I will be away for 2 weeks from 21st September and return on the 7th October but I have scheduled these posts so sorry for the lack of activity and late responses to comments but as always thank you for the support and I look forward to catching up with you all when I come back.
Today I have a different post and it is a post about world-building in books from a writer’s perspective.
Recently I have been putting a lot of effort into developing my world-building in my book and I found it so helpful to answers a list of questions and allowing me to think in depth about all the details about my ‘world’.
I’m just a beginner writer so don’t take this as an expert saying what it should be but this is what I found helpful and hope other’s might too. I obviously researched into world-building before so these aren’t my original ideas but I have developed points by adding my own things and mixed things together for this.
Places where I got inspiration and tips from (sources from pinterest you can find the pins in my writing board):
- yourlocalwriterblog (tumblr)
- palindromedary-blog (tumblr)
- charlesoberonn (tumblr)
- Writing with Jenna Moreci (YouTube)
- This pin!!
- You are not going to write about every detail in your books as it would probably be boring and unnecessary but as the writer I think it is good to have an idea for all these small things so I am comfortable writing about it and I know all the answers. It is my world I don’t want to be left wondering how some things work.
- Don’t get overwhelmed by the volume– one question at a time, one category at a time. And if I am struggling with one question/section I will move on and come back to it– it is so much more productive.
- History is such a helpful resource– inspiration and when researching it, it shows you how to build up a world so it is really useful.
- Never take the ‘one size fits all approach’– not every citizen is going to be the same. They won’t all agree with the government, the hierarchy, the core religion– there will be very varied views and it is best to show this in your world.
- It depends what you characters are doing and what scale your world is (e.g. city, country, world, universe). Obviously the bigger it is the more you have to do but use your time wisely. If you are doing a country focus on the cities/towns etc. that are going to be in the story– you don’t actually need to develop everywhere. For example if you were doing a contemporary in the New York City– you would research NYC not the entire USA.
- Magic will have an influence on everything if it exists– don’t ignore this influence.
- Read all these questions first before answering them all ⇓⇓
Where is in located? Is it an island/country? What is the name of the place? What other places are going to feature in your book? What scale is your world going to be— planet/country? What are the most populated areas (are cities the busiest etc.)?
The bigger scale the world– the more things you will have to consider. If it is planet you will have to have different cultures/languages and have to handle varying international relationships whereas a city is much smaller.
Are they human? Are there mythic creatures (i.e. elves) or any magically people? Is there a mixture of both? How do they interact? Do the inhabitants differ from different countries? How populated are areas with inhabitants? What animals are there? Are there magical animals? What is the relationship between magic and non-magic animals? What are the relationship between animals and humans? Any common pets? Any feared animals? What habitats do the animal thrive on– different animals in different countries?
3. DIFFERENCES WITHIN SOCIETY
What is the powerful group? What are the feared group? Is there oppression? What is cause of difference? Have the differences always existed and continue to exist in present day? Differences to consider…..
Social Classes— who is in each class? How are there lifestyles different? How do they treat each other? Are the physically separated? How long has this occurred?
Slavery— does it currently exist? If so, where does it exist? How long has it existed? If it doesn’t, has it ever existed? Who is the enslaved group? If it is abolished– what did it take? How long did it exist?
Other differences to consider our sex (male dominated etc.), sexuality (LGBTQ+), racial, religious (more on this later), age (old seen as drain on society, youth seen as stupid etc.), disabilities/illnesses– how are these accommodated/treated?
Take care with including differences that aren’t a part of the plot (i.e. if the plot is about the uprising of females as they overthrow the patriarchy) because if you are reproducing the oppression and inequalities for no reason then you are sending a harmful message out and you really need to think about it.
Magic is often included in a lot of fantasy stories but if it isn’t in yours then you don’t need this point. How was it created? Is it universal? Does everyone know about it? When do beings get magic (are they children)? How is it treated— are they feared? Oppressed? Respected? Do they magical beings look down on non-magical beings? Are they difference amongst the magical community in terms of power whether amount or type? Do the differences depend on genes, personality, random selection? What are the limits to the power? What weakens the magic? How do they recover if they have burnouts or power been weakened etc.? What are the laws concerning the power? What are the punishments for misuse? How long has magic existed? What made it come about or did it always exist? How is it accessed (wand, hand movement, mind, speech) How does it influence the development of society? (You can answer this for each point in standard of living i.e. how does it affect building development?)
