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.
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.
- Hierarchy of Citizenship
- Religious Influences
- Official Language(s)
- Topics of Debate
- Population (Demographics)
- Capital & Major Cities
- Wars/Civil Wars/Revolutions/Rebellions
- Flag(s), Colors, & Symbolism
- National Heroes/Villains
- Holidays & Pastimes
- Treaties/Declarations of War/Embargoes/Contracts
- Founding & History
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.?
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! 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.
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…?