As promised, I am starting my Worldbuilding questionnaire walk through off with a bang! Today, we’re going to be looking at the first section of questions, which encompasses the most basic questions about the world you want to create. I want to give you just an overview of the questions (because obviously, you can go to the link and read them yourself), but I also want to give a bit of commentary about why these details are important when crafting your fantasy universe.
Section A: Basics
When I started using this questionnaire, the very first question took me a while to think about. You wouldn’t necessarily think about whether the laws of nature and physics still applied as your first step. I actually had to go look up what these laws were (I don’t do science very well. >.<) But believe it or not, your universe could entirely flip on its head (perhaps even literally) due to changes like these. Does gravity apply? Do the laws of motion apply? Where does magic fit in? Are the laws different because magic exists, or is magic limited by these principles? This will start you thinking about the limitations of your magic system, which we will get to in a later article.
Then you need to make a decision about what type of world this is: an earth-like world or not like Earth at all? This not only will decide which sections of questions you look at next, but it is also going to affect things related to suns and moons, shape of the world, and terrain.
Next is the basics about people! Or non-people, if that’s your preference! These questions are meant to establish the main players in your story. Elves, Fae, dwarfs, demons, sprites, mortals, and many, many more magical creatures can grace the pages of your story, and establishing who those are early on can make things easier for you later. Marking the differences between these types in terms of habitats, living conditions, and magic now can also be useful in formatting your terrain, cities, and your magic system in later worldbuilding.
Finally, you’re going to create a very basic outline of the magic system in your universe.
- Where does magic come from?
- How much magic is available?
- What are the long term effects of magic on a magic user?
- What are the differences between magic among different races/species, if any?
Very simple questions to start off. No details yet. However, if you look at them, you can see why this author chose to include them in the basics category. The very existence of magic has to have been established somehow, whether it’s during the timeline of your story or thousands and thousands of years before.
Section B: Alternate Earth
Writers who view their universe has being an alternate version of our Earth should take note of this section. Here, you will establish where fantasy diverts away from history. How similar are the histories and cultures of our planet in comparison with yours? What makes them different? Is there a specific point in time where our knowledge of our world ends and yours begins? If not, show where things diverge slowly over time through everyday life changes. If magic exists, how have the inhabitants of Earth been unaware of it this whole time? This set of questions works particularly well for historical fantasy.
Section C: Not Earth At All
Everyone else! Join me! My universe, the Three Realms, falls under this category. You will find that this set of questions is not focused on history and culture (we will get to that later), but instead on the physical aspects of your world. Obviously, we need to establish shape, terrain, and celestial bodies (if any) circling around your world. I didn’t realize it until after I had already built my universe (which only has one sun and moon) how much it would affect aspects like the wind, the tides, and the weather if I had chosen to add something like a second moon. If you set the moons on the same side, the tides would be thrown completely out of whack. If the moons were on opposite sides of your universe, could you create an ocean that stays still? Lots of interesting things to think about.
Comment below with any questions or ideas about your own fantasy universe! I’ll see you next time where we’ll be discussing physical and historical features.