When you’re worldbuilding, creating a map for your world can be helpful in seeing how kingdoms, cities, and towns fit together. Especially if your novel involves some sort of journey, a map can show you the logical paths to take to your characters’ destinations. A map adds an element of reality to your world and will absolutely make you feel like you’re getting somewhere.
Now, you can get into all types of mapmaking software that will allow you to customize every detail to your desire. But why get into spending money and learning how a software works with complicated instruction manuals that will take you at least a few days to learn the basics? My recommendation is getting a pen and paper or if you prefer, opening up a PowerPoint document and going to town.
Step 1: Understand the regions of your world.
Before you start mapping your universe, you need to understand how the world is broken up. Do you have multiple realms that you need to take into account? How many kingdoms or states do you have? How are those divided up: cities, towns, villages? You also want to make note of main geographical features that may divide up your land as well. Mountains, rivers, and forests can divide land or encircle it in such ways that can be important notes in your book. Go back to your notes from my Worldbuilding Questions series for help.
Step 2: Decide how to represent each place.
If you’re a fantastic artist who can draw beautiful buildings and detailed trees and mountain sides, you can skip over this section. If you’re like me and can’t really draw to save your life, you’re going to want to come up with some simple icons to represent your regions whether you’re drawing by hand or creating by computer. In terms of my PowerPoint, I used clipart of small houses to represent villages, a town hall to represent towns, and a group of skyscrapers to represent cities. Triangles became mountains, and blue lines became rivers. Make sure you write down your key so you’ll know what your icons stand for when you go back to edit your manuscript six months later.
Step 3: Create.
Once you’ve got all the logistical brainstorming out of the way, it’s time to create! Plan on spending at least an hour or two on your map even if you’re working with simple icons. This is a real opportunity to ground yourself in your world before you write your story. Really enjoy the process of creating your map. It’s fun!
Welcome everyone! This is the very last post in this worldbuilding questionnaire series. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with you all on this particular subject, and I look forward to guiding you through others. But don’t worry! I’m not swearing off the discussion on worldbuilding forever. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing fantasy, so you’ll definitely see it again.
Without further ado, one last time, we are working from this link for our last section.
First, let’s talk about social mobility. How easy can social advancement occur? What items are considered luxuries in your society?
What are acceptable norms of personal hygiene? What systems and tools help to assist that? For example, plumbing systems assist with keeping running water moving to and form the house.
How is garbage and waste material disposed of?
Think about the interior of a typical citizen’s home. What does the furniture look like? What kind of material is it made from? Think about the craftsmanship, whether it is kept fairly simple or is more elaborate. Does more elaborate design mean a more expensive piece of furniture?
How early do people tend to wake up in the morning? How do they know what time to wake up?
Fashion and Dress
What do people wear in your society? Consider all walks of life and all species. What kind of fabric would this clothing be made from? Also think about professional uniforms like healers or soldiers or the dress of the politician.
What does current fashion look like? What’s considered trendy? How about physical characteristics, like tan skin or curly hair?
I believe most of these have been covered in previous sections, but essentially we want to focus on respect of procedure. Who walks through doors first? Who should be introduced to who in what order? What rules surround a formal court dinner? To name a few.
Food! Glorious food. This question section will focus on the typical diet of the average citizen as well as traditions involving food. This will require you to look back to what crops and animals are available to use. Think about what kind of dishes a person would eat in a day and when. Does your society eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or are there entirely different norms? Are some dishes local to certain areas? Different cultures tend to have different signature dishes. What herbs and spices are available to season foods? What kind of foods are eaten around the holidays?
Is there an organized system of education? How many levels does it consist of; does some education happen primarily at home? Is literacy considered a necessary skill to the society? Who teaches in these schools? Where are those people trained?
Think about what is being taught in these schools. An educated populace or an uneducated populace changes the course of society. It changes what it allows its government to do to it. This can be a massive plot point. Don’t forget about magical education!
Time! A world must run on time. Or be timeless! This is fantasy, after all. If your world does in fact adhere to the laws of time, consider having a universal calendar that your people can run on. Divide up your days in a way that’s understandable. Feel free to use the time scale we operate on now (second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, etc.). It might make it a lot easier for your reader to follow. Feel free to modify it by making the week longer or changing the names of the months. Think about what holidays are celebrated around certain times of the year and plan accordingly.
