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.
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
- Religious Influence
- Political Parties
- Local/Lower Level Government
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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. ❤