World building questions to answer for a more realistic world

If you’re participating in Nanowrimo, you should have 16,670 words by today

Are you struggling with world building? That’s okay, we all are. It’s probably the most time-consuming part of the planning process.

But it doesn’t have to be. Unless you are really writing an epic story that is more about the world that you’ve created than the characters, you can answer a few simple questions and get to story writing. And if you haven’t done any world building at all, now’s the time to start. Even if you’re writing a modern-day story with no magic at all, you should still figure out the answers to these questions. The world details are what make the story real for your reader. And, believe it or not, someday people might want to know how we lived in 2017.

What’s your character eating?

On Station 86, people eat simulated food, or small amounts of naturally grown food from Earth or one of the other humanoid planets. Godfrey’s a cook and loves cooking Earth American food for his customers. Sennett, always busy, drinks something called Klav every morning for breakfast. It’s a rich drink, a juice from a fruit grown on Khloe.

This tells us a ton about the world. It’s cheaper and easier to simulate food than growing or raise the original thing. The inclusion of food from other worlds tells us that people on Station 86 are open to other cultures.

Godfrey and Sennett’s food choices are telling about who they are. Godfrey is very Southern. He shows affection with food, takes care of people by feeding them, reacts to stress by cooking. He loves the recipes from his childhood and is very rooted in his history.

Sennett’s not one to put too much thought into her food. But she loves klav, and Khloe food in general because it reminds her of the husband she lost.

What are they wearing?

Traditional clothing from different worlds and countries tell us a lot. Are men or women held to the same level of modesty? Do they favor wools and furs, or light cotton? Do certain colors represent anything?

What your character is wearing, especially in relation to what is expected of them in their society, is telling.

What are they listening to?

What sort of music is popular in the world of your characters? This is all about setting the scene. Are string instruments popular? Do people play winds? Do people sing?

What kind of relationships do they have?

How are marriages handled in your world? Are they handled by families or because someone falls in love? Do people raise their own children?

Who lives with whom? Do you have extended families living together, or just nuclear ones? Do men and women live separately?

This gives you all sorts of ways to tell about the culture and what they value.

What pets do they keep?

People who live hard by don’t keep useless pets. They don’t have fluffy cats or toy sized dogs. They don’t have any animal that doesn’t have a job.

Does your character have a hardy sheepdog or a Pekinese? Do they have a rat chasing ban cat or a pampered tabby? Have they perhaps gone to extremes and own a pet that they keep in a cage and does nothing?

Where do they live?

Houses that people make are suited to the locations that they build in. In Pennsylvania, we build thickly walled houses because it gets freaking cold. In the city, we build tall apartments because space is at a premium. In the south, they build sprawling mansions with lots of windows to let in the breeze.

What’s the weather like in your world? What kind of houses do they build?

What kind of money do they use?

Do they even use money? I mean, that’s the first thing you need to decide. Lots of societies don’t use money. But if they do, who’s on their money? In Station 86, paper and coin money is only used on planets. The stations use credit systems.

Think about how people use money in your society. Is your character well off or struggling? These things will all factor into your character and the world.

At what age is someone considered an adult?

This is a factor that a lot of people don’t consider, but it’s more important than you think. The longer someone is considered a child, the longer life spans tend to be. So if your character’s nineteen and still considered a child, that would tell us something about the world. If your character’s 47 and considered seasoned, people don’t really live that long.

Take some time and answer these questions. Your world will be richer and more realistic for it.


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