When I sit down to write a novel, especially genre fiction, one of the most important parts of that is the place and location of the story. It’s important for me to iron out where exactly the characters live and go throughout the piece, because the surroundings affect and influence the story. Here’s a list of important parts of your novel’s world to think about when writing.
No matter what genre you’re writing, it’s important to think about what is “right” and what is “wrong” in context of the location. While it may seem rather black and white, it’s important to think about how others might see it. Is there a religion that a majority of the population follows? Is there a certain standard of living? What kind of rules and morals might they have that differ from your own? Think about it from a practical standpoint—try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who believes in something you might not believe in, and figure out what circumstances would make them believe that. This will help you come up with other facts and pieces of the world around your characters.
While you know your own hometown very well, other towns (especially made-up ones) are going to have different features such as weather and wildlife. What sorts of nature surround your location, and how does that influence the society? If you can visit a place that’s similar to your story’s location—whether that be in temperature or urbanization—that would help you figure out how to describe it in writing.
The way the arts is treated in different places is a great way to establish a unique setting. In your fantasy culture, art may primarily involve musical art performances that tell stories—it may be reveered, or it may be a talent that many don’t use. You can get extremely creative when it comes to creating a culture and what kinds of arts come out of it. It’s also very important to do your research if you’re basing it off a real culture.
Unfortunately, prejudice is very real in human society—there are lots of different ways this can be portrayed. It’s important to note what sorts of features of a person may make their life more difficult and how it makes them treated. Is there a class system? Is there a heavy prejudice against a race, gender or religion? Take your time to think about what sorts of influences these things may have on your character.
5. Laws of the Universe/Magic
One of my favorite pieces—and perhaps one of the most difficult pieces—is figuring out how the universe can interact with the characters. This is mostly a focus for if you’re writing in genre and are creating most of the world. Think about the universe your character lives in and what sort of abilities they might have. You should be able to explain why your character can do something—if your character can shoot fire out of their hands, there has to be a good reason. Maybe everyone has these powers. Maybe your character is a special exception. Either way, there must be some aspect of the universe that makes it possible. While you don’t have to be super picky about planning all your rules out down to the T, it would be good to have your baseline rules. Establish what is and isn’t possible as early as you can—therefore when a character breaks these rules, you can incorporate this into plot. The most believable way to create magic and laws of the universe is to make sure the reader understands what’s normal and what isn’t. Then, when they see a character that defies the rules, it draws attention.