We have reached the end, my friends! This series constitutes the best and most comprehensive worldbuilding questionnaire I have ever seen. I have really enjoyed walking through this with you all. I hope the resource has been super helpful to all you writers out there. Much love. <3 Happy writing!
Hey readers! Only ONE more post left in the worldbuilding series! It’s been such an honor to walk through the SFWA questionnaire with you all. I’ve enjoyed breaking it down into manageable pieces and providing commentary that hopefully has inspired some of you to create. Without further ado, let’s get started! Today, we’re going to be focusing on the second half of the Commerce, Trade, and Public life section.
What do doctors and surgeons look like in your society? Do they go by these names, or are they healers and clerics? How are healers trained? How accurately can they diagnose medical conditions? What methods do they have of diagnosing the issues, physical or magical? How accessible are healers to the community around them? Are they too expensive? Having access to a doctor ultimately makes a society more healthy. Imagine if there were wars held over having access to a healer. Imagine undertaking a war without any doctors or medics available.
How much is known about the anatomy and physiology of the body? How were treatments for various conditions discovered? Do your people understand the reasons behind why treatments work, or are they sailing by just by knowing that something work? Compared to the modern era, specify where your world is in medical development. It should be understood whether your society is more medieval, more modern, or more futuristic.
Is healing a magical process or a physical process? Go back to your notes on magical spells and clarify what can and cannot be fixed by magic.
What kind of treatments are available for various medical conditions? Think about everything from the common cold to the most rare of cancers. Now, not all of these need to be specified in order for you to write a good story. Is it possible to revive/resuscitate someone after they have died, either through physical or magical means? Can healers potentially revive the dead if ever necessary. Please do not forget about what institutions are in place to address the issues of mental health. Or if there is a lack of mental health solutions in place, which may be interesting to play around with in a story.
Arts and Entertainment
Let’s switch gears entirely and discuss leisure and the arts. How important are the arts to your society? How does your society define what art is? Remember, art is quite a fluid word. It can mean the practice of visual art, or it can be expanded to encompass theater, music, and writing. How much support is there in the community for artistic pursuits? Are any artistic practices outlawed?
Are there permanent theaters and concert halls, or do buildings or rooms have to be temporarily converted to serve as such? This point can stem from how important the arts is in your society. Do artists tend to stay in one place, or do they travel around from town to town in troupes? Are they typically trained professionally, or is it a learn on your own kind of trade?
How does magic factor into the arts? In what ways is art enhanced by magic? In what ways is the practice of magic already art on its own?
What do people in your universe like to do for fun? What kind of games are well known and played across the world? This can range from card games to children’s games and magical games. What about sports? Are any sports widely popularized? Are there traveling sports teams? Feel free to make up as much as you want. Do different species have their own kind of games and activities for leisure?
What is your world’s standard of beauty? This factors into more than appearances and talent. This can play into societal splits, societal advantages, and advantages of being a specific species or race. This can also influence portrayals of both men and women in art. Do different races and species have different standards of beauty? I think this is one of the more intriguing questions of this section, for sure.
How are buildings usually constructed? What are the available materials for building, and does it vary by area? What are the differences highlighted between wealthier sections of town and poorer sections of town?
On the exterior side, how tall can a building feasibly be given the current state of construction technology? Are there any architectural features that buildings tend to highlight (i.e. the windows, the doors, exterior walls, etc.)? What architectural styles in the modern world mimic your world’s styles? On the interior side, how are buildings typically designed? Most likely, this will differ depending on whether it is a business building or a housing building.
How do people like to decorate their buildings, both inside and out?
Most of these questions have been addressed in earlier sections. The more unique ones to the bunch focus on the city’s layout. Are there any blatant landmarks in the cities that your story covers? Are the cities laid out in a grid pattern, or have they just grown naturally in every which way? What about orientation: is the center or the head of the city oriented in a strategic location like the highest point in an area?
