Character Sheets

I thought I would take another break from world building to talk about something along the same vein: character sheets! Man, I don’t know if it’s the nostalgia for D&D or what, but I love making character sheets. For the first five minutes, then it feels tedious afterward. Now, most people already have their own templates and setups for character sheets, but I thought I would offer my own take on it. Below is an example of a character sheet I use for reference for DB:C.

Billy Bob Characterface                                                                          Book Title/Time Frame

Hair: red, short
Eyes: brown
Skin: dark
Age: 36
Race: half-elf, half-human
Height: 6’5″
Physique: lean, good shape
Health: bad ulcers, otherwise perfect

Parents: Senor Characterface (father, deceased), Lady Characterface (mother, deceased), Lord Characterface (adoptive father)
Family: Iam Characterface (older brother)
Marriage:  Lily (Maidenname) Characterface (Time of Marriage)
Children: Firstborn Characterface (B.Date), Secondborn Characterface (B.Date)
Home: Capital City
Birth: Date @ Place
Social Station: Owner of Characterface Antiques in Capital City

Magic: none
Combat: basic training with short sword, expert fencer with rapier
Languages: Homeland (hometown dialect), Neighboring Country (border dialect)
Hobbies/Talentscan tell an antique from a fake in less than a minute, world class log roller

Political Affiliation: pro-RulingDude, anti-NewGovernment
Religion: that one deity
Important Anniversaries: Marriage to Lily (M.Date), Birth of Firstborn (B.Date), Birth of Secondborn (B.Date), Death of parents (Date)
History: Though too young to remember the death of his parents, Lord Characterface kept their memory alive in young Billy’s heart. He grew up under the influence of Lord Characterface and aspired to be like his adoptive father. Soon, Billy saved up enough money working on his brother’s farm to open his own antique stall. With a natural talent for spotting ancient items of value, Billy’s business grew. Now a merchant mogul in Capital City, Billy’s daughter, Firstborn, has been kidnapped for a large ransom.

And done! So, of course the character sheet can have different things you consider important for your story. My world has magic, so I felt it necessary to put it in there and what type they possess. I also suggest you keep them down to one page a character. Yes, even main characters. Whilst a detailed backstory is important, for simplicity’s sake during writing, you don’t want to slow yourself down taking so much time to scan through a five page essay detailing their life. If you want to make a more detailed character history, especially for main characters, I think it best to keep separate from your actual character sheets. I also have mine all printed out and in a binder so I don’t have to look away from my manuscript for a quick eye reference.

Down below I have a template saved in .docx & .doc formats for anyone interested in using this template for themselves. My margins on the top for the BookTitle/Time Frame may be off, but is meant to be up in the uppermost right corner of the page. Of course, if your book isn’t one of a series the time frame isn’t important. Anyhoo, if you would like the template in another format feel free to send me an email or message and I’ll see what I can do! Until next time! Keep on keeping on!

Character Sheet.docx
Character Sheet.doc

World Building Part 5: Calendar

worldbuildban

Welcome back to world building, Part 5! Even if you don’t use a calendar to date your chapter headings (like the case in a lot of historical fiction), it’s still a good idea to have a calendar to keep track of events and holidays. Luckily today’s blog will be short since there isn’t toooo much to a calendar. 😀

  • Days/Months
  • Holidays
  • Seasons
  • Lunar Cycles
  • Anniversaries 
  • Births, Deaths, & Pregnancies

 

Days/Months

Well, first thing is first. You need to determine the length of your calendar and divide it up into months, weeks, or days. If your book takes place on earth, or your new planet follows the same yearly cycle as our own, this part’s already done. Otherwise, if your new world is a different planet in size, location, etc., then you need to do a little science and figure out the length of a year and divide it up. If you don’t use months, you’ll need another way to identify individual days. As of our own calendar, we identify the day by the month and day of said month. If you have no month, are your days just going to be day 247th of the year? If you don’t want to do hard science, just remember the closer the planet is to the sun the shorter the year, in general. Hopefully an astrophysicist won’t check the science (I’m counting on it XD).

Holidays

Once again, if you’re following our real world example, the holidays are set for you. If you’re building a new world and calendar to go with it, you’ll need to implement holidays. Look to your folder on religion for some inspiration. Is there a day where someone was martyred? An important figure was born? Depending on what country your story takes place in, there can be independence holidays and remembrance holidays for large battles where lives were lost. There can be holidays geared around the seasons too, such as the first snowfall or harvest. National, seasonal, and religious are the holidays that dominate our calendars, but of course if you want an international holiday of french toast, be my guest!

Seasons

Maybe instead of four seasons your planet has six! Or they have a summer that lasts for four years in a row. Consider your planet’s placement in the solar system and rotation. Just remember, in all honesty, just about any scenario you can conceive is always plausible in the multiverse. Be sure to mark the official beginning and end of each season on your calendar.

