100 World-Building Questions

The Basics

  1. How many continents does your world have?
  2. How many countries?
  3. How many languages are spoken?
  4. Which are the main languages?
  5. Which countries hold the most power?
  6. Are there any Empires?
  7. What systems of Government are in use?
  8. Which time period is most reflective of your worlds current state (e.g. Victorian, Medieval, Futuristic)?
  9. Do any elements of another time period enter your world (e.g. a medieval-esque world with Victorian level technology)?
  10. Do some countries in your world have more in common with one time period than another?
  11. Is international trade the norm?
  12. If so, is it formally arranged or undertaken by single businesses and traders?
  13. Is there a recognised tax system?
  14. How do people communicate over large distances?
  15. Can people communicate over large distances?
  16. Are there class systems in place?
  17. How many different races (e.g. human, alien species, fantasy species) are there in your world?
  18. How many ethnicities are there?
  19. Is Religion a big factor in your world?
  20. How many religions are there?
  21. Is there a dominant religion?
  22. Are any of your countries at war?
  23. Which of your countries have warred with each other in the past?
  24. Which countries are allied with each other?
  25. Do any of your countries have systems of slavery or indentured servitude in place?

 

Magic and Technology

  1. Do any of your cultures believe in/ practice magic?
  2. Is it real/ does it work?
  3. If not – what practices do they have that are linked to their beliefs and why do they continue with them?
  4. If so, what kinds of magic are there?
  5. Can everyone practice one or all kinds of magic?
  6. What are the limitations (e.g. magic use saps life force, requires items, etc)?
  7. Is there anything that magic cannot achieve?
  8. Is magic formally taught, learned through apprenticeship, or a natural gift?
  9. What is the view of the populous with regard to magic?
  10. Are magic users considered superior, inferior, or equal to non-magic users?
  11. Who are the great magic users of your world?
  12. Are there any legal restrictions on magic?
  13. How does magic make up for the weaknesses in your worlds technology?
  14. Do magic and technology meet in any way?
  15. How does technology make up for the limitations of magic?
  16. Do all countries have access to the same technology?
  17. Is there any one way in which technology is primarily used (e.g. agriculture, military etc)?
  18. Is technology readily accessible to all classes?
  19. Is technology used on a household or industrial scale?
  20. Is technology used for non-essential pursuits, e.g. entertainment, yet?
  21. Who are the great inventors of your world?
  22. What are the limitations of technology in your world?
  23. Is there any technology which can suppress, dispel, or dampen magic?
  24. How is technological growth and development fuelled?
  25. Are there any legal restrictions on technologies?

 

Flora, Fauna, and Environment

  1. Does your world have all the “usual” hemispheres (is it earth or earth-like)?
  2. Which environment/habitat makes up the largest part of your world (sea, forest/jungle, desert, or mountains)?
  3. Is your world mostly temperate?
  4. How many deserts/wastelands are there?
  5. What challenges do they pose to the populations of your world (e.g. to transport, communication etc)?
  6. Which regions of your world are entirely uninhabitable?
  7. Why are they uninhabitable?
  8. What caused them to be this way?
  9. Has anyone tried to live in them before?
  10. Are there any animals which can survive in these deserts/wastes?
  11. Which animals are most revered in your world/cultures?
  12. Which animals are most feared?
  13. Are there any animals which can use magic, or which are inherently magical?
  14. Are there any animals which are hunted because of their magical properties?
  15. Which animals, if any, are domesticated?
  16. What are their roles?
  17. Can any animals communicate with non-magic using humans?
  18. Which plants are used for magic?
  19. Which plants are poisonous?
  20. Which plants have healing properties?
  21. Are there any plants which are both?
  22. Is there any animal or plant so rare as to be priceless?
  23. Are there any minerals/rocks which are sought after as sources of magic, power, or food for your peoples?
  24. Which metals or rocks are seen as valuable?
  25. Assuming your world does not work on a system of barter – which metal, rock, plant, or animal products are used as currency in your world?

