What in the world is this world? Is like earth? Is it earth? Or is it some far off distant planet? Is it magical? Or are you in space?
Knowing your world is more important that some may realize. When I first started out I know for a fact that I didn’t think about the ins and outs of world-building. But now that I’ve had some experience, and faced hardships writing scenes because I didn’t know how the laws of a certain city worked, world-building has become one of the foundation points of my novel creation.
When it comes to world-building there are a few base questions to start with:
When does your story take place?
Are you on an alternate/futuristic/historical Earth?
Are you on a world that is like Earth, but developed differently?
Are you on a world that is galaxies away?
Are you on a world that is nothing like earth, and not galaxies away?
Your answers to these questions will rely greatly on your genre, and they will also determine the amount of world building you will have to do. The marvelous thing about world building is that we live in a developed world that gives us plenty of options to choose from. Even if you’re writing a fantasy novel, you can still pick a handful of countries, change the names, tweak the government positions to fit your story, and you have a fully developed country. That is, as long as you do the research on that country.
There are a great many things to consider when developing your world. geography, climate, economics, government, and even physics. It seems like a lot when you look at the giant lists of questions that are floating around the internet to help with this daunting task, but the key is categories.
Start with your geography and climate. Use the real world as a map. If geography is a certain way in your world, what’s the climate like in a matching area of our planet? If you have a unique geography, do a little research on similar types, and then put your writer-ly flare on it.
Next would be governments and economics. You do not have to develop each and every country right away. Just pick the most important 2 or 3 and develop those. Look up different types of governments and economic structures, then pick the ones that work best with your story or plot. Remember to give your money a name if you pick a structure that uses money, and think about the smaller things that tie into government and economy as well. Healthcare, taxes, plumbing, heating, garbage collection, and day-to-day city activity.
The last category I listed was physics, which may not seem overly important at first, but depending on the type of world you have, physics could very well play a part. Consider if the physics of your new world are the same, or if things are different. Is gravity lighter/heavier, do the laws of physics for our world apply to this world? And if you have magic in your story, does physics play a part, or is it completely separate?
I realize that there are plenty of other categories you can add to this list, as well as various subcategories you can dig into within the ones I listed. These are just the broad strokes of my world building foundation. A place to start when you feel lost in your own world.