World Building (Part III)


This is part III of Kevin J. Anderson’s world building workshop at Superstars.  All the parts are connected together, so order is important.  As I mentioned earlier, these are just categories to think about what you need for the story.  Not everything might be needed, depending on the story.

Politics

Pretty much, this one is starting with thinking about what the government of your fictional place is.  If it’s a fantasy, is it a monarchy?  How does the succession work?  We always think the son or daughter would be next in line.  But if it wasn’t?

In a series I read, the church of elemental mages was the government.  They had a council, though it seemed that the most powerful got on the council.  The most powerful aren’t always who should be in charge.  There can be a lot of interesting conflict with this!

Economics

What do people do for a living?  Some of that will be influenced by geography  Like Alexandria, Virginia sits on the Potomac River.  So there are ships coming in, which means that men make money crewing on a ship.  There might be a shipyard nearby, building more ships.  Horse-drawn wagons would make deliveries, so people to care for the horses and blacksmiths for horse shoes.  And, of course, a tavern nearby to eat a meal and spend the night.

Climate is also an influence on the economics.  Virginia has a good climate for growing tobacco, which adds to the economy.  (Really helpful is to base the world on a real place and its history.  Then you can just use that knowledge without as much research.  But better still, the research might be visiting historical sites).

Another question to ask is valuable to the society?  In the book department, the spice in Dune.

Economics drives the characters and the story.

Societies

This one goes into how people are treated in the society.  How are the people treated?  Is there a class system?  Are there slaves?  Some slaves might be prisoners of war.  They work until someone buys their freedom.

What about family size?  Large? One child per family?  When I was researching for Rogue God, I thought it was fascinating that the Hawaiians of the past would have a large family party to honor the birth of a baby.

Are the people happy or fearful?  That’s likely influenced by the politics.  There’s always a fantasy story with a corrupt lord or duke taking all the money and goods as taxes.

How does communication work?  Telepathy?  Magic? Courier pigeon? King’s messenger?

Is the military volunteer or.   draft?

What do people do for leisure?  Do they gamble?  What kind of games do they play?  Do they do drugs?  Play sports?  The first thing I thought of was Battlestar: Galactica (the original).  The characters play a game like basketball only more violent.  But a book example: Harry Potter and Quidich.  Again, basing this on a real place is a great way to pick up details without having to make a lot of stuff up from scratch.  Maryland was big with horse racing (in recent years, it seems to be fading as a sport).

More for next week: Religion, Intellectual/Science.Arts, and History.

And I highly recommend Dean Wesley Smith’s Research workshop. It makes the prospect of world building far less intimidating.

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