How to Start World Building, by Jess Rae

If you’ve read my To Be Read or my last book recommendation you’ll know I’m a bit of a fantasy nut and as such it’s my dream to create my own fantasy series that resonates with me the way Richelle Mead’s, Sarah J Maas’ or Maria V Snyder’s series do. While you can start with a grand concept, plot or character the key to a great fantasy series is a great world.

Constructing a new world can seem incredibly daunting, particularly if our existing world has no connection in your series. So here goes some questions you can ask yourself to help prompt your development of your new world.

Questions about the geography of your world:

  • Do you have a loose map of your world? Do you have a general layout of how it looks?
  • What’s the climate like in the different regions of your world? Do they experience weather differently? Do certain regions experience weather more severely than others?
  • How does weather and location affect produce/trade?
  • What’s the flora life like in your different regions? Are some plants poisonous? Do they have special properties?
  • What wildlife is common in the different regions?

Questions about names in your world:

  • Do your names translate to anything, either in a made up language or a real one?
  • Are your names influenced by a culture/language?
  • Do your names fit in the world you’ve created? I.e. a Western name like Jessica probably wouldn’t fit into a world where names have been influenced by the Mandarin language.

Questions about education in your world:

  • How are people educated? Is education only afforded to the rich?
  • Is reading a common ability?
  • What’s the accessibility of books like? Can you only get them in libraries? Are their certain people who are banned from books? Are books sacred?
  • What are the basics that kids learn? Does this differ depending on region, gender, class?
  • Is being a scholar valuable?

Questions about military in your world:

  • How do the military get troops? Are they conscribed?
  • Is your world at war? Close to war? Why?
  • Does your world have any allies? Is it a peaceful alliance or a means to an end? Why?
  • What is your world’s army tactics?
  • Are there any military cells that are more advanced then others?
  • What are the weapons like?

Questions about religion in your world:

  • Is the Government of your world influenced by religion or is there a separation between church and state?
  • What do people believe?
  • Are there any holy texts, ceremonies, rituals?
  • Who are the officials in your religion?
  • What happens to people who don’t follow the religion?

Questions about the government in your world:

  • What type of government runs your world: a monarchy, democracy etc?
  • Is there a governing document like the Constitution?
  • Are there any past leaders of note?
  • What’s the class system like?
  • Does your government attempt equality?
  • Who enforces the law and how?
  • What’s the currency?
  • Is there a justice system in your world? Is there capital punishment and what is it for?
  • Do executions happen? How are they carried out?
  • What are the most sacred laws? Are there any laws that make your world unique, i.e. no music or books?

Questions about culture in your world:

  • What are the class systems?
  • What are the greeting customs in your world?
  • How do people court each other? Do they seek permission from parents etc.?
  • Are there any traditions in celebrating milestones, i.e. birthdays, funerals, weddings, etc.?
  • Are there any superstitions in your world?
  • What is the food/drink like?
  • What are the buildings like? Are they influenced by anything?
  • How do people dress?
  • Where are the places that people go on their free time? What do they do?
  • Any festivals that exist in your world?
  • Are there any “famous” people? What are they famous for?

These are just a starting point, and details of these questions may not even be relevant to your story but it’s important for you to know the details. World building can be a daunting task but it should also be fun; you are after all building an entire world where anything is possible!

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