Things to consider when creating a new world
So, you have an epic story to tell. That is a great start. But where does this story take place? What is the setting, the background? Odds are that it isn’t just down the road from your house (and even if it is then I am guessing that it is not also just down the road from your readers house, so there will still be some explanation needed). I am going to share with you some of the basic things to consider when creating a new world or even just explaining your particular corner of our world to your readers.
This article will just be a brief overview of the number of different things that you will need to account for and a number of questions to get you thinking more about each area and the impacts that it could have on your story. I intend to go into more details for each area in the coming weeks.
The world itself:
One of the first things that you will need to determine for your world, is what does it look like? You can either start small and work your way bigger with this or do the opposite and work down. Some questions just to get you started:
What is the astronomical view from your planet? How big is the sun? How long is it visible each day? (and is a day on your planet a 24-hour day like earth or is it like Venus where a single day is equal to 243 earth days?) How many moons does your planet have? Are there other planets nearby that are visible? Depending on your worlds technology and science level, is it possible to travel to these other planets?
As we start to focus things in a little bit more, where in the world does your story take place? Is it a single large Pangea type continent? An archipelago? Is it a water-world type of planet? Does your world have large underground caverns? What is the soil like? Is it rocky? Sandy? Clay? How are rare minerals dispersed around your world? Tying back into your planets astronomy, are there a large number of meteors that have either fallen in the past or are still regularly falling that introduce otherwise unknown minerals?
After looking at the foundation of your world, now is the time to start populating it. Even before we get to your humanoids though let’s start out with your flora and fauna. Your story will look quite differently depending on whether it takes place in a rainforest jungle or a desert. Are your protagonists at the top of the food chain or somewhere in the middle? Is your setting more of a Dune type of world or is it like Pandora from Avatar? Are your animals basically imported from earth with just some slight changes like giving your horses wings? Or are they completely new creatures?
What is your society like? Is it comprised of a single sentient species? Or is there a conglomeration of unique races all interacting together? Are they more of solitary dwellers or do they group together? Wanderers or settled in a permanent location? Are they a violent war like race? Or do they avoid conflict at all costs?
How are laws created and enforced in your story? Is there a single entity in each tribe or city that makes the laws and makes determinations of guilt or innocence? Are all matters discussed with a council or the village elders? How are new rulers elected or appointed? Are the enforcers of the law like Judge Dredd where they are judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one? (Not to mention detective, police officer and prosecutor.) Are there enforcers of the law on every street corner or is it a rare occurrence to actually see one?
Is there a single deity that the majority of your society worships? (remember that you are extremely unlikely to have 100% agreement on anything throughout your society.) are there a number of different religions? Do your people believe that there is a pantheon of gods and that people can worship any number or combination of them? Do your gods have a physical presence in the world where they regularly appear to their followers and intervene in their lives or are they more of a distant idea or superstition of a god? Are the religious leaders important in your society or are they instead persecuted and only allowed to carry out their worship in secret?
How are families organized in your world? Is there a small nucleus family like we are familiar with today where it is just the parents and juvenile children? Or is it instead a larger patriarchal type family where the adult children would still live in a single home with their parents as well as their own children? Are the juveniles considered to belong to their parents or their tribe? Who is responsible for their education and rearing? How long is someone considered a juvenile before they can become an adult? And is there a rite of passage into adult hood or is it a default status that is granted to anyone that reaches a certain age?
Day to day life
Not every day is likely to be a grand adventure for your protagonist, let alone their entire society, so what do they do in their normal every day lives? Do they work a 40 hour work week in a cubicle somewhere? do they work 16 hours a day hunting and gathering trying to eke out enough each day to sustain them? Are there robots that are able to perform enough manual labor that most people no longer need to work for anything? Do they have a daily routine or take each day as it comes? Do they eat three meals a day or can they live off of one large feast a week? How much personal space is considered right when talking to a stranger? A close friend? What do they do with their trash?
All of these questions have hopefully gotten you started on planning out your fictional world, or helped you to better explain your corner of our world to someone on the other side of the globe. I feel that these questions just barely scratch the surface of what is required to create a truly deep and completely immersive world, so stay tuned over the coming weeks as I try to dive into each of the above areas and flesh them out some more!
What are some other basic areas that you think should be covered as well when creating a new world?