Lunar Cycles

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure where to place this in my world building series. I think figuring out the lunar cycle could take up an entire blog post by itself. Maybe one day it will, but until then I’ll go over a brief glimpse of what I mean. When I was writing my book, I had many scenes taking place at night. I eventually realized that in the real world, there can’t be a full moon every night! So, to begin, figure out how many moons you have. I had two, and so I used the lunar cycle of our own moon as the model to base the cycles of the others off of. You can extend or shorten the cycle however you wish. It would be affected by the placement of your moons from your planet. Mark down what point in the cycle the moon is at on your calendar. You’ll find having a new moon on some adventurous nights add to the action!

Anniversaries

Not just wedding, but death and important events. In real life, people note the anniversary of their parent’s death. Or the day they met their spouse. What anniversaries would affect your characters? If your character’s pet goat took an arrow to the face on a certain day and it haunts him forever, write that sucker down on the calendar. Odds are he’ll at least take a moment to think about it.

Births, Deaths, & Pregnancies

Depending on how important each is in your world, it doesn’t hurt to write these down on the calendar. Some cultures don’t celebrate birthdays. Maybe in your new world you have to do something particular on the death of a loved one. These would tie in with anniversaries to a degree. Pregnancies need to be kept track of. If a character gets pregnant the normal gestation period is 9 months for the average human being. Of course this can vary per race if you’re making a world with several, but that makes it even more important to keep track of who, what, when, and where. You don’t want someone pregnant in March giving birth in June. Since pregnancies can also heavily affect a character’s physical abilities; the further down you go the more they are inhibited and could affect your story.

Until Next Time!

A calendar is an amazing tool to have and doesn’t take much to draw up. Whether on paper or in excel, you can keep track of important dates and time periods. It really helps with immersion. In our own world we live by calendars, so why would any other be different? As usual I’ll edit if I think of more aspects.

World Building Part 1: Basics
World Building Part 2: Religion
World Building Part 3: Nation Creation
World Building Part 4: Government

Added 04/04/2016 World Building Part 6: Map Making
Added 04/18/2016 World Building Part 7: Culture
Added 06/13/2016 World Building Part 8: Floor Plans & Architecture
Added 10/24/2016 World Building Part 9: Creatures
Added 11/21/2016 World Building Part 10: Science!
Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine
Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names

 

World Building Part 4: Government

Before we get started, head over to World Building Part 3: Nation Creation, because this particular exercise is an extension of that. Decide what type of government you would like to have and who is prominent within that system.

World Building Part 1: Basics
World Building Part 2: Religion
World Building Part 3: Nation Creation

Added 03/22/2016 World Building Part 5: Calendar

Added 04/04/2016 World Building Part 6: Map Making

Added 04/18/2016 World Building Part 7: Culture

Added 06/13/2016 World Building Part 8: Floor Plans & Architecture

Added 10/24/2016 World Building Part 9: Creatures

Added 11/21/2016 World Building Part 10: Science!

Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine

Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names

  • Just/Corrupt
  • Religious Influence
  • Conspiracies
  • Political Parties
  • Local/Lower Level Government
  • Military
  • Laws

What type of government did you choose?

If you haven’t yet, go back to WBP3 and pick which kind of government you would like to work with. This will heavily influence the rest of your choices for this exercise.

Just/Corrupt

Is your government new? Is it old? How was it formed? A major possibility for backdrop is the corruption of a government. Keep in mind, corruption doesn’t have to be on a national level either, it can refer to the crooked local tax collector if that’s your wish. A corrupt government would also set up some other backstories, involving your character or not. Rebellions and resistances would spring up over time to fight back. A just government has plenty of fodder for backdrop too though. Don’t forget that, as always, there can be someone corrupt wanting to replace those who are just.

Religious Influence

If you went with Theocracy, this is going to be way out of the ballpark for you. However, even if you chose another form of government, throughout our own world history religion has heavily influenced everything from laws to who gets elected. Whilst I already mentioned religious influence in WBP3, that was in respect to the country as a whole. Here I would like you to concentrate how religion influences the actual political process. How does it effect law making, punishments, etc. For more detail on religion, also see WBP2.

Conspiracies

These can be fun! You can make conspiracies as ridiculous as you want. Heck, use a random word generator to come up with one and then determine if it’s true later. Depending on how silly your novel is of course. A conspiracy can be something as complicated as the entire sitting government is an invasion of space hamsters who, instead of drinking wine at their dinners drink the blood of their enemies. Okay, maybe blood drinking isn’t the best example for simple. Simple would be more like, they use a certain kind of paper because of an old feud between the paper maker and the guy in charge of supplies. I guess that’s not simple either. XD But see? At least fun if you wish it to be. And yes, I can guarantee there are conspiracies for just about every government there is. Whether you talk about Illuminati today, or that Queen Elizabeth died as a child and was replaced by a boy.

Political Parties

No matter the government you choose, there will likely be political parties. Even with monarchies you can have parliaments, or senators, as well as political parties within those factions. Determine the issues facing your country and what stances would take opposition with those issues. From within the ranks of these parties, rebellions and coups rise.

