Well, let’s talk about money today. No, on second thoughts, “money” is too much of a limited term – let’s talk about currency. Yes, as I’ll discuss later, the two things are subtly different from each other. More to the point, let’s talk about how we can come up with interesting fictional currencies for use in comics, stories etc….
The easiest way to create a fictional currency for your story or comic is to just base your currency on a real one. I mean, I’m sure that you’ve probably seen at least one of two sci-fi movies, stories or comics where the currency is just referred to as “credits”. These credits usually happen to function in a very similar way to pounds, dollars, euros etc…
If you can come up with a realistic-sounding name for your fictional currency, then you can pretty much copy any form of real life currency. After all, most modern currencies have fairly similar mechanics – for example, they use a base-ten system (eg: 100 pennies in a pound, 100 cents in a dollar, 100 cents in a euro etc…) because it’s easier to calculate things using this system (eg: compared to, say, pre-decimalisation British currency, which used a base-twelve system, where there were 240 pennies in a pound). So, yes, real currencies often have a lot in common with each other.
There’s nothing wrong with copying real currencies in all but name – especially if you want your story or comic to be “realistic” or if currency isn’t a major part of your story. Not only that, doing something like this also a way of including currency in your story without having to explain it to your audience – since pretty much everyone is familiar with how real currencies work.
But, there are much more imaginative ways to come up with fictional currencies than this though…..
Although the word “currency” is often used interchangeably with “money”, these days, a currency is basically any system that people use to transfer value to each other. This means that anything used as a currency must have some kind of value to the vast majority of people who use it.
Many modern currencies have moved away from this slightly (and more futuristic currencies, like Bitcoins, have moved away from it even more), but if you look at the history of most modern currencies you’ll see that they were originally used as a stand-in for something with inherent value.
until relatively recently, banknotes in the UK had have [Edit: I can’t believe I got this wrong!] a phrase like “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of (?) pounds” on them. This was something of a hangover from the days where paper money could, theoretically, be redeemed for an equivalent number of pounds of gold.
Technically speaking, gold was the currency. Gold was the valuable thing involved in all transactions. The paper money was just a stand-in for it.
So, if you want to create an interesting fictional currency – then you have to work out what is valued in the “world” of your story.
To give you one example, a while back, I heard about a sci-fi movie called “In Time” which is based on the idea of time itself being used as a form of currency. This is an absolutely brilliant idea because, let’s face it, time is the most valuable thing in the entire world. Everything we do, we can only do because we still have time left. We all only have a limited amount of time in this world, so time is a valuable thing.
To give you another example, in Chris Carter’s brilliant – and short lived- dystopic sci-fi TV series “Harsh Realm“, bullets were used as a form of currency. Since a lot of the story takes place in a lawless wasteland, traditional currency systems would be totally useless. However, the more bullets you have, the more chance you have of fighting off bandits, hunting for food etc… So, bullets have a practical survival value in this setting which makes them perfect as a form of currency.
Finally, the classic example of something other than money being used as currency is how cigarettes are traditionally used as currency in prisons.
So, look for something that you characters find valuable and base your fictional currency on that.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