Things to Consider When Creating a Fantasy World
World building is a crucial part of design and creation in storytelling. It manifests in various forms including graphic novels and video games.
To make the world feel alive and believable it is important to contemplate more than just the main characters and their immediate location.
The question I posed in the introduction was “How can I make a world feel like it is bursting with life and history and how can I work the folklore of the world into the fabric of the main story?”
I had no idea where to start when world building so I went online to find out. I found this list on Pinterest, but I can’t remember or find the original source. I do think that they are useful questions that will help me shape a believable and immersive world, because there are a lot of things on that list that I might not have thought about.
Are the laws of physics and nature different to Earth?
How are the continents and countries laid out?
How much land is temperate, equatorial or polar?
Are there forests?
Are there mountainous regions?
Are there tropical regions?
Are there grasslands and plains?
How much of the world is ocean?
What are the rivers like?
Are there multiple suns and moons?
What does the sky look like during the day?
What does the sky look like at night?
What are the weather and climate like?
What are the seasons like?
What are the plants like? Is the grass green?
What are the birds like? Small? Large?
What are the animals like? Small? Large?
Are there domestic animals?
Are there magic creatures, plants?
Are animals hunted? What for?
What are the people like?
Are there non-human sentient species?
Do people eat meat, fish or vegetables?
Do people eat plain or heavily flavoured food?
What does a basic meal look like? Is this different for the wealthy and the poor?
What are special celebratory foods?
What does a feast look like?
Do people generally eat separately or together? In large groups or small groups?
What utensils do people use?
Are there any restaurants? Street food sellers? Who goes to them?
Are some foods poisonous to some people?
What do people drink?
Is the water generally safe enough to drink?
What are the tables and dining areas like?
What are drinking vessels and serving dishes like?
Did people evolve on the planet or come from elsewhere?
Where and when did civilisation begin?
What is the total population of the planet, countries, cities?
What is the relationship between the different species?
What languages do people speak?
Do most people speak one language or many?
Is there a common language for trade?
How do people greet each other?
What is considered a rude gesture?
How do people curse? Do they refer to gods, body parts etc?
What titles and formalities are used?
What is a gesture of respect?
Do people live in fear or happiness?
Does the culture value strength or compassion more highly?
Does the culture value wealth or generosity more highly?
Are the people diverse or uniform?
How is the gap between rich or poor?
What is the fashion like?
What topics of conversation are controversial?
What topics of conversation are safe?
What constitutes as a social faux pas?
What forms of art are there?
Is there theatre? Is is common or reserved for the wealthy?
What is a highly desirable job?
What is considered a lowly job?
Are there professional guilds and institutes? How do you get into a guild and are there benefits?
Are criminals common or rare?
Is there any formal education? Is is available to all or just the wealthy? Are they educated separately? At what age do children start school?
Is there a written language? Are most people literate or illiterate?
What is a normal family unit? Who raises the children?
What is the monetary system? Are there multiple currencies?
Is there widespread trade?
Is there widespread conflict?
How long ago was the most recent war? How damaging was it? What caused the war?
Is there a formal army?
What is the system of government? Democracy? Dictatorship? Administration? Is it a monarchy or patriarchy?
How long has the system of government been in place?
Does the leader has special protection?
Is there a formal police force?
Is there a class system? Are there different levels of citizenship?
Is there public transport or a communications system?
Is social mobility easy or hard?
What is the system of taxation?
Do people trust the government? Do the majority of people approve or disapprove of the leadership?
Does the government spy on its people or enemies?
What are the cities and houses like?
Do most people live in rural or urban areas and how are the houses different?
What are temples like?
What calendar is used?
What are major festivals?
What is a wedding like?
What is a funeral like?
What do people wear for special occasions?
Does magic exist? What constrains it?
What can magic do or not do?
To what extent is magic a learned skill or an innate talent?
Is magic a specialist or elite skill? Or is it easily used by commoners?
What is the cost of using magic?
Do magic users need to make sacrifices/ perform rituals/ meet certain criteria eg. be celibate?
Does magic require tools or props?
How is one magician stronger than another?
Can magic be combined to increase strength?
What defeats magic?
Is magic admired, respected, feared, something else?
Is any magic illegal?
What is magic generally used for?
What are common superstitions?
Do people believe in one god or many?
Is there more than one religion?
Do people make sacrifices to the gods?
Do an elite group of people control religion and magic or is it accessible to all?