How do the rural areas compare to the urban areas population wise? Is it primarily farmers out in these areas or do any other trades dominate? How easily can goods move between the rural and urban areas? Pay attention to this because depending on how well food can keep, it can limit the size and proximity of cities.
How is the weather in the area? Is it fairly consistent? This can help determine whether crop production is consistent or very inconsistent, which in turn influences your economy. Don’t forget to account for catastrophic weather like cyclones and dust storms!
Hope you all have enjoyed today’s post! See you all next time.
Hello readers. Welcome back to Fluff About Fantasy’s worldbuilding series. Today, we’ll be talking about commerce, trade, and public life; focusing on the first half of the SFWA questionnaire section. Without further introduction, let’s get right to it!
Pretty much all of the questions in this category have been referenced in various earlier sections. I won’t be going back over them!
Business and Industry
I’m not the best authority on this subject, but I’ll try to walk everyone through this as best I can. To start off, how is business organized in your universe? Are there organized trade unions in place, or would you prefer to create a guild structure? Is there a merchant class of people? What kind of regulations has the government placed on business, if any?
An interesting question is whether people are able to learn multiple trades, otherwise known as cross-crafting. Is it an automatic right, or can people be locked in to only one trade for the rest of their lives? This could create an interesting social dynamic where each person is tied to one trade for the course of their life. Another point to consider would be whether various industrial processes can be considered common knowledge or trade secrets. Maybe certain industries can be so locked down that it’s almost impossible to break into the trade without their explicit approval and invitation into their circle.
What would be the process of entering into a trade? Should a person get an educational degree first or enter into an apprenticeship? What kind of requirements need to be met before a person goes from a novice to a practitioner of a trade?
What types of trades would you typically see in a small town vs. a big city? Are specific areas in your world known for certain trades? What about different tribes or species? How is the balance between new industries and old industries? Is innovation high or stalled? Don’t forget to clarify which goods are available as well!
And of course, we can’t talk about trade without discussing the presence of a black market! Does your universe have one? How prevalent is it? In my novel, the black market has a prominent role in both Upper Realm and Middle Realm politics. Several of the events could not have been set into motion without it!
Transportation and Communication
What kind of transportations are available? This can include anything from:
Domesticated animals (oxen, horses, camels, etc.)
Motor vehicles (cars, taxis, buses, etc.)
Magical means of transportation (flying carpets, witches’ brooms, dragons, teleportation spells, etc.)
Water transportation (yachts, boats, cruise ships, canoes, etc.)
How common is it for people to travel? Do people only travel when it’s necessary to shop and trade, or do people take trips regularly? How dangerous is travel? Are there good roads in place, or is it all through rough terrain? Where do people stay if traveling over night? Do they have to rely on friends, or are there inns and hotels available?
On the subject of communication, how are messages sent? Is there a public system in place, or has the practice been privatized? How fast does news travel from one place to another? How accurate and efficient are communication and newscasting in your world? Is there freedom of the press or heavy restrictions?
How are books produced? Are they considered to be common or a rare item reserved for the rich? Who produces them? Where are the libraries and large collections kept? How accessible are they?
Science and Technology
Describe the level of technology present in your world. What time period of our history can you best relate it to? What advancements have been made that benefit the common man? What advancements are considered luxuries? Are there any advancements that have not been made despite the level of technology available?
How much is known in the scientific field? Are they even related to science, or are explanations primarily made in the areas of magic and religion? Where is this type of research conducted?
How do magic and science play together? Do they interact at all? Where does magic replace technology and potentially inhibit its development? In what places has magic actually sped up the process of scientific and technological development?
Thanks for reading, everybody. Happy worldbuilding!
As promised in my last post, I’m going to be alternating between worldbuilding and building an author platform for a little while until both series are complete. Today, I’m bringing you a new set of questions dedicated to diplomacy between lands and the waging of wars. Now these elements play quite heavily in my trilogy. I’ve really enjoyed building the stepping stones of war, in particular. I find it intriguing to see what issues can spiral out of control until the kingdoms blow up and war becomes inevitable.
