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Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions

The following list of questions is meant to aid authors of fantasy fiction who are seeking to create believable imaginary settings for their stories. While many of these questions may be helpful or crucial to certain stories, they will not all apply to every story. It is not necessary for an author to answer all, or even any, of the questions in order to start writing, (or to finish writing, either). The idea is simply to provoke people into thinking about the ways their settings and backgrounds hang together … or don’t. If it’s useful, use it. If not, don’t.

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions: Daily Life

By Patricia C. Wrede General How do ordinary people feel about foreigners? Non-humans? How ready are they to accept different ideas? How cosmopolitan are they? How much social mobility is there? Is it easy or hard for a person born a peasant to advance to the middle class, or a middle class person to the […]

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions: Commerce, Trade, and Public Life

By Patricia C. Wrede General Which peoples/countries/races fought, allied, traded, or were traditional rivals? Where are there still hard feelings about old events? Is there a “trade language” that facilitates commerce between countries that don’t speak the same tongue? Is there a “universal language” spoken by educated or noble persons, as Latin was in the […]

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions: Social Organization

  • Where is scientific and/or magical research done — universities, private labs, under the auspices of the ruler/government, etc.?
  • Does it require a license to be a wizard? If so, is it more like a driver’s license (something nearly everyone in our culture gets upon coming of age) or like a doctor’s license (something only a small percentage of the population will ever get)? Who certifies wizards: government, wizard’s guild/AMA, local priests?

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions: Peoples and Customs

By Patricia C. Wrede Copyright © 1996 General Do average people believe old tales, or do they dismiss some that have a basis in fact (e.g., Troy)? Do wild and rebellious young people dress any differently from anyone else? Are they allowed to? How do most people make a living here? Customs Does the weather […]

Two Essential Questions to Ask As You Self-Edit

By Kahina Necaise Convincing fiction is about cause and effect.  That’s why, in my work as an editor, the two questions I ask most often while diagnosing an issue with a client’s story are:  Does this come out of nowhere? Does anything ever come of this? Does this come out of nowhere? is about unclear […]

Making It Different – Pushing Genre Boundaries in Fantasy

by Martin Jenkins

One of the pleasures of genre is that it lets us identify a type of writing that we know we like. We’d feel short-changed if a crime novel didn’t feature a crime, after all, or if a romance didn’t put the travails of a relationship front and center. What we don’t want to see, however, is a mere repetition of genre tropes and clichés – it’s what is fresh and different in a work of fiction that keeps us turning the page while still being identifiably a genre work.