Local/Lower Level Government

Don’t forget these guys! They affect the day-to-day of most people and can make your character’s life miserable/content. Aside from the national level, and depending on which form of government you choose (a king can’t take the time to settle squabbles between farmers), you need to determine government for cities, states, provinces, and so on. Are they run by elected mayors? Or lords? No matter the national government, the local governments can vary whether appointed or elected. It is completely determined by the heads of the national government, but even in monarchies there can be a mayor. Even in the city the queen resides over and lives in. Remember, local government takes care of the things too trivial (so to speak) for those in charge of the country as a whole. That includes laws, judgments, sentencing, etc.

Military

Your nation doesn’t have to have a standing military. Or, maybe they only draft during times of war. Either way, you could have a pacifist nation with no armed forces. The likelihood of that is very low, but possible. It’d be fun to try to figure that one out. Otherwise, let’s go over a couple of basics you’d need to have a realistic military in the background.

Rank

Determine the hierarchy of your armed forces. Does it reflect the ranking of your own country? Someone else’s? If you’re planning to completely construct the ranks from your own mind, for love of Pete write it down! It could play a more important role later on and you don’t want inconsistencies. It’s easy to Google military rankings of different countries if you need inspiration or want to use an already established system for the sake of simplicity.

Influence

Now you need to determine how much influence your military has over the rest of the government and its operations. Is the head of the military your queen? Or perhaps the head of the military is one of an oligarchy. If the military is small or nonexistent, obviously it won’t influence decisions made by the country. Do you have a general fighting a war with no money? It would become a tense issue for him to try to secure funding to defend the wealth of the lawmakers who won’t give it to him.

Size

Determine how large your army is, if you have one. Is it in the millions? Thousands? Are there some active always and the majority on call? Determine the profile of those who are drafted in times of war. Is it anyone who can hold a sword or shoot a ray gun? Is there an age limit? Is your army only men or women? Are immigrants or slaves offered citizenship and freedom in exchange for service in times of war?

Laws

There are so many aspects to law, I think it would be impossible for me to fit them all into a single blog. I am by far no lawyer or expert either, so here are the things I think would influence your character and the world they’re in. Of course, if your character is involved with law it needs to go into much more detail.

Texts

First, let’s decide if your country has any sort of text from which laws are translated or conveyed. Is there a constitution? Or any declarations? Is there a religious book from which all laws are drawn from? Once you’ve decided what type of text your country’s laws are based off of, determine how it’s interpreted, which can of course vary from person to person or party to party. After that, determine if there has been any need to arise that constitutes amendments to that text. Amendments would be issues that have come up since the initial conception of your text. If there’s a sudden influx of butterflies and your constitution has nothing on the subject, lawmakers would likely place an amendment in to clarify how the country should deal with it. Also, determine how, or if, your amendments came to be. Was it voted in by the masses? Did your king make a declaration? Were the heads of the church keen on adding more verses to their holy book, claiming the god(s) they worshiped told them to do so? Now that you have your text, we can move on to what’s contained within it.

Rights (Citizen+Foreigners)

Determine the rights of your citizens and their immigrant counterparts, as well as any visiting foreigners and dignitaries. Are your citizens imprisoned for speaking out against the government? Do your immigrants have to pay a tax for each child they bring with them? Do ambassadors have immunity? For inspiration, you can always of course google real laws and rights and twist them to suit what the leaders of your own world would do with those questions.

Due Process (Or Lack Thereof)

Now, what happens if someone breaks the law? Can the lord ruling over the village sentence them to servitude or even death for knocking over barrels of wine? Determine the due process, or lack thereof, within the realm you’re creating. No, a monarchy doesn’t mean the queen can just remove someone’s head. In the real world, we can use examples of monarchies still having to go through their peers in order to achieve what they want for punishment. Does that mean they didn’t have great influence over the outcome? Of course they did, great influence. Even if it’s for the sake of appearances, due process is something to consider in even the most tyrannical of governments. The one or few ruling still need the support of their followers or they won’t stay in power for long.

Punishment+Sentencing

Now to determine the severity of laws broken and their punishments. You can of course have outrageous punishments for petty crimes. Or, depending on how serious or silly your world is, have silly punishments for horrendous crimes. Like, eating a banana because you murdered someone. Or even eating a food you’re allergic to. Something else to think about, is how your sentencing comes about. Does a judge do it? A jury? The local hay farmer? Whoever they are, would they be fair?

Finance+Property

Determine the currency of your country. Is there more than one accepted? Where did it come from? Does it have the engraving of a founder or deity? Is it actual coins or something like bottle caps (like in the Fallout universe)?

Are there labor laws? Can children work? Is there slavery? What rights do merchants or businesses have and do they supersede those of the working class?

Also, property laws. If someone dies, who inherits their wealth? First born daughter? Last born son? The cat? Could an illegitimate child inherit everything and anger the rest of the family? Does someone need to meet specific criteria in order to buy a plot of land? Do farmers work the lands of their lords who own them? Or are they free to do as they wish? What happens if property is damaged? Is a hand removed for stealing?