The first step of establishing both peacetime and wartime is establishing what kind of relationships already exist between kingdoms or worlds. Make sure to pay attention to the state of both historic and current relations. Are there standard embassies that exist in other nations or do ambassadors travel infrequently without a real home base? How do the relationships between lands affect trade and commerce?
How are treaties negotiated? Do the rulers negotiate directly, or do secondary parties take care of that? Are there any treaties in place that directly affect the course of your novel? Are any currently being negotiated?
Don’t forget to establish whether any high profile families in various lands are related to each other. It could be interesting to play around with.
What major weapons of war are available? Make sure to list everything you can think of, including magic. Think on both a large and small scale. Swords, knives, bombs, siege towers, nuclear weapons. Are any weapons restricted to specific classes of soldiers and/or citizens? Please make note of the weapons subsection of questions for more details to consider.
How has magic affected strategy and war tactics in general? Can magical espionage be conducted? Are there any special techniques that could be used to counterattack large scale magical attacks? How do you conduct a large scale magical attack? Is it a combination of individual powers and spells or a concentrated effort of merging magics together?
Now contemplate the structure of your various armies. Think about having a structured hierarchy to keep your soldiers organized within themselves. That will be especially important if you have to merge armies with others. Of course, you could make things a little more loosely defined in case you want to create conflict there. Also, who is the army made up of? Are they specially trained or is it any Joe off the street? How many people make up the armies, approximately? How are they supplied?
Who can call for the army to go to war? Is declaring war a formal declaration or can your lands just attack each other on the spur of the moment?
How do the presence of non-human magical beings affect battle strategy? Can they be recruited into the regular army or is there a special army specifically for them?
Thank you so much for tuning in this week. Much love!
Hey everybody! I’m super excited to bring you a new worldbuilding post today. Today’s gonna be a bit of a short one as I’m preparing for travel to my internship this summer! Hopefully, I’ll be able to wrap that up soon and settle in for some more interaction with my followers and the ever supportive #writingcommunity.
Today, we’re going to talk about building the laws of your universe. We’ve covered metaphysical laws and magical laws that have governed the greater world. But it’s time to focus on the laws of humans and/or magical beings on a more intimate level. Crime and law can play an interesting role in a fantasy novel. It can create intrigue in a character who’s been on the run from the law for years. It can call into question a ruler’s legitimacy. Law creates a framework for what’s acceptable or unacceptable in your society and can be portrayed as both a social and a moral issue. It can showcase what is important to the people in your world or to the founders of your societies.
Let’s get started! (Again, we’re working from this link!)
Before we start with a few of the more specific questions, I’d like you to sit down and make a list. The first section is going to consist of standard laws that are going to be your basic expectations. Include the magical laws you created in post #5 in this. How does your society feel about murder? Are there any situations where murder is acceptable, such as in self defense? How about theft: common theft and grand theft? Where does kidnapping fall on the scale? The second section is going to include any laws you can think of off the top of your head that will directly play into your story. Don’t be concerned if you can’t think of any at this stage. It isn’t necessary, and you can always add to it later. Now go back through that list and name the punishments for breaking each law or code.
Now, let’s get in to more specific questions. What are the typical and legal ways for gathering evidence? Does your society follow a more standard system of obtaining search warrants, questioning witnesses, and following a structured path? Or can you obtain information through more violent methods such as torture? Are there any magical methods to add to this list? In my world, the Upper Realm has a few users of forensic magic, magic that can backtrace a spell and pinpoint it to a specific magical signature. Mages who have the gift and have studied this extensively can pin down the sex, birthplace , and current location of the caster. Can evidence collected by magical means be entered into a court?
What is the status of weaponry? Can anyone own a weapon or certain types of weapons? Are any groups of people restricted from having access? Do some groups of people who are required to carry a weapon by law?
Are certain spells illegal? Why? How are magic users punished for casting illegal spells? Are there gradations of punishment? Are any magic users above the law? Keep this section in particular in mind as this can influence your characters’ minds as whether to break or not to break said laws.