5. STANDARDS OF LIVING
Money— What is it called? What is it made of? What does it look like? What are its uses? How do people receive it?
Systems— How it water received? Is there electricity? If so, what is the system like? If no, what do they use instead? Is there a sewage system? If not, what do they use? How is trash sorted/removed/handled? Are the utilities common or only for the rich etc.? Does magic influence any of these systems? How do they clean? What items do they use to clean?
Procreation— what activities are done for fun (art, games, drinking, poetry, sports *great post about sports here* etc.)? How often do people take time to procreate? Does it involve money? How much? What is the difference between rich and poor activities? What are the common toys? What musical instruments are there, if any? What do people sing? Are there nursery rhymes? Are there old songs that everyone knows (maybe a tale about an old warrior/king)? Is there film? Or theatre? Famous actresses/actors?
Literature— Are they books? What are they made of? Are books common? What are they often about (stories, non-fiction, religion, laws, history)? What are popular ones? What are classics? Do the books deteriorate over time? What language are they written? Other formats (e.g. screenplays, religious texts)?
Clothing— How does it differ between different places (different climates)? What are the typical items of clothing? How do they fit? What are the unusual ones but still wore? What materials are used? How were the materials gathered? What colours are they? How do you get different colours? Who makes the clothing? Does it differ between different groups (i.e men and women, warriors and leaders, rich and poor, young and old, different religions, different ‘groups’ e.g. goths, jocks) What is the armour if any? What about accessories (jewellery, headbands, make up)? How is hair styled? What does it look like?
Weapons— what are the common weapons? What are they made of? Who makes them? Are they strong? How has the weaponry changed over time? How does magic affect the weapons?
Communications— What is the carrier system (i.e. word of mouth, pigeon, phone etc.)? How many different forms? If letters, what are the made of– if paper, how received? If ink used, how received? Is there different colours? What do they use to write with? How is item made?
Transportation— What is the common transportation system (foot, horse, carriage, car, ship)? How common are transportation devices? Does it cost money? How much? What are the roads like? Is the landscape accommodating to transportation? Are they signs to show the way? Are there stops for long journeys? What is the common travel length? How is distance measured?
Buildings— who makes them? What materials are used? How is the material transported? What do the common houses look like? How do they differ between different areas (i.e. rich and poor)? Do houses include a room for religion? What facilities do they provide? What is the different between old and new? What do shops looks like? What do restaurants look like? Are they palaces? What do they look like? How are they made? What is the security like for all building?
Education— Who goes to school? Is it limited to a certain group? Is it compulsory? What do they learn? Where are the schools located? Are there boarding schools? How many are there? Do they have holidays? How much children do they accommodate? How long are they in the education system? How are they grouped in classes (age, ability, subject)? How long are the school days? Are resources provided? Is there a uniform? What is the examination process? Can they retake? How many stages are there (primary, secondary, university)? What is the benefit of children succeeding? Are they different standards of schooling in different places?
Labour/Jobs— How are items made (e.g. furniture, vehicles)? What kind of jobs are there? What are the desired jobs? What are the high level jobs? Middle level? Low level? How do they train for jobs? What is the job application process?
Medicine— What are the common illnesses? What are the deadly diseases? Are there doctors (what are they called)? How equipped are they? How is the equipment made? What do they use for bandages/stitches if they have any at all? How skilled are they? Do they use magic? Are the available in most areas? What is the hygiene level? How do they handle disabilities and mental illnesses? Do they believe in medicine? Are they experimenting with medicine? What are the natural drugs used if any?
Technology and development— what is the availability of technology? If yes, what technology is there? Who makes it? How is it maintained? When did technology come into the world? How did it affect things (i.e. care of planet, weaponry, speed of development, social differences)? If no, what do they use for alternatives? How does magic affect it?
