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Outline for building a world (my way anyways)

Discussion in 'World Building' started by oyler44, Nov 7, 2013.

  1. oyler44

    oyler44 Dreamer

    This is my general series of questions I always ask myself when I create a world/city/country within a story. From here ALOT of followup questions are usually asked, but it is a solid outline that gets you started thinking creatively and sets some very necessary pre-requisites before those questions are asked.

    What kind of world is it? (Fantasy? Real World?)
    What kind of climates does this place experience? (Is it rainy and depressing?)
    What era is this in? (General mood of the story.)
    How was this world created? (Gods? A balloon popped and had a world inside?)
    Does how this world was created impact it's inhabitants? (Mostly for if there is Gods)
    Why kind of people inhabit this land? (Nobles, Thieves, Priests, Commoners?)
    How do the people feel about their home? (Oppressed? Happy? Fearful?)
    How is this place governed? (A king? A council of leaders? A Religion?)
    How does this government rule? (With fear? With justice?)
    Do the people like their leaders? (Probably not. lol.)
    Is this place at war with anyone else? (Queue battle scene!)

    Once I have these general questions I have basically my outline for a city and can ask myself some more specialized questions that will involve elements such as magic, what types of inhabitants there are and where my protagonist will come in. From there, I let my imagination wander and write down every single idea that I like. There is no cookie cutter way to build a world. If there was, every world would be the same. But with this kind of outline I personally have been successful at creating several worlds.
  2. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    There's something I'm not really digging about this query. I feel like these questions were written under the assumption that the constructed world would be a very Tolkein-esque D&D-type medieval-fantasy setting. By asking how the world was created, you make it seem like the world's creation is important to the setting when it really doesn't need to be. Then you bring-up nobles ruling with fear and justice and the commoners and thieves not liking them. It seems like these questions are too focused on mythology and aristocracy/government. You could make an interesting setting without either of these. You don't need war to make an interesting setting either.
    The first two questions are the only ones that I think would apply to a wider variety of settings. With the third question: asking about the "era" of the setting implies that the fantasy world would be based on an actual historical era, when it doesn't have to be.

    I think a better query would be...
    How does the setting reflect the tone, moral or central idea of the story?
    Do economics, government or religion play are part in the story? If so, how?
    And then there are probably other, less important, questions.
  3. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    I like this list. It's a good way to find what might be sources of conflict and what might be quieter, for now-- and of course, you can start with a story idea and use this to build a world to match.

    In fact, since the list is more or less in chronological order for how a society would form, you could take it either from the first question or start with the thing you were surest about and work up the list to find what would establish it.
  4. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

    Here are a few more questions to help flesh out a locale:


    What are the 3 most prominent buildings in the locale, and what purpose do they serve?
    What are the 3 dominant factions in the locale and what are their relations to each other?
    What faction holds the most power at the moment?
    What faction wants to take power?
    Who are 3 prominent residents of the locale?
    Who are those residents aligned with?


    What religion(s) are practiced in the locale?
    Is there a new religion pushing out an old one?
    What are the feast days?
    What traditions are the locale known for?
    Are any of those traditions at odds with current religion/politics?
    What sort of music is played there?
    What foods are the locale famous for?
    What do they like to drink?


    What natural goods are produced in the locale?
    What do they export?
    Are there resources that need to be imported?


    What are 3 rumors about the locale that are true?
    What are 3 rumors about the locale that are false?
    What are some legends about the locale?
    Were any famous battles fought there?
    Where is the "bad" part of town?
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I like the Flavor section. It could be handy to make up some rumors and legends independent of any specific story.

    FWIW, here are the divisions I've long used when analyzing historical events. They may prove helpful in world-building.
    Politics (includes warfare, diplomacy, spying)
    Economics (everything from macro to micro, right down to specific crafts; it's helpful to think of certain magic as a craft)
    Society (family, neighborhood, groups, as well as social hierarchy; vertical is easy, remember the horizontal relationships)
    Culture (art, science, philosophy, religion, but also 'popular culture' which includes superstitions, festivals, etc.)

    And for events, it's the three C's: causes, course, consequences
    Causes are always underlying as well as immediate (e.g., states rights was one underlying cause of the American Civil War, but firing on Fort Sumter was an immediate cause.)
    Course is the actual narrative, often harder to pull off than you might think
    Consequences are short term and long term.
    Notes that both causes and consequences can have political, social, economic and cultural aspects.

    That doesn't cover every angle, of course, but it's usually enough to get you a term paper. :)
  6. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    I think world building is done two ways, macro to micro and reverse.

    You build the universe, then work down to the individual family.
    You build the family and build up as far as you need to, to establish the world in which the family lives.

    I am a micro to macro builder. I built the homes and towns around the stories, then built the provinces/baronys,
    then created the country/kingdom, then the enemy countries, then the neighbors, and placed them in the world.

    "Some writers are architects, some are gardeners" GRRMartin.
    I am a gardener.

    Dig a hole, drop in seeds, throw in some sh...fertilizer, shower it with some water, and see what develops.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2013
    Scribble likes this.

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