The Legal System
Are there separate courts for civil and criminal cases? Do separate courts exist for humans and magic users, or are they all tried by the same system? Does a special court exist for the trials of magical crimes? Take care in the choices you make here. If your intention is to create a fair system, you have to have a system of judges that can be impartial. That would require them to have an understanding of both magical and non-magical affairs, whatever that means to you. If you want a corrupt system, feel free to disregard that and blow your whole court system to hell.
Who is responsible for catching criminals? Again, you will need to establish whether there is a separate enforcement group for magical and non-magical beings. How are these people organized? Do they work full-time, part-time, or do they volunteer for the assignment? Are they paid by the government, or has the practice been privatized? Now that I think about it, it could be interesting to see a story where police work had been entirely privatized.
Once someone is caught in violation or in suspicion of violation of a crime, how are they treated? Are they innocent until proven guilty, or guilty until proven innocent? Are they held anywhere special? What is the procedure for arresting someone?
Who represents the parties of a case? Are there lawyers and advocates, or do the people have to represent themselves in a civil or criminal case? Are there judges other than the ruler or the legislators themselves? How are those people chosen?
I hope I’ve given you a lot to think about today. These questions are super interesting, and I can’t wait to hear what all of you do with it. I love to hear interesting ideas, so feel free to comment below!
Hey everyone! Welcome back to another Worldbuilding post. We’re about three quarters of the way through this worldbuilding series! I don’t know what we’re going to go into next after this questionnaire, but I know we’ll find something! Today, I want to focus on what can be one of the more intriguing elements in a world, if used properly: the introduction of government and politics.
Government and politics has a heavy influence over my novel. Conspiracy is a beautiful thing to create, but it requires a deep and intimate knowledge of how to undermine your own system. In order to do that, however, you must start with a system that you can either build on or poke holes in depending on your story. I hope that I can present these questions in a way that will be easy to understand and easy to build from.
First, we need to start with a structural question: how has magic and the presence of magic users affected the structure of government and the law? Are magic users barred for holding office, or is it mandatory to have magic to hold office? Once we know the answer to this, we can focus on the actual structure of the government.
You have a lot of government types to choose from. I’m going to outline a few options here:
Feudal system – The king grants land to the barons, who in turn provide money and knights to him. The barons grant land to their knights, who provide military and protection services to the barons. The knights grant lands to villeins, or serfs, who provides food, labor, and services whenever demanded.
Aristocratic system: a government ruled by a small privileged class of people made up of those who feel the best qualified to rule.
Oligarchy: power rests with a small group of people.
Absolute ruler: One monarch holds supreme authority. Authority is not restricted by any written laws or customs.
Democracy: a system of government by the whole population, or all of the eligible members, usually through elected representatives.
Pick something that fits. If one of these doesn’t feel right to you, choose another.
What kind of services is the government responsible for providing? These can include items as broad as maintaining an army or as specific as providing public education. Which services are then provided privately or locally?
Who has the right to levy taxes? What kind of taxes, and on who? This can help establish different social classes.
Who supports the heads of state? What kind of associates and assistants help them out? How are these people selected? Are they elected or selected by the heads of state themselves, or do they apply for the position like any other job?
Who is considered a citizen? What rights and privileges does that grant them? What responsibilities are theirs to take on? Are there any classes or groups of people have fewer rights than a citizen? Why are they kept repressed?
Government: Status and Succession
How can you advance in status? Does more money move you up further, or do you have to be placed in that position based on selection or election?
Then we need to focus on the rules of succession. Who takes over running the government if the head is incapacitated? Is there an apparent heir or successor? How many levels of succession are there? Is there potential for the land to dissolve into chaos? Who is responsible if the heir or successor turns out to be a minor? My story features this element rather prominently. Without giving anything away, I am playing around with who is expected to rule and who will end up ruling along with some ancient Fae laws that will throw the world into disarray.
Government: More Questions
The last several questions revolve around a variety of subjects. Some attest to the protection of the heads of state and the greater land at large. Others refer to coinage, education, and diplomatic relations. I will leave those to you to answer. Feel free to comment with any questions you may have.
I hope you all have enjoyed this article! It was a fun one to write. Happy worldbuilding!
