Here we are, deep into worldbuilding. If you’re like me, you are ready to take it to the next level. I’m excited to work on these steps for my next novel (after I finish book 3 of Lacey’s story). Before I get to far ahead of myself though, here are the previous steps to worldbuilding that I’ve discussed in Beginning Worldbuilding and Intermediate Worldbuilding: make maps, think about religion, decide how your people look, language, and politics. If you haven’t read my previous posts, take a gander.
Every world, every person, has a history. If you haven’t thought about the history of your cities, nations, or world, now is the perfect time to do so. Even if you’ve already written most of your novel, you can look and decide how your people got to where they are. Think of it as learning about their history (much like children learn history in school) rather than creating it. Some questions to ask when discerning the history of your world: who is in power and how did they come to be in power? Who are the minority groups and why are they minorities (are they immigrants or displaced people, or do they have a unique heritage)? Who are the disadvantaged groups of people and why are they disadvantaged?
That people have partnerships and get married is something we assume in books, for the most part. We read about mothers and fathers, husband and wives. But how did they get to be husbands and wives? Are there complex courting rituals? Do people have elaborate wedding ceremonies? For inspiration here, I suggest looking around at cultures in our world. Not things like “what do they do in Spain,” rather “what do they do in the depths of the Amazon or in the heart of the Sahara.” The more far-flung you get, the more interesting results you will find.
3. Water and food
Farmers are stock characters in fantasy and markets are stock settings. A step further: wagons are stock transportation (unless you are on horseback). We readers can assume that food is grown by farmers and bought by all manner of people – but if you want to get into the nitty gritty details, you should think about how it’s done. Does the government buy crops and resell them? Do people all have their own gardens/herds/flocks for basic needs and sell the excess to others? Do they have a bartering system or, perhaps, it is a communist-esque system where they all share everything equally out of the goodness of their hearts (hello, plot conflict)? And that’s just for food. What about water? Are there wells throughout the city? What happens if the well goes dry? Are there rivers your people can drink from or are the waters dirty? Who is in charge of fetching the water from its source? Who guards it from enemies? All of these things can be significant to the plot, if you let them be. Or they can add realism.
Do your people bathe regularly? Where and how? Bathhouses are going to make for different social norms than private baths in homes. (Think open vs. closed, respectful of privacy vs. potentially lecherous.) It also matters because if people bathe regularly, the water system is much more important. Perhaps they build aquaducts in order to supply bathhouses, or perhaps they leave it up to individuals to fetch their own water and therefore they either don’t bathe regularly or have private baths. Do the rich bathe more than the poor? Does this mean water is a commodity?
Don’t let a black cat cross your path. Break a mirror and have 7 years bad luck. Don’t walk under a ladder or open an umbrella inside. Silly superstitions. And yet we recite them whenever someone does one of those “unspeakable things.” Give your characters some superstitions – things that apply to either them or their society as a whole. Make them convinced all their bad luck is because of X, and either make it so or show their foolishness. Have fun with this one, but if you include it in the actual story, make sure it’s plot relevant.
The following are even more things to think about (we can call it expert worldbuilding). Now, I’ll be the first to say I have not effectively gone this far into worldbuilding yet. It’s part of my learning process and part of my next novel, in which I will be writing about a characters in a nation that is recovering from war. Thus, the following worldbuilding considerations will be important.
5.How are things built? And how are large objects (trees, stone, etc) moved?
Take flight, enjoy, and share any other pieces of worldbuilding you find particularly helpful!