeed. The POV characters live in a city burrowed into an asteroid, like most people, but there’s also a few billion people on the moon and Mars and several of the moons in the outer system.

Mars is kind of unfortunate though; an endless succession of warlords and mercenaries and revolutionaries and would be dictators, tiny countries that go through revolutions every few weeks, offworld profiteers that keep the hostilities going because they sell more weapons that way, etc. I am planning a sequel set there.

The end of Earth put the folks upstairs in a major crisis: No more replacement parts for the hi-tech gear ever, so whatever gets broke, stays broke until you can fix it yourself. They lost a lot of tech but not so much that they went completely extinct. By the time of the story they’ve got it back, but that sort of thing leaves some harsh skid marks on the descendant cultures.

The story takes place about six centuries after Earth.


Everybody close to the MC slowly dies and nobody really knows why the world is ending, so a bit of the tragedy vibe and a bit mystery. Mostly the tragedy/depressing vibe though.