Alright guys, last worldbuilding post for a little bit! I wanted to finish rounding out the people and customs segment before I moved on to talking about something else. Today, we are going to address ethics and values as well as religion. Side note, there is one last subsection of this part of the questionnaire, population. I feel like these questions can be addressed without much explanation on my part. Therefore, I’m going to focus on the other two which frankly, are much larger and more instrumental.
This is a piece of worldbuilding that is controversial within itself. I’ll try to keep all politically loaded opinions to myself. When building a community’s ethics and value system, one must take care. Know that someone will always disagree with what you are putting in place. If you are respectful about the choices you make and you keep them consistent, your world and your story can only benefit. Good story = happy readers.
Let’s start with something easy. What does your society value most in material goods? Is it gold and jewels or animals and furs? Do different cultures value different things? What about non-material things? Is that more highly valued in your world than material goods?
What kind of events are considered normal and acceptable in society that may not be acceptable in today’s world? What might be considered shocking that would not in today’s world? For example, is being left-handed a sign of greatness or a mark of the Demon king? Think big issues in today’s world. Decide where they fall in your own world.
How much does your society value honor and honesty? What are the limits of that? Is any lie reprehensible, or do you tolerate white lies? Can binding oaths be broken or must they be honored no matter what? Is there a penalty, physical or magical, attached to that?
Who is considered a citizen in your world? What kind of rights and privileges do they have? Think about your social classes. Some may have more rights and privileges than others.
What is the ideal life that people aspire to? What are the ideal traits that people strive to embody?
Religion and the Gods
The first and arguably the most important thing to consider is how religion views magic. Do any of them forbid the use of magic? Do any require the use of magic in order to be practiced? Is there a difference between miracles and magic? How are they distinguished?
How many religions exist in your world? Break them down and figure out what kind of characteristics they take on. What kind of gods or spiritual beings exist? How active of a role do they take in the buildings or structures in which they are worshipped? Do they have a heavy influence on people’s everyday lives? Define good and evil and what that means to each religion.
Do religions view non-believers neutrally or negatively? This is important to note as this can create tension between peoples. Is there a religion or religions that are heavily intertwined with the state? How present is religion in everyday life? How do people worship?
I hope these give you a lot to think about. Let me know what kind of ideas you come up with! I’d love to hear them!
Continuing from last week’s post, I would like to continue delving into worldbuilding on a societal scale and focus on a few areas of customs today: meeting and greeting, gestures, visits, and language. I’m keeping it light today because this Saturday, we’re going to be focusing on two of the most controversial topics in general: ethics and religion. Buckle up, everybody!
Greeting fellow citizens can be as influential or as mundane as you would like it to be. Will a handshake suffice for the common man as well as the wealthy? Do nobles require a bow or some sort of elaborate movement? Or do you throw tradition to the wind and reverse the two types of greeting and make greeting common folk elaborate and noblemen simple? That’s actually a pretty interesting idea; I may have to use that in a different story…. Hmm…
Now, of course, there can be various customs surrounding greeting someone you have never met before. When your people are introduced to someone for the first time, who introduces them? Is it general or specific? Is there an order that people should be introduced in based on age or sex or status if it is a larger group? If it is a grand introduction, like perhaps at a ceremony, is there a way their name is said to give it more emphasis or stature? What about the differences between your given name and perhaps a “true name”, as some fantasy books like to include? How many people know a person’s “true name”? How many are allowed to know? Don’t forget to note how family members or significant others may greet each other as it could be different!
This category really gets into semantics. Think about the way the average person moves in our world. Everyone has their own body language. Some people move their hands when they speak. Some tend to shift from side to side. Others still have habitual movement that comes up when they’re sitting or standing still. Take notice of that in other people that you interact with every day, and apply the same concept to your society.
What gestures are meant as insults? What’s the equivalent of the middle finger in your fantasy world? What gestures are taken kindly, like the “V” for peace? What gestures are signs of respect, like a salute or a bow? These details can add a little spice to your characters.
What topics should be avoided when you have guests over, particularly family? Politics? Religion? Family affairs? Can you imagine a scene where someone does bring up one of these topics?
How seriously does your world take the responsibilities of host and guest? Is it considered polite to offer food or drink or a place to stay for the night? Do these apply to everyday situations or only to special guests or circumstances? On the flip side, are guests obligated to accept any and all offers regardless of their personal preference? Or are they given the option to choose?
