Worldbuilding means different things for different authors. For traditional fantasy authors, it involves creating a whole new world and figuring out as much as possible about the people who live there and the world itself. For urban fantasy authors, it means figuring out how this version of Earth is different from our own. For mystery and contemporary romance authors, it means researching or developing the town where a story takes place. For science fiction authors, it often means creating not just new worlds but the technologies to get a species from one world to the next.
The meaning of worldbuilding also varies from author to author. Some authors develop only the parts of their world that their characters will at some point be in. Others like to develop every corner of their world. Some only figure out the history of the last few generations; others build back story going back for thousands of years.
Whatever your wordlbuilding looks like, there are some questions you should answer as a bare minimum. These questions will help you figure out your world and your society, laying a basic framework which will help you write your novel.
1. What are the similarities between your story’s world/society and your own? These things will help ground both you and your readers. Figuring out these similarities also gives you an idea of what your world looks like.
2. What cultures are interacting in your story’s world/society? Knowing the names of the most important cultures in your story and how they get along will help you figure out subplots and add a layer of realism to your work, no matter your genre.
3. How religious are people in your world/society? If most people in your world/society are extremely religious, this will have a huge effect on the laws. Knowing how important religion is to the people in your story also helps you figure out how much you develop your world/society’s religion. The effect of religion on laws and society is massive both in our world and in any other, and is important to consider.
4. How do people in this world/society treat marriage and procreation? Knowing whether or not marriage is important–or even exists–in a given place will tell you a lot about the society. Figuring out how your society feels about children both in and out of the family unit will give you fodder for subplots and a deeper understanding of the world/people you’ll be working with this November.
These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when building your world/society. There are dozens of other resources on the web to help you build your world such as the 30 Days of Worldbuilding website, and over the next week you can expect to hear a bit more on the topic here–and on Friday, I’ll be walking you through creating a map and a fact cheat sheet for your world. In the meantime, get to work answering these questions–and as many others as you can think of–about the world and society in which your novel takes place.