Marriage

Is a noble woman capable of marrying below her station? Can same sex marriages occur? Can interracial marriages occur? Are the priests of the temples allowed to marry? Can all politicians marry? Or is there a law against it so they may concentrate only on the good of the country? Is there a dowry? Are contracts signed? What happens if a marital contract is broken?

Immigration

What does it take to become a citizen of your country? Are all people born in your country automatically citizens? Or do they have to complete rigorous testing? What about those crossing the border? Are there any specific races not allowed into your country? Is there an entire business based off of forging paperwork to allow immigrants into your country? What rights do immigrants have? Is there anyone who protects them, or fights for them in the justice system? Do immigrants have to pay an immigrant tax to enter to create extra revenue for a war?

Taxes

It’s like the old saying, two things are for certain in life: death and taxes. Taxes can apply to just about anything stated above. Marriage tax. Immigration tax. Citizen tax. Inheritance tax. Of course income tax and property tax. There could even be a criminal tax, once you’ve broken the law you have to pay off the debt you created from eating the food and using the shelter the state provided while you did your time. Once you determine what is taxed, then it’s time to figure out what they’re spent on. Do politicians get paid with taxes? Or are they expected to live off of their normal incomes? Do taxes pay for the temples or roads? The king’s pet iguana shop?

Until Next Time!

Yay! That was shorter! Ish! I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things, but as usual if I think of any later on I’ll add them in an edit. Did you like the banner I made? XD I know, I’ll leave the graphic design up to Anne. Anyhow, I haven’t yet decided what I’ll cover next week, but be sure to stay tuned for the next part of my ridiculously detailed world building series. ❤

World Building Part 1: Basics
World Building Part 2: Religion
World Building Part 3: Nation Creation
World Building Part 5: Calendar
World Building Part 6: Map Making
World Building Part 7: Culture

 

What Entails Legitimacy?

Hallo! I’m going to take a break from my World Building Blog Series. Don’t worry, next week I’ll still bring you WBP4: Government, and because it’s essentially an extension of the previous post, it won’t be as long winded. Huzzah! Moving on!

Earlier today I stumbled upon the blog of someone who recently sold their novel to an established publishing house. In their exclamations of excitement they quantified their success by noting that it wasn’t vanity, self-published, small house, or any number of negative connotations associated with indie authors and small publishing houses, but a real publishing house.

This is a theme I’ve seen often lately. I came across an article, “Self-Publishers Should Not Be Called Authors”.

I don’t see how publishing with a big house or being the member of an exclusive guild makes anyone a better writer than any other. Yes, in self-publishing you have to sift through bad titles to find that gem, but I’m sorry, I found the exact same for big house published works. It’s completely subjective. I won’t for a moment deny that some people put out the first draft and call it good and expect praise and adoration for little work, but I think to discredit an entire industry of people based off of some bad eggs is ignorant. Don’t generalize. Why do people have to generalize?

I find multiple mistakes across the spectrum, from a book by the big five to a self-published book to the small houses in the middle.

Why do people feel more cheated to pay $.99 for an indie/self-published title they didn’t like over paying $14.99 for a big house title they didn’t like? Yet, you pay drastically more for them. It’s a bigger ripoff technically. Yes, with the name comes an expectation of quality, but you can do the same brand association with an independent author. You can know books by A. R. Ladyface are high quality just as easily as books put out by penguin.

I’m not saying that there aren’t some bad works out there, but I think the proper action is to leave a review with constructive criticism in hopes the problems are corrected. If they aren’t then you know not to buy from that specific author again, but to discredit everyone in the business isn’t giving thousands of people a fair shake based off of a few.

So what is legitimacy? I’m going to have to agree with the top comment by Mike Conway on the very article I alluded to above:

Let’s see, if we’re going to make a distinction, like it actually matters, I would say this:

Writer – Someone who writes stuff.
Author – A writer that creates a finished work.
Professional Author – An author that makes a living off of finished works.

Personally, when I pick up a finished work to read, I only care about the fact that it’s finished and published and I can enjoy it or not. The person that wrote it is the author of the work. I don’t care whether or not they’re a member of the “SF Guild of the World” or the “Bestowed Title Because We Say So Guild” or has the logo of a major publishing house on the spine, since that’s not an indicator of quality.

I don’t think the majority of people feel this way, it just seems that those who do are very loud about it. It’s difficult enough to put yourself out there for others to judge, and whilst I’m not saying to baby authors by any means, don’t condemn them without giving them a chance.

Here is a quote from a fellow author and good friend of mine, Marq Truong, in parting:

It is thanks to the incredible success of Indie publishing that large publishers are opening up to new ideas and styles. So this person (mentioned above) could very well have Indie authors to thank for being picked up at all. It has also opened the market for short stories and novellas which did not exist at all to the larger public before the Indie explosion. Many of our most prized classics are novellas (at best) which would not have been published except in some random and obscure anthology if they were put out a decade ago.