One should exercise caution when deciding what to do about language in your world. Many wonderful fantasy books communicate solely in English with no interesting new words added to the mix. However, a select few manage to create a whole new engaging language to slip in throughout their plot. It takes a lot of creativity to come up with one. Make sure you’re up for the challenge!
Languages can come in all shapes and forms. Some societies have a trade language that helps to facilitate trade between groups or countries that don’t speak the same language. Are there languages only known by a certain group of people such as priests or wizards? Building slang can also be a fun way to incorporate a new language into a story. Slang phrases can really portray a character’s voice and style of speaking. You can also create an entirely new language for magic for the communication of spells and incantations.
Hope you all enjoyed today’s post! See you on Saturday!
I could not figure out what to post today! I sat in front of my computer, looking at my list of ideas for a half hour, and could not for the life of me figure out what I wanted to write. So I decided to bring y’all another worldbuilding post to continue this saga.
We’ve been focusing at worldbuilding on a larger scale for the most part so far in this series. Geography, natural resources, magic: we’ve built up a strong frame for your world to stand on. Now, I would like us to delve into your individual society or societies and the way that those function in their day-to-day lives. This is an incredibly detail oriented part of the worldbuilding process, so take care in your creating. You may gain whole new ideas from this section of the questionnaire!
I’m going to go ahead and skip over the first three questions in the “General” section because I believe they are in the wrong place and aren’t general at all!
This first question is going to draw on pieces that we discussed back when we were building your world. Does the weather or climate create any habits or customs for your society? I want to take that one step further and also include celestial bodies’ effects. For example, maybe your moon rises during what you consider the day, and the sun rises in the evening. That would affect what times people may wake up or farm or use artificial light sources.
Now, we’re going to go very small scale and talk about the family unit. What does the average family look like? How many people are included traditionally? Does this include or exclude extended family? (Note: we’re talking about trends here, not a homogenous end-all be-all detail. Remember not to make your societies one-noted!) Are there any sort of traditional family responsibilities or customs that are undertaken by the people? This can range from a society where the male is the head of the household or a society where a concept of Mother’s Day is a three week long festival celebrating mothers everywhere. Don’t be afraid to invent whatever you want, even if your book may never mention it. These details create depth that may pop up in other places.
Rites of passage can also be important to the understanding of society. In our world, these include events like a bat mitzvah or something even simpler like obtaining your first driver’s license. In a fantastical realm, these can include things like a knighting ceremony or a naming ceremony after birth.
Speaking of birth, what kind of customs and rituals surround the birth of a child? Who is present at the birth? Does the father stay with the mother or is he kicked out? What about the grandmother? Is there a midwife or a doctor present? How is a newborn introduced to the rest of the family? Is there a formal celebration? How about the rest of the community?
As these children grow up, who raises them? Is it a joint parent responsibility, or does one take over more than the other? How do children dress differently than adults, or do they dress any differently? What year do they begin their education? How long does that education last?
Finally, death. What customs surround death and the burial process? Is there a special group of people who takes over the ceremony of death, or does the family take on that responsibility? I really like this last question: are the dead feared, revered, or ignored? This could shape all kinds of other legends and lore.
Every society has their customs surrounding food. Food has always been something that brings us and bonds us together. So your fantasy world should be no different!
How do people eat together? Do families sit together at the dinner table, or is there a separation between adults and children? What about servants? Do they eat with the family or separate from view?
What dishes are considered holiday or special occasion meals? (Don’t worry, we’ll touch on holidays later in this series.) Are there any foods associated with events like births and burials? What about drinks? Do people only drink alcohol on certain days?
This questionnaire does a great job distinguishing between the average person and the upper class citizen. It asks pointed questions on both formal habits and customs as well as special arrangements that need to be made for important guests visiting. It even encourages you to think about how dining tables are set up and where the guests of honor or heads of household usually sit in relative to the other people.
I think I’ve given you a lot to think about, so I’ll stop here and continue with people and customs in a following post! I hope you all enjoyed. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!