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When writing, one of the most important elements is to ensure you ground your story in a believable setting. This doesn’t just relate to fantasy, but to any genre. Worldbuilding is an ideal way to help you figure out how your characters fit into the bigger picture, or to learn what their motivations are. 

Now I realise that it can perhaps seem frustrating to spend a lot of time on building an elaborate world for your novel, especially if you then have to cut out most of the fascinating history and background in the final draft. Regardless, having that knowledge is still important as it helps to create more fully rounded out characters and plot. Remember Hemingway and his iceberg theory of writing where one imagines that 80-90% of a story actually occurs below the surface!

So before you start writing ask yourself how much do you know about the world of your novel? It not be as much as you think. In order to questions yourself we’ve devised 20 important questions you should ask yourself when creating the background for your story. We wonder how many of these you can truthfully and honestly say, ‘Yes I got them all right?’

1. How long has your world existed?

2. How did your world originate? Do the people who inhabit your world have a creation myth, or a scientific explanation for how it came to be?

3. What are some important historic events in your world? How did they contribute to the geographic or social structures that exist in your world’s present day?

4. What is considered a curse word in your world? What is considered sacred, and what is considered profane?

5. What holidays does your world celebrate?

6. Does your world have a religion? Do the people in your world put their faith in some other sort of power or institution?

7. If your world has religion, is there one main religion, or many religions? Are the main religions of your world monotheistic or pantheistic?

8. What resources are in your world? What are the imports/exports? Which resources are rare and valuable, and which are necessary or common?

9. What is the structure of your world’s government?

10. What is the geography and climate of your world?

11. What are the seasons of your world?

12. What kind of calendar system does your world have? What’s it based on (lunar cycles, a monarch’s rule, etc.)?

13. What are the distances between important places in your world? Draw a map if you want to!

14. What is the class or social structure of your world? Where in that structure does your main character fall?

15. What language(s) do your characters speak? Is language ever a barrier to communication?

16. What are some details you can use from real-world places  that are similar to your world to make it feel more believable?

17. What does your world smell like?

18. What are some of the main dishes the people in your world eat?

19. What are the limitations of power, energy, or magic in your world?

20. What kinds of objects or ideas are familiar to the people of your world? What kind of objects or ideas are strange or outlandish to them?

If you get overwhelmed looking at the big picture, why not try building your world from your character’s perspective. Start by imagining what their room looks like? Then, what does their house look like? What kind of neighbourhood do they live in? How does their neighbourhood fit in with the rest of the town or city they live in? And what part of the country is that city in? Carry on until you have built up your characters complete outline.

The most important things to remember when worldbuilding is that even though you are creating a larger scope for your world it should still be fun for you, and also that the worldbuilding you do should help deepen a reader’s connection with your character or drive the plot forward.

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