We all want to create that one-of-a kind world for our SF/F books. But how do we do it? The class I’m teaching currently, “Writing the YA Novel,” has helped me think about this subject. Here’s a worksheet I came up with to help *you* create a memorable world. Answer these questions, and then off you go!
Creating a Memorable World
The natural world: What does it look like? How is it like ours? How is it different?
The life forms: Is there more than one type of life form? Tell me about each that exist. Go into detail. Perhaps draw a picture.
The political world: What is it like? What are the different factions and/or political parties? Tell me about something they have fought over in the past.
The social world: Is there a particular custom that these life forms engage in that the readers should know about? Are there any rituals?
Family structure: Is the typical family structure different from our own? If so, how? Describe it.
The calendar: What holidays are celebrated? Select one and tell me about it in detail. What does an average citizen do on this day(s). How does one celebrate? What are the customs? What would it mean if one didn’t celebrate? On a different note, what are the names of the months? What year is it, currently?
Past wars: Tell me about any relevant past wars. Who was involved? What was the conflict over? What methods of combat were used? What happened as a result of this war/wars?
Leaders: Tell me about the current leader. How did she/he rise to power? Is this person good or bad? How do you know? What do they do—that is, how do they lead? What would a typical announcement from this person sound like?
The rules: Are there specific rules established for this world? (Such as a caste system, a division of the country, some kind of systematic discrimination or law that has to be followed). What are they? Who needs to abide by these rules? How do they impact the people?
An average day: What is life like for the average citizen on an average day?
What is life like for someone who is not an average citizen on an average day?
Transportation: How do people get around?
Communication: How do people communicate?
Entertainment: What do people do for fun?
Clothing: What do people wear?
Food and Drink: What do people typically consume?
Sports: What types of sports are played? Pick one and outline the rules of the game here.
School and/or Education: Tell me about schooling in this world. Who goes? How are they chosen to attend? What do they learn? What is a typical class they might take? What is a typical textbook they might read?
Problems: What types of problems does an ordinary person face in this world? What type of problem would be extraordinary?
Magic: Does magic exist? If so, what are the rules guiding it? (Be specific.) What does this magic look like? How does a reader, for instance, know magic is occurring? Are there any tools needed for this magic (think a wand) or is there a specific motion that must be made?
What do you think? Let me know. Send me a tweet @maura_jortner.