 

World Building Part 3: Nation Creation

worldbuildban

Hello and welcome to Part 3 of my world building series! First I’d like to have a moment for a shameless plug! 😀 My friend has just started a blog and it’s Hello Jagger! here on WordPress. It’s Sci-fi satire, so if you’re in the mood for humor and hijinks, check it out.

World Building Part 1: Basics
World Building Part 2: Religion

Added 3/14/2016 World Building Part 4: Government

Added 3/22/2016 World Building Part 5: Calendar

Added 4/4/2016 World Building Part 6: Map Making

Added 4/18/2016 World Building Part 7: Culture

Added 06/13/2016 World Building Part 8: Floor Plans & Architecture

Added 10/24/2016 World Building Part 9: Creatures

Added 11/21/2016 World Building Part 10: Science!

Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine

Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names

Today’s topic is Nation Creation. Yes, I do get satisfaction that it rhymes. Anyhow, I want to point out that I will be doing a separate, more in depth world building segment on government, but for the sake of building your country we’ll focus on the major factors only as far as that’s concerned. There were simply too many aspects to government and country to put them together. Well, I could but then the blog would be more massive than usual.

The following are in no particular order, so don’t skip over anything! Fill it out as things come to mind and one will lead to another. Decided you want it to take place in a desert? Fill out geography first! Economy and cities are sure to follow.

  • Kingdom/Empire/Union/City-State
  • Monarchy/Oligarchy/Democracy/Theocracy
  • Name
  • Hierarchy of Citizenship
  • Religious Influences
  • Official Language(s)
  • Topics of Debate
  • Economy
  • Population (Demographics)
  • Capital & Major Cities
  • Wars/Civil Wars/Revolutions/Rebellions
  • Flag(s), Colors, & Symbolism
  • National Heroes/Villains
  • Holidays & Pastimes 
  • Borders
  • Allies/Enemies
  • Treaties/Declarations of War/Embargoes/Contracts
  • Founding & History
  • Military

Kingdom/Empire/Union/City-State

When making your nation, you have to determine how it came to be. Is it a kingdom where clans came together and elected a single ruler? Is it an empire where a tyrant conquered all of his territories? Is it a union of several countries? A city-state that broke off from it’s mother country? There are many choices, more than these in fact, to determine. For the sake of time, I’m going to focus on these four common choices.

A kingdom is defined as a country ruled by a King or Queen. That’s simple enough. How that came to be is up to you. Was it inherited? Did the current Queen assassinate her cousin to get the crown? This also seems to be the most common form of country in fantasy settings, but remember that just as in the real world, yours would have variations. A real world example would be Tudor England.

An empire is defined as a group of countries or territories united under a supreme authority. This authority doesn’t have to be a tyrant, but could be a council. The Roman empire was ruled by a democracy (for the most part) as a real world example. And empires, though usually depicted as evil, don’t always have to be. Although to be fair empires are usually founded through conquest, but an alternative is acquisition through peaceful means. It is also a matter of perspective. The Roman Empire conquered violently, and yet for their citizens they brought stability and wealth.

A union in this regard is a group of independent countries who try to establish a single form of currency and policies. A perfect example is the European Union. There are many story possibilities with that. Did the union form to battle an evil overlord? Or in a Sci-fi setting an entire planet could be a union, maybe even a galaxy and eventually monotony doesn’t just effect currency, but everyday lives. Perhaps even a source of contention

A city-state is a city that forms an independent entity from the country it’s in. The Vatican is an example of a city-state. These don’t seem to be common, especially in our world now, but I feel have a lot of potential for a good backdrop in a story. Depending on how new the city-state is, or even how ancient, could be a source of unhappiness among the populace. Perhaps they no longer enjoy the luxuries of traveling beyond their claustrophobic borders, or their resources are extremely limited since the country they broke off from won’t allow them to trade.

Monarchy/Oligarchy/Democracy/Theocracy

After determining what kind of country you have, next would make sense to determine its government. Whether you’ve chosen a kingdom or an empire, you need to determine the ruling and driving forces. Whilst the government can determine what kind of country you have, it can go vice versa. If you chose a kingdom, you’ve answered your own question as far as government is concerned. However, a kingdom could be a monarchy as well as an oligarchy.

A monarch is a single head of government. Usually this does include some kind of council or even parliament (such as in the U.K.), but could also pertain to a king or tyrant. You could have an established monarch ruling over a kingdom, empire, or city-state. It is possible that a monarch could be established in a union if an elected chairman, or some similar office, seized power. In that instance it would likely be masqueraded as something else, such as a democracy when in fact a single person rules.

An oligarchy is when a select few have reign over the whole of the country. This could also include a royal family or a council as mentioned earlier. An oligarchy can also apply to any of the countries mentioned above. An example of turmoil caused by an oligarchy could be that whoever rules is in even numbers and they cannot come to a compromise, thus sparking a civil war within the realm. An oligarchy could start off as a republic but deteriorate from being ruled by an elected 200 to a self-appointed five over time.

