7 Tips to Putting Vehicles in Fiction

Someone Made a Wrong Turn

Someone Made a Wrong Turn

  1. Make sure the vehicles fit the world.  Riding a horse through a futuristic utopia that has spaceships everywhere might seem cool, but it could be very impractical.  Then again, you might not consider a horse a vehicle since it’s alive.  Driving a car through the marketplace of a dwarven city is just asking for trouble too.  All of this can be fixed if you establish that the vehicles are viable either through others using them or a story behind them existing.  This means world-building to explain why a civilization would have interplanetary travel and oat-fueled horses.
  2. Speaking of oats, always consider availability of fuel for the chosen vehicles.  If the fuel is rare then it needs to be used sparingly or getting supplies is always high on the priority list.  We all remember those episodes of old sci-fi shows where the ship runs out of juice and they need to find a way to get more.  You can always fix this by having fuel be plentiful, but that also means you’d have a lot of vehicles around since fuel is not a problem.
  3. Always remember that it takes time to start up a vehicle.  Yes, you can have an automatic starter or a spell that gets everything moving as soon as the driver gets behind the wheel.  Make this clear or it comes off that the person manages to sit, close the door, put the key in the ignition, turn the car on, and get it moving instantly.  Not to mention the seat belt suddenly being on.  Maybe time yourself doing this to get an idea of how long it takes.
  4. Cool it with the talking vehicles.  We get it.  They have attitude that usually includes a high level of sass.  You know, we have Siri and talking GPS’s now.  This isn’t as impressive as it once was.  Fine, maybe I just don’t like it because my GPS is a freaking idiot that keeps trying to send me to Canada.
  5. Runways.  Seriously, airplanes need these to get off the ground.
  6. When vehicles are being used in a fight, remember that they can be damaged.  Armor plating is fine, but you still have wheels, windows, and something internal could be shaken loose by an impact.  Think of it like a person going through a battle.  The human body can take some damage and keep moving, but it may become slower and weaker.  There is also a big threat of a lethal blow.  Bullet to the engine is just like a bullet to the brain.
  7. Tanks don’t always win.  They’re big, armored, and have that huge gun, but they still have weaknesses.  A faster vehicle has an advantage and tanks aren’t very good at firing while moving.  Not with the greatest accuracy at least.  Let’s also remember that you usually have more than one person operating a tank.  Reading up on it says 4-5 people with a driver, commander, loader, and gunner.  Yes, the utter destruction that a tank can cause and the way it barrels over things is awesome.  Just try to keep it somewhat believable.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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27 Responses to 7 Tips to Putting Vehicles in Fiction

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great post! You’ve reminded me of some great episodes of sci-fi shows where the search for fuel led to some compelling conflict.

    There was one episode of Doctor Who, where the Doctor found a horse on a spaceship in the far future. They had a great explanation for the presence of the horse. But at least they dealt with the anachronistic aspect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. C.E.Robinson says:

    Charles, now I need to pay more attention to cars in my story. Also thought about roads & travel, much different today than back in the 1940s & 50s. Good info, with your signature humor! Happy Wednesday! 🎶 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Never thought about the changes from one decade to another. Just from being in a few old cars, I noticed there isn’t as many safety devices. Wonder if there were more accidents back then.

      Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        The old cars went slower, and some were huge. We called them tuna boats! Not as many cars on the road either, except for in the cities. Maybe accidents, however protected by so much metal, fewer bad injuries. 🎶C

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      • They seem closer to tanks than modern cars too. My first one was a small car, but with rubber bumpers. Not pretty, but really durable. Something I learned every winter due to icy roads and long commutes.

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  3. Guess I’ll shelf my intergalactic elephant polo league story… for now. Travel is an issue in many genres, and authors need to address it, even just briefly. It takes time to ride a horse somewhere. We’d never have space opera without faster than light travel, and it needs to be acknowledged even briefly. A light year is a distance, and it takes several of those to get to a decent cantina in space. Even broomsticks should have some explanation, even if it’s only one paragraph.

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    • Are they regular or intergalactic elephants? I agree that travel needs to be mentioned to some extent. At the very least, authors need to note the passage of time. I read a book once where they didn’t do a time passing for traveling. Those parts felt slow and destroyed any tension built up. I like the idea of only writing the events that are important to story and character. Guess saddle sore can be one of those.

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      • Saddle sores and stiff muscles are real. Fiction accepts that veteran riders are immune to these, so it’s usually skipped. They can serve to add tension though. In a fantasy or Western, they could even be a source of infection.

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      • Don’t see infections that often in fantasy. Not unless you want to weaken a character. I guess that’s one issue. If a protagonist is taken out by the mundane then readers might not think he/she is much of a hero. Kind of like how characters in HBO and Showtime shows rarely catch stds or have a cold.

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      • I addressed it in one of mine, but it was about curing it before any disaster occurred. There is a lot of opportunity there too. Can you imagine what an actual medieval setting would have been like? Pox, VD, and other issues would have been everywhere.

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      • It really would have hampered a lot of heroes who rose out of the peasant class. Probably why fiction doesn’t touch on that level of realism so often. The great hero that has stepped forward . . . Has died of smallpox.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Depends upon your spin. Maybe the hero saves the people from pox. Maybe the villain has it, and is doing horrible magic to stave it off as long as he can.

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      • I was thinking more of it just being there than plot essential. Every injury and disease needs to have a purpose, but things get silly if the hero is routinely hit by the mundane. Unless you’re doing a comedy.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed this vehicle discussion. I can imagine how much fun it has to be to design cars and such to fit specific needs. Like Cassidy’s Jeep.

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  5. Very good points, except for #5, don’t forget that there is something called vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) it could make an interesting plot point.

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  6. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Here are some great tips from Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere blog on using vehicles in fiction

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