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 Suyi Davies Okungbowa
It’s virtually impossible to do ALL of your SFF worldbuilding prior to writing your book/story. How much weight is given to each stage depends on the author (some prefer to do a lot before starting, some build nothing before writing). My own preference is to build the foundation–just enough to get me started, then build more along the way, and go back and change stuff after I’m done.
by Sandra M. Odell
I love intricate, detailed worldbuilding; it’s the backbone of science fiction and fantasy stories, even those set in the modern era. Sadly, few things make me stop reading faster than the realization that a writer gave more thought to the description of a meal than they did to the how or why an accommodation for a character with disabilities came to be in a story. Inclusion and representation matter, and so do the supports that allow an individual with disabilities to interact with a writer’s world.