Writing like a Boss

From the desk of Samantha R. Uhrig

25 World-Building Questions to Deepen Your Fantasy World

I love writing fantasy. It’s the genre in which I always wrote when I was younger, so going back to it is like holding an old stuffed animal to your chest. It’s ragged, worn, and off-colored, but it smells like home.

That is the inspiration for this post. I haven’t written anything fantasy in a long time; right now I’m on my historical fiction kick, which is basically the total opposite. But for the sake of reminiscing, let’s go back to it for a bit! Perhaps I’ll return to my home-genre soon.

So without further ado: 25 fantasy world-building questions!

  1. Water. Where do they get their water? What is the quality of the water? How available is it?
  2. Food. Along that line: where does the food come from? Is most of the culture vegetarian, or does meat play a big part in the world? What do they eat for sweets and snacks?
  3. Religion. What is the world’s main religion, if there is one? Does this religion conflict with the others? What are the morals and laws of the religion, and whom (or what) do they worship? What do they believe will happen once they die?
  4. Wildlife. How do they treat their animals? Is cruelty a common problem, or are the world’s creatures beloved by most? What sorts of animals are used for meat (if any)?
  5. Landscape. What types of vegetation can grow in your world? Are trees seldom found, or are they flourishing everywhere you look? Does grass grow in most locations? Is overgrowth a problem? Are the people willing to cut down trees to further civilization? Are mountains common in some parts, or even all?
  6. Building. What are common building materials for houses, palaces, stores, etc.? (Remember to take their surroundings into account, i.e. they won’t be building with wood if trees are rare.)
  7. Government. What does the government system look like? Does your country use a democracy? Do they have kings/queens/princes/princesses, presidents, or other? Is the government cruel and unfair towards certain persons, or are they forgiving and fair? Is this a dictatorship?
  8. Laws. What are some of your country’s main laws? (Examples: laws on marriage, crime, and other restrictions.)
  9. Romantic relationships. Are “dating” or courting present in your world, or do they use another system (maybe arranged marriage or “love at first sight”)? What do proposals look like? How does marriage work? What are the laws and traditions behind marriage? Are married couples required to have children, or is it optional?
  10. Children. What are the roles of children in a household? At what age do they leave home?
  11. Gender. What are the gender roles in your world?
  12. Education. What is the schooling system? At what age do children begin school? Does homeschooling (or a form of it) exist? Is there any need to attend school at all?
  13. Work. What sorts of jobs exist in your world? Which will make you the most money? Does creative work (writing, art, etc.) earn more or less than other jobs?
  14. Money. What do they use for currency? Do they have a money system similar to ours? Is it more complicated or simple? What is the average minimum wage?
  15. Medical help. What is the medical system like? Are the doctors/healers/whatever human, or do they use healing machines? Or maybe everyone is even slightly educated in medicine, so they can help themselves? Is medicine available to the public?
  16. Technology. Is your world’s technology more or less advanced than ours? Do they rely entirely on their machines and inventions, or do they live a more natural life?
  17. Morals. Even in our own world, there are a few lines everyone knows not to cross. What about in your world? What are some basic worldwide morals?
  18. Crime. What happens to people who break laws? Is there a jailing and/or punishment system? Are there any crimes punishable by death?
  19. People (or other). What do the “people” of your world look like? Are they human- or animal-like? What are the genes of the culture? (Think about how people in our world look different based on their ethnicity and genes.)
  20. Fashion. What is the clothing style? Are there any situations in which one needs a particular uniform? What are some fashion trends/fads from over the years? Does anyone wear a form of makeup?
  21. Hygiene. What does personal hygiene look like? How do they clean themselves, and how often is considered “hygienic”?
  22. Furniture. What does the everyday furniture look like? Is it typically hand-built or made by machines? How necessary is their furniture to them? (Examples: couches, tables, shelves, beds, etc.)
  23. Homes. What are the lower-class, middle-class, and upper-class homes? What are the differences between homes based on the financial status of the owner?
  24. Age. Do people age at the same rate as in our world, or differently? (For example: in my own fantasy world, the ages are drastically different. Children are ages 0 – 1; teenagers are 2 – 3; adults are 4-7; and elders are 8-12.)
  25. Map. Where are your world’s countries and big cities? What is the capital(s)? How is the world divided? I suggest sketching out a map, even if you aren’t artistically inclined.

Anything to add or suggest? Please, feel free to let me know! I’ll add your idea to the list. 🙂