Enhance Your Story With Other Fields: Biology

One of the best things about writing and gaming is that they take skill synergy like almost nothing else in the world does. No matter what you do or learn, odds are that some part of it can apply to the writing desk or the game table. Sometimes it’s direct, sometimes it’s obvious when you’re willing to think twisty, and sometimes it’s entirely unexpected.

Take biology. Micro, macro, medicinal, there’s a lot to work from—and there’s a lot to use. If you’re playing or writing in the real world, it helps you avoid slip-ups like putting polar bears and penguins on the same continent (seriously; someone in one of my writing classes pulled that at one point), having ferrets eating seeds exclusively… you get the idea. Not only that, if you want to do a storyline with some sort of biological threat, you know what you’re talking about. And of course, it can help you write convincing biologists, getting the jargon, the lab procedure and the material to something that doesn’t break a pro’s suspension of disbelief too much.

Then there’s biology in worldbuilding, particularly if you’re the type who sticks to ecosystems and how they work. While some people might settle for just creating newer and scarier predators, there are plenty of other things that a little knowhow can do: create prey animals as scary as the predators, figure out how the various species interact with each other when they’re not getting underfoot for travelers, estimate the impact of a given species on other species and figure out how to keep them from taking over, creating unique but logical behaviors for the critters to engage in and interesting little behavioral quirks—you get the idea. A little life science goes a long way.

Consider applying it to other sciences, particularly if you’re the kind who likes magical tech. People do this already, with things like car paint based on butterfly wings. But when magic gets involved, and when you’re willing to go microbiological, you can get a lot more variety. Consider, if you’ve played it, the City of the Ancients in Final Fantasy 7, where the architecture is very clearly inspired by conch shells. I’ve played a lot with the kinds of things you find inside a cell, like creating a transportation system based on motor proteins.

And every now and then, there’s taking something tangential and slapping it in. That’s one of the things I’ve had the most fun with; I once used the Inner Life of a Cell as a way to show people what a mindmeld with a vast and incomprehensible creature during interplanar transit might be like, I’ve named characters after enzymes because the names sounded cool, and I once had a character and three scenarios inspired by something I saw through a microscope during an experiment. It’s all about having an open mind and a little lateral thought.

Have you ever found new uses for biology in a story or a game? Share away!

Leave a Reply