Q is for Questions

Q is for QuestionsToday the A to Z Challenge continues! I’ll be posting about one letter/word on every weekday in April. Don’t want the barrage of posts? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I start doing new stuff next month!

Q is for Questions.

Questions are the building blocks of every story. Many stories begin with the question “what if”. Other stories begin with different questions. I often see characters before I see anything else, so my first question is usually “who are you”.

From that first question, the way to build your story and your world is by asking questions. Sometimes you ask the characters directly, other times you’re asking the little voice in your head that feeds you stories(or, at least, this is how it works for me). And there are a million different questions you can ask. I’ve seen worldbuilding questionnaires with over a hundred and fifty questions–and that is without considering your actual characters.

With so many different questions it’s easy to get bogged down in the story building and never actually start writing. Almost all of us can think of at least one story we’ve spent weeks or months building a world for and then abandoned anyway. I have multiple binders full of abandoned worlds I hope I’ll someday be inspired to write in again, but there’s a good chance it’ll never happen, especially with the number of sequels my brain is churning out at the moment.

So how do you find a balance between worldbuilding/character creation and writing the actual story? Well, first you answer these essential questions:

  • What time period on Earth is your world comparable to(or, if it’s a story set on Earth, what time period is it in)?
  • What kind of government does the story your country takes place in have?
  • Do your characters follow this religion? How strictly?
  • What kind of religion does the story your country takes place in have?
  • How much does religion control the world your characters live in?
  • Is there magic/science? How much of each?
  • Do your characters understand how magic/science work?
  • Is there widely accessible education in the country where your characters live?
  • How well educated are your characters?
  • Is the country where your kingdom takes place at peace? What about the surrounding countries?
  • What kind of money/trade system does the country your story takes place in have?
  • How is the world your story takes place in different from our own?

I also like to make maps of both the primary country where my story takes place and the continent. Other than that, the worldbuilding I do varies greatly. I love fleshing out religions and every culture I’ve ever created has at least its own creation myth. When I’m getting ready to start working with a new viewpoint character or to start working with an old one after some time away I’ll often write flashbacks of their history which allow me to add details to both their profiles and the world around them. For some projects I’ve even created detailed timelines of the world’s history and/or the main character’s life.

Discovering the world and characters I’m going to work with is one of my favourite parts of starting a new project. I love asking all of these questions and many more. And I adore the new questions that come up when I return to a project after several months away. After all, I can always add more depth to my worlds.

What questions do you ask before starting a new project? What do you love learning more about? Let me know in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Q is for Questions

    • dlgunn

      I ask these questions a lot too. Also “Why did you have to go and get yourself killed right NOW? You were supposed to die at the END!”

  • I totally support the “what if” question. Almost everything I write starts with some form of that one. I love writing Alternative History, so many of my questions relate to some critical historical event. I just make one big change, like change the winning side of a war and everything just falls into place from there.

    • dlgunn

      I ask “what if” questions about history all the time, but usually they don’t get any further than a few moments of thought. Too busy creating my own worlds!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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