Last week, we talked about creating magic systems. Today, we’re going over questions to answer as you’re creating a fictional world. We’re talking countries, cities and towns.
In fantasy, most stories have a monarchy. I’ll admit, I’m more of a non-tradition fantasy sort of person. I tend to enjoy books more when they do something different. For my own stories, I like putting a twist on things. For instance, in one story, 16 people rule one land– 8 siblings from 2 families. The eldest siblings on both sides are the heads and everyone else falls in line under them. One side manages military matters. They do all the fighting. While the other side comes in after the fighting and handles negotiations. Just because a fantasy world is usually created a certain way doesn’t mean your story has to follow that trend.
In addition, at some point during your worldbuilding process, draw a map. It doesn’t have to be pretty. As long as it makes sense to you. A map helps you see how your main city/town is laid out.
With drawings, you’ll better picture how your country is divided and where different cities/towns are in relation to one other. You’ll also see where they are in relation to natural formations like rivers, mountains or deserts.
Also, have some idea of your location’s history. Because my education was humanities-heavy, I learned a lot about western and black history. I use that knowledge to develop backstories for my world’s cities, towns and countries.
If your story never mentions any overseas lands, you’d only need to answer these questions for the main country. If your character mentions but never visits foreign lands, you’ll need to answer some of these questions depending on what your story needs. In my Merging Worlds series, I listed country and region names, what the land is known for and a general idea of its climate. But, when creating a fictional world, I only deep dive into Jael because it’s the main setting.
What’s the name of your country?
How is your country divided?
What are the names of different areas?
What’s the terrain?
Does it have four seasons or just one or two? Does every city experience those seasons?
How big is the country? How long would it take to travel from one end to the other?
Is the location known for something like food, fabric, religion or a custom?
What are the major cities/towns?
What’s the currency?
What kind of government is it?
Are there separate governing bodies that manage cities and towns? What are they?
How do people get into those positions?
Do citizens like, hate or feel indifferent about those in power?
How do those in power view/treat its citizens?
If there’s magic, how does that affect your government? For instance, can only certain people with a certain ability be leaders?
Cities and Town
I would suggest only answering these questions for your main town(s). Let’s say your country has 10 cities. You shouldn’t spend time fully developing every location when your characters only visit 2.
What’s the town’s name?
What’s the size– both in population and land?
In general, what’s the quality of life in the town? Is it post-apocalyptic and everyone’s trying to get by? Or, do people enjoy living there?
Is it near a body of water? If not, how do people get water?
Does the city/town have traditional houses or is it a forest or unground community?
Do the building have a certain stylistic theme such as colorful exteriors?
What kind of buildings are in your town? Shops, taverns, hotels, markets?
How’s the location laid out? Where are residential buildings, shops, government offices, apartments, etc.?
What’s the common building material? Stone, wood, steel, something regional specific?
Who’s the neighboring city/town? Do residents get along with them? How far is that neighbor? Is the neighboring town inhabited?
Is the town remote? If so, what makes it isolated and how do they view/treat outsiders?
Do they use the main currency or something different?
How do people get around town? Walk, horses, cars, boats…? How do people get in and out of town?
What’s the location technology level? Do they have electricity? Does everyone use fire? Is it a mix of magic and technology?
If they have electricity, how does it work? Does everyone have it?
What items (food, herbs stones…) can people find naturally in your location?
How do people get supplies? Do they make/grow them or do they trade them?
It’s possible to have a self-sufficient community. However, it’s unlikely one location will have everything people need. Your citizens or governing body will, more than likely, need to trade for supplies.
What supplies does your town/city/country have?
What supplies don’t they have?
How does trade work?
Who’s their main source?
How are supplies distributed upon arrival?
I’ll create a specific fantasy template for fantasy races. For now, here are a few things to consider.
Is the majority of your town rich, poor or a mix? Why?
Are there jobs specific to this city or town?
Does your town have magic users?
Do people in this town have specific characteristics such as appearance, belief or accent?
What’s it called?
Are there variations? Formal vs. familiar?
Does your country have a main language?
Do people from certain areas have accents? Describe the accent.
Do people from different areas/races speak a different language? If so, what’s it called?
Landmarks, Wonders and Monuments
You can skip this section if it doesn’t apply to your story. My Merging Worlds Series has a lot of plot-specific natural wonders. But, for my Other Investigator series, I don’t go into this until book 2.
What is the landmark, wonder or monument called?
What makes it special?
Where is it located in relation to your main town?
What stories surround this it? Any folklore?
Are there any places people don’t or can’t go? Why?
How do you go about creating a fictional world? If you have anything to add, comment below.