A democracy is when the majority of the populace rules or is represented equally in government. Representatives are elected by majority vote and make decisions based off of their voters wishes or needs. Despite real world applications of democracy, this is the ideal. In a democracy multiple political parties are present, as there are so many aspects to the wants and needs of everyday life. Though in most real world examples, even in democracies there are still heads of state such as the Emperor for Rome and the President of the United States.

A theocracy could not only be applied to any country, but also to any form of government. What defines a theocracy is religious influence over the government and that government rules on behalf of a deity. A perfect real world example is the Pope of the Vatican. You can apply a theocracy to any form of government above. It could be a group of three priestesses or an entire democracy of bishops. A king or queen could claim to rule on behalf of your major deities as the ancient pharaohs of Egypt did.

Name

Name time! The type of country you go for could influence the name. Such as, the Roman Empire was called as such because it was….dun dun dun! An empire! XD You could say the Republic of *name*, or the kingdom of, or United City-States of *name*, or even the *name* Union. There are so many possibilities of naming countries. If you have your history already set you could make it a bastardization of the founder’s name. Such as, the Roman Empire is named after its founders Romulus and Remus. Once again, I suggest creating a name bank and applying culture and language to your name and see what rolls off of the tongue more naturally. If you can’t pronounce your name worth a hoot, it likely will be difficult for readers to retain as well. Or they may just think of it as a jumble of letters.

Hierarchy of Citizenship

Is everyone equal? Are there second class citizens? Is there a caste system in place? Just as in the real world, this will vary by country. In the Western world, money can greatly influence your place in life, just as in the ancient world your family name meant everything. This isn’t about government hierarchy, as I will be covering that in world building part 4, but about the placement of the everyday citizen. Just as in Tudor England (I know I use that example a lot, but that’s because I know a lot about it XD), you had nobility and lordships. There are peasants and everyday people and the merchant or wealthy classes in between. Determine what sort of hierarchy system you have for your everyday citizens. Being a citizen all in itself could be considered a station (such as in Starship Troopers).

Religious Influence

If you chose Theocracy, you’ll spend the most time on this, but even if you didn’t you’ll still need to implement religious influence into your country. In the real world some countries were founded on religious freedom or at least tolerance. In others, religion is used as a weapon to force the masses to do as the ruling entities please. You also need to discover what aspects religion plays on the everyday lives of your ordinary citizens. Does it influence who they vote into office? Does it influence what laws go into effect? For more on establishing religions see my WBP2:Religions post.

Official Language(s)

I plan to expand on languages in a later blog on culture, but for now, depending on your world structure it’s simple enough to determine an official language. Realistically, your characters may reach a language barrier at some point in their adventures if it takes them beyond their realm or country. Just as in the real world, a country can have one or several official languages depending on the dominant population. You could have one language being that of the native peoples who inhabited the land for a millennium or the language of a conquering empire forced on the locals. Such as Latin being  used by the Roman Empire. Another factor for language is religion and religious texts. Just as Latin and Greek were used primarily for Christianity for years, the wealthy and educated spoke Latin and Greek as well as their native tongue.

Topics Of Debate

One of my favorite story lines at times is when a country is divided over a serious issue. Not in real life of course, that’s stressful, but in a fictional setting this can be a driving factor for a large story arc. A perfect example is the Mages Vs Templars in Dragon Age II. You must pick a side and the entire outcome depends on that decision. The same can go for a character in your story. Using the above example, your character could hate mages because they murdered her mother, but falls madly in love with a mage and must choose between revenge for her family or the love of her life. Maybe that is a cliche example, but there are innumerable ways to create conflict with a country divided. Another thing to arise from such division is civil war. Or the issue being discussed is a scapegoat for a more serious issue behind the curtains. Such as, an argument about foreigner rights is set up to distract from the more serious issue of martial law. Or even used as a reason for martial law, thus creating more conflict between the populace and ruling authority.

Economy

The economic state of your country affects just about everything. It can lead to revolution, civil war, and civil unrest. It can also lead to prosperity and decadence. Other than determining the value of your economy’s currency in the international world, it’s best to also determine major exports and imports. In a rocky or mountainous country, a major export could be gems or minerals. They would no doubt import a lot of food as the terrain doesn’t allow for much farming. Or, if they do farm, they would have such on the sides of mountains such as some rice farms in China. It would also have to be a plant specifically able to survive in the climate as well as the terrain. More about this under geography though. For now, determine what your main imports and exports are as well as the stability of your currency.

Population (Demographics)

You need to determine the size of your population. Then, after that, determine what types of people occupy a percentage. How many people are immigrants? How many speak one language or the other? How many worship one god, or the other, or none? How many of each race? Where are the dense population of elves? If your county is human, an Elven settlement would have Elvish influences in architecture and the names of streets and business. If your country is two countries come together, one side of it would be heavy with the influence of the original country. However, don’t forget to weave influences from the surrounding areas into each place. Though there may be an Elvish settlement, it would still be occupied by humans and other races. If you have a town on the border, it may carry influence from the bordering country over. If you have a port town, it may be a beautiful or chaotic mish mash of all the places your country trades with. Another thing to consider is age, how many young people versus how many elderly or children? Was there a huge war that claimed the lives of youth? It would leave a large population of disabled and elderly, which could put a country at risk for invasion. Maybe a character’s grandmother was forced back into labor due to demand for a working force.