 

Culture, Society, And History

  1. How old do the peoples of your world think it is?
  2. Is history most often recorded in the written or oral tradition?
  3. What are five key events in your worlds history?
  4. Do all societies understand the history of your world the same way?
  5. How do they differ?
  6. How have the events of history changed the culture and society of your world/countries?
  7. Do the cultures of your world share any common  traditions or beliefs?
  8. Is education available to all?
  9. Is there an ‘elite’ form of education (e.g. further education abroad, as in Medieval Europe)?
  10. Are there any universal laws in your world?
  11. How are they enforced?
  12. Are any of your countries entirely (read 85 – 95%) illiterate or lawless?
  13. Who rules these countries?
  14. Do the rulers choose to maintain this state of being? If so why?
  15. To what extent do the cultures of your world value music, performance, and art?
  16. Are there any martial cultures in your world?
  17. Are there any nomadic societies in your world?
  18. How do the cultures at different extremes interact with one another?
  19. Is diplomacy common to all cultures?
  20. Is there an ‘Invisible’ culture (for example, a caste of nobles or travellers which span the world).
  21. Are there any cultures which exist in isolation?
  22. How important is the written word in your world?
  23. Are there accepted rules of engagement in war between your countries?
  24. How do the people of your world view beauty regimes and products? (Doe such things exist)?
  25. How do your cultures view sex work?

 

World-Building Resources

World Building 101

Welcome To World Building

 

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World-Building 101

World-building, in short, is the process of constructing and populating a world and/or universe as stage on which stories can play out.

It’s complex, it’s time consuming, but it is, in fact, a basic and essential skill for a writer and despite what you may have been told it is involved in every single novel or story produced. You see, even when you set a story in the real world you undertake a degree of world-building; you edit and polish the world in which you wish to set your story. You decide which sections of the real world you represent to the reader just as you do when using a world of your own invention.

This kind of world-building, however, is not the matter at hand; we’re all about creating a new universe today.

 

What Does A World Need?

A question half as silly and twice and important as it seems.

What would you say a world needs? Well, land, water, sky, plants, and animals, right? All the basic stuff of life. Correct, and yet at the same time so very wrong;

Yes, if you wish your world to sustain life plausibly it should definitely contain all of these things. However, your world also needs a huge amount of other, rather more man made, things to make it a worthy stage.

Here’s a list of things your world will need.

Your (Very) Basic World-Building Checklist:

  1. Geography
  2. History
  3. Languages
  4. Society
  5. Culture (they are different, trust me)
  6. Religions
  7. Creation myths
  8. Magic  (?)
  9. Technology
  10. Industry
  11. History
  12. Transportation
  13. Agriculture
  14. Cuisines
  15. Flora
  16. Fauna
  17. Art
  18. Music
  19. Literature
  20. Multiple countries

…. Phew, right? That’s a lot of work.

Thankfully it doesn’t need to take you 30 years and a degree in linguistics to get all of this done; most writers will never do a Tolkien style historiography and language building exercise. The truth is you don’t need to, either; as long as you present the world in a way that makes sense your readers will follow what you’re saying.

World-building is rather like the guiding pencil strokes and artist makes before applying paint to a canvas; it should be invisible in the finished product.

 

The Three Truths Of World-Building

  1. World-Building Is For The Author: the majority of the work you put into world-building will go unnoticed, and that is fine. In fact, that’s the way it should be. Picture your world as a swan; what the spectator sees should be effortless while the legs, so to speak, work overtime beyond their sight.
  2. World-Building Is A Precursor To Writing: if your world-building process goes on and on and on and on… well, it may be time to stop. Remember the above point; create your world with broad strokes and nail down the structural integrity before and then put it to the test by writing a story set within it.
  3. The World Supports The Story: this is self-explanatory, but the clarify – the world you build should service and support the stories you tell. Your story should never serve the purpose of describing or otherwise showcasing your world.

 

 

Getting Started: Inspiration And Diversion

Every fictional world will have one foot in reality and one in some form of fantasy. By this I mean that it will take inspiration from the real world and from fiction, day dreams, or other fabricated worlds (as opposed to the fantasy genre). For those who write fantasy, the genre, Tolkien, Gaiman, Hobb, and Le Guinn (amongst others) are likely to be of great inspiration, for example.

The real trick is twisting and developing your own world until it becomes something new and different enough to be unrecognisable in almost every way.

 

How can this be done? Well, in the same way that you discovered the seed of your new world; by asking questions of the world that already exists.

Ask yourself what drives your world, which countries are at war, which support each other, and which stay out of it. Ask yourself if there is a main religion, or hundreds of small ones, or if there is no religion at all.

Ask yourself what your world considers to be the single, universal crime – what is the one thing that all cultures agree is morally abhorrent?

And then ask yourself what colour the fire is, because, you know, there has to be a goofy twist somewhere.

 

 

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Welcome to World Building — Danielle Adams

Hey Lovelies! Welcome to world building. I really wanted to talk about this because it applies to all genres of fiction. No matter where you are placing your story, you’re going to have to make it real to your readers. This can be a little tricky when you’re basing your setting somewhere that a lot […]

via Welcome to World Building — Danielle Adams