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.
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 […]
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 […]
- 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?
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 […]
Rules of Magic
What things can magic not do? What are the limits to magical power? How do magicians try to get around these limits?
By Patricia C. Wrede
I. The World
Are the laws of nature and physics actually different in this world, or are they the same as in real life? How does magic fit in? How do magical beasts fit in?
In which geographical areas will the story take place? How much ground will the story cover? What are the most striking features of landscape, climate, animals, etc. in thisarea? How will these features affect travel time, communication, etc.?
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.
by Amelia Wiens
One of the best parts of science fiction and fantasy is the worldbuilding. A key part of creating interesting worlds is creating diverse cultures that vary in some way from our own norms. That being said, it can be so hard to get out of our own culture’s point of view and redefine elements that we unconsciously take for granted.