Capital & Major Cities

I think this should be self explanatory enough. Decide where your capital and major cities are. Something that could easily help influence placement is geography. If you already have your map drawn up and figured out, you would normally place cities by bodies of water and rivers. Look at where most ancient cities of our own world have popped up. They’re usually next to the oceans or lakes or rivers. Before irrigation, it was important to be close to fresh drinking water, plus water guarantees animals and other food sources. It also makes farming easier. However, if you haven’t drawn out your map yet, no worries! You can always place your capital and city dots first and determine the geography around them.

Don’t forget to name your towns and cities. Sometimes you can draw influence, once again, from real life and name a town or city after some geographic or terrain anomaly. Like, Elephant Rock or Three Rivers, or even like Laketown from LOTR. They can also be named after their founders, or even some after a battle that took place there.

Wars/Civil Wars/Revolutions/Rebellions

A country is essentially a living being, one way or another. No one stays stagnant and remains the same through thousands of years. People’s priorities change and so do the wants of the populace, and sometimes this causes conflict and controversy with the government. There will be wars, whether they do the attacking or are being attacked. Civil wars and revolutions can be caused by the examples above in topics of debate, as well as religious conflicts. Rebellions are a smaller resistance to the current ruling government, but aren’t necessarily the good guys. It’s important to remember that so many things are based on perspective. Your country will evolve with time and with culture. These also make great backdrops for story arcs. If you choose an empire, it’s important to note that empires usually grow with wars and gain territory through violence, but of course not always.

Flags, Colors, & Symbolism

Your country needs a flag! This is a good time to determine the colors and any important symbolism in your country’s founding and sustained history. How was it founded? If your country’s main import is a flower, you could reflect this on your flag. Or even flowers and silk, this could be on your flag. If your main export is red roses, the colors of the flag could be red and white. If your country’s animal is a dragon, the colors could be green or red reflecting its scale colors. If your country’s origin story involves a sword from a lady in the lake (sound familiar?) the colors could be blue to reflect the lake and a sword. Like the United States’ stripes, there could be symbolic reference to the number of clans or colonies or city-states that formed into your country. If it’s relevant (and even if it’s not, just cause!), you can determine your country’s favorites in all things. Plants, animals, colors, and food, for example.

Heroes/Celebrities

Heroes don’t always have to be someone who’s shown prowess on the battlefield. They could be an inventor who improved the quality of life for the general populace or a bumbling baker who appeased a visiting dignitary. Celebrities could be figures in government and military, or an artist who does portraits for the most noble houses. Living or dead, heroes and celebrities impact society. Many times in our own world, popular heroes or celebrities are followed as well as their ideals on how to deal with certain topics. Often quoted, a large stake of opinion can be influenced by these people. A hero/celebrity could be the face of a new rebellion or opposing political party. In addition to those who are famous for good deeds, it’s important to remember there are those infamous for bad ones. And of course there is opportunity for people in the spotlight to be corrupt and deceitful of their true intentions behind their “good” deeds. The same goes for someone trying to do something good that backfires horribly, thus giving them a bad reputation.

Holidays & Pastimes

What holidays does your country have? Are there any worldwide holidays? Those usually pertain to religion. Are there days celebrating independence? Or an important victory in a war? Is there a day celebrating the birth of a hero or the death of a villain? Holidays to celebrate the passing of the seasons? Do birthdays exist in your country’s culture? There are bound to be holidays. In addition to holidays, note any practices or rituals associated with said holiday. Is there a specific food eaten? If so, why that particular food? Is there a game, or giving of gifts? Are there any deities or mythical characters associated with the holiday? For example, like Santa Claus. Also, don’t forget centennial and bi-centennial celebrations, and beyond those marker years.

What do the people of your country do for fun? I think usually there are levels of entertainment based on one’s place in society. You never hear of peasants in Tudor England jousting for sport, just as you don’t usually hear of noble children playing kick the can. Work out what your people like to do for sport and fun. A country in a forest area might enjoy hunting or wood crafting. People living in a rocky terrain might enjoy sculpting, or building miniature castles. A plains people might enjoy a sport involving lots of running around because of the ample room. Or a catapult competition!

Borders

What other countries border yours? Or rather, the one you’re working on. Is there tension at the border? Are any of the bordering countries embargoed or on bad terms? Is there open hostility? An example of such is the border between North and South Korea. Are there restrictions on who can pass? And remember, these factors will vary per country. Whilst your country may love one of its neighbors, it could detest the other. If your country was split in two due to a civil war, what is that border like? Is there a physical wall like the Berlin Wall that was in Germany? Are there troops and outposts along the wall? Are the borders clearly marked with signs on the roadways? Are there stops and searches for goods that are smuggled or illegal? If your country is in a war, they may only allow citizens in with papers and have a closed door policy to any immigrants for fear of spies. Or if in a civil war, the borders could be closed to it’s own citizens as they try to flee and seek refuge elsewhere.

