Last week, I talked about the core elements a fictional culture needs, and over time I’ve written posts on many different worldbuilding concepts and how to build them well. Today, I want to share with you a worldbuilding checklist that includes all of the elements (both general to a world and specific to various cultures) that I see as integral to a functioning world. And I’ll include a printable version, too, so stick around to the end for that.
Part 1: General World Questions
- What is the origin of the world?
- Does this world have a god/gods? If so, what are the most important elements of their character?
- What is the inherent moral law in this world?
- What are the scientific laws of this world?
- Are there magic systems? If so, how do they work and what are their limitations?
Related Post: Deciding the Foundation Truth of Your World
- What species grow/live in your world?
- What is the climate of your world?
- What is the general landscape of your world? (Having a map could help here.)
Part 2: Cultural Questions
- What are your culture’s 1-3 core values?
- What is the basis of your culture’s religion?
- What are 2-3 of their core myths/legends? (Creation myths can be especially important. I’ll talk about myths and legends more next week.)
- What does education look like in this culture?
- What are some common traditions in this culture?
- Do they have any big festivals or holidays?
- What does their government look like?
- What is this culture’s approach to work? (Inside vs. outside the home, in community vs. individual, family-centered vs. not, etc.)
- What do family roles look like?
- How are romantic relationships and marriage approached in this culture?
- What historical events have shaped this culture?
- Who are this culture’s heroes?
All of these questions will help you to develop a world that shapes your characters and feels real to the reader. Some are a bit more important than others, or might be more or less relevant upfront depending on what kind of story you want to tell (e.g. romance/marriage customs will be less crucial if your book is completely free of romance), but they’ll all contribute to the overall shape of your world and culture and give you a foundation for stories moving forward.
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