Food— What do the inhabitants eat? What are the common foods? What are the different foods from different places? How is the food different between rich and poor? How is the food made? How is the food transported to different places? What are the common drinks? How are the drinks gotten? How are the dishes/cutlery made? What type of dishes/cutlery is there? Does everyone use it? How many meals in one day? How is each meal different? What times are they eaten? Does everyone eat together? Where does everyone eat (tables, floor)? What are the different diets (allergies, vegetarian, healthy diets for warriors etc.)
Family— What are the common structures (e.g. nuclear, bean pole, reconstituted, same sex, single parent)? Does marriage (or similar process) exist? How is family diversity treated? Is one more common than another (i.e. single least common in poorer areas as two salaries are preferable)? In terms of family planning, does the gov’t prefer more children or less? Are adoptions/abortions available? Do they provide incentives? What are the gender roles in families?
Government/Monarchy— Is there a monarchy/oligarchy/dictatorship/democracy (links to how people in power are chosen)? How is it treated? Who does it benefit? Is it corrupt? What is the political system like? What are the ruler’s names (king, empress)? Is the political system good or bad? What laws are there? How are the laws made? How are the laws enforced? What is the difference between governing bodies in different countries? How do they all interact? What are the local governments like? How do they report to main governing body?
What are the different genealogies of the inhabitants? What is the main one? What are the different languages? What is the main one? Can inhabitants be bilingual?
Speech— How has speech changed over time? (translate old documents etc.) What are the native speaker’s abbreviations? What are the common grammar mistakes? What are the common phrase– ‘oh my god’, ‘loser’ (common insults) ‘excited’ ‘sh*t’ ‘what?’? What is the sense of humour of the place? What are the popular/common jokes (i.e. knock, knock, a certain figure is widely mocked, sarcasm common, who is often at the expense of the joke)?
What does the landscape consist of? How do inhabitants interact with the land? Do they damage or nourish it or both (depending on area/people)? What are common sights across the landscape? Does the land suffer from natural disasters (e.g. tsunami, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires etc.)? How does it handle them? How have they effected the development of the country?
What is the core religion in this country? What are the beliefs in the religion? What is the worst thing they can do to disrespect religious beliefs? What are the rituals/practises? Is there a religious building (e.g. temple, church)? Who are the religious people (e.g. priests, soothsayers)? How respected is religious belief? How common is religion? How does the religion affect the individual (e.g. promote reciprocity, individualism, honour, selflessness)? How many different religions are there? How do they interact? What are the different religions beliefs and rituals? How do they treat birth, marriage (or similar event) and death? Any ceremonies? What do they believe happens when you die? Are there cults? If religion isn’t dominate in society, what are the alternatives– philosophies? Science and technology? Laws?
9. SPECIAL OCCASIONS
What holidays are universally celebrated in country? Why are they celebrated? (link to religion) How are they celebrated? Does everyone have days off? Do they celebrate birthdays? How are the celebrations celebrated? When do inhabitants ‘come of age’? Do they exchange gifts? What would they be?
How is time measured? How are days measured? How many days are in a year? What do they call months? Are there different seasons? What are they? How long do they last? How do people handle the difference in temperature etc.?
What are the major eras? What are the major cultures throughout the past? What have been the major wars and conflicts? What are the major events in history? What have been the major movements? What are the biggest disasters in the past (i.e. widespread disease, natural disasters, genocide)? Who have been the major leaders of the past? What have been the major alliances? What have been the major differences? What have been the most revolutionary moves forward and how did it happen? What have been the big regressions and step backs? Are there any patterns in the past? How has the history influenced present day? What are the changes amongst people (i.e. clothes, buildings, norms, procreation, jokes, language, interests, labour)– how did development affect everything else?
When Putting it into Writing…
- No info dumping
- Show the world through senses/through the characters eyes
- Include small details– IT MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE!!
- Highlight differences between different places by including vivid contrast
- Including convincing names
- Be confident in your world– if you show doubt, the readers will feel doubt
- Not every character will be an expert in the world’s history– most know basic information, some will know specifics
- Write about world history through ignorant characters or conflicting opinions– (mixed versions of past e.g. XXX was monster but some see them as a saviour)