Allies/Enemies

Pretty self explanatory! Who are your country’s allies and enemies? Why are they allies or enemies? Are they allies simply because they share an enemy? Are they enemies because a king insulted the empress’s mother? Do they disagree about religion? Does one group of goat herders prefer hay over grass? There are so many reasons to be allies and enemies! Depending on the mood and setting of your world, it can be as trivial or serious as you like. Even in a serious setting it can be trivial, as this has happened in the past in the real world. And of course, during Henry VIII’s reign, France, England and Spain were allies/enemies from one minute to the next. Your country could even have frenemies such as those three. They loved each other and hated each other when the wind changed. The main thing to think about however, is why. Why is your country allied/enemies with that other country? Do they simply have a mutually beneficial trade agreement? Did one marry a daughter to a son? Did the daughter run away with her father’s general, thus insulting the country of her husband? (kind of like Helen of Troy)

Treaties/Declarations of War/Embargoes/Contracts

What official paperwork does your country have with other entities? Not just treaties with other countries, but even agreements between the government and a resistance force or rebellious leader. What contracts do they have with local merchants? Do they have any embargoes on their enemies and the people of your country are completely out of hairspray? Which would create a hairspray black market! Has a small country no one takes seriously declared war on a bigger one? If they’re being ignored it could force the leaders to go to drastic or illegal measures to be taken seriously, like consulting with black magic or committing war crimes. And another thing, is there a conglomerate of countries that get together and decide what those rules for war are such as the U.N.?

History

Also pretty self explanatory, but once again I’m going to write a small book with suggestions. XD How was your country founded? History is more than being created, however. There are things that happened long before it’s founding that led to it to begin with. Were there several clans that banded together against a common enemy? And then figured, hey, we do well together? Was the country taken over by a hostile foreign enemy? Whatever your country’s government is now, doesn’t mean it started that way. Just as the colonies of the U.S. were in a monarchy, after the revolution they became a democracy and independent country. If a country was corrupted by democracy, it may appeal to people to simplify things with an oligarchy or monarchy. Warring tribes of a land may find peace under the strict rule of an emperor. In addition to the founding, most of the things listed above could be covered in history.

Make a brief history of your country in an outline, and don’t forget dates! Just as in our own history, specific dates for treaties signed, laws going into effect, and assassinations would be recorded. (in a later blog I’ll go over making a calendar for your world if you don’t want to use ours) Don’t forget to include any major inventions or heroes. Wars, rebellions, economic epiphanies and a many, many number of things. My brief history of the Draak Empire is 7 pages long single spaced, so it can be a bit time consuming. It’s wonderful for reference however and can even help to shape stories later on if you’re doing a series.

Geography

Geography! Woo! I’ll do a separate blog on map making later, but for now, it certainly doesn’t hurt to figure out the terrain of your story. You can work on filling in the gaps later. Not only do you need to determine the placement of water, forests, mountains, etc., but also the ecology of the area. What kind of animals inhabit the land? Insects? What kind of flowers, if any? Is it desolate? Yet even a desert has a wide variety of animals. What is the weather like? Does it rain all the time? Are there any rain forests? Is it hot? Is it humid? Is your world set up similarly to ours with the poles being cold and the equator hot? Is it scientifically possible otherwise? So many questions I know! I think it’s easier to determine the terrain, and after that fauna and flora. And as mentioned several times above, if your geography comes to mind first (because I know that sometimes you think of a place before actual characters and story) then fill it out first. You can base several things off of your geography as mentioned above. Exports and the location of cities and even lost temples. And if you have other aspects of your country figured out first, you can build your geography around those.

Military

Your country needs an army! The army could be running the show, such as in an empire, or only around for self defense, like the Japanese. The demographics also determine the size of your army. If you have an elderly populace, your standing army may be small, or in times of war a draft implemented to extend the age group. Economics could also heavily affect the size of your army. Your country can’t afford to feed, pay, and house soldiers without it. However, your country could also go into serious debt with merchants or other countries to pay for their said army. Military will be covered more extensively in my government post, if I find there’s too much to include there I might cover it in a separate blog post entirely.

Until Next Time!

I’m sure you noticed there were a few factors missing, such as laws. That’s a big one, but fear not! I’ll implement those in the government blog next week among other details. There may be some overlapping but, you can’t have too much detail. The more detail, the more believable the world.

So, this is a day late (sorry!), but these world building blogs are a bit time consuming. Seriously, this sucker is over 4k words. XD I shall strive to have the next one done on time on Monday. :3 Anyhoo, as usual I’ll just say to check out the other world building blogs if you’re interested (links at the top) and I hope to someday make a worksheet of sorts. This is all I could think of off the top of my head and if I can add more later I will with an edit note. Thanks and tune in next week for government! Woo…hoo…?