NaNoWriMo Prep: World Building.

NaNoWriMo prep world building


If you’re reading this you’re probably getting ready to dive into the NaNoWriMo trenches! That’s fantastic news, it’s a wonderful adventure with an incredible community.

I’ve put together a collection of questions to help you with your world-building. These are far from exhaustive, but hopefully they’ll help you get things straight in your head.

  • What is your character’s daily environment like?
    • What does it look/smell/sound like?
    • What does that say about your character?
    • What other type of people live there?
    • What impact have the people had on the environment?
      • If it’s a city, have they marked it as theirs somehow? Graffiti, wards, architectural style choices?
      • What impact does the environment have on the people? Does it affect their fashion choices? Their food? Their freedom of movement?
    • What is the surrounding environment like? i.e. what’s the larger city like? Are there mountains a days’ walk away?
      • Why did the characters end up there specifically? i.e. was it ideal for their trade? Did it shelter them from bad weather? Are they too poor to afford somewhere else?





  • What is the main economic driver in your characters’ location? i.e. they live on a lake so most of the local income comes from fishing and trade with surrounding villages. Or the city is the banking hub for that part of the country.
    • Why that specifically?
    • How does that tie into the larger area?
  • What are the other economic streams?
  • How open is trade with other locations?
    • How far does that stretch? – Do they trade internationally?
      • What impact does that have on life within that environment? i.e do they have spices that other locations don’t? Do they see a larger influx of foreigners?
    • What is their currency?
      • How did they settle on that?
      • What impact does that have on day-to-day life? i.e. if they carry coin purses, how do they stop other people from just stealing the purse?
      • How well does that currency work within surrounding locations? i.e. can they use their money in the next city over? The next country over? If not, how do people who travel there deal with that?


Social Classes.


  • What are the different social classes?
    • How do they interact with each other?
    • How do they interlink within the greater scheme of things? i.e. the servant class serves the upper class, giving the upper class more time to focus on running their factories.
    • How much friction is there between the classes?
    • How much movement is there between the classes?
  • How did those classes in particular come about? i.e. the factory workers came into being however many years ago, and that changed the people from lords to business owners.
  • How much say do the lower classes have in the overall running of the location?
    • How do the various classes feel about that?


  • Who runs and controls the environment?
    • Where do they sit in the larger environment? i.e. the city mayor runs the city, but he bows to the state governor, who bows to the king.
    • How would someone go about getting into that position?
    • Exactly how much control do they really have?
    • How long do they stay in that position?
    • How do the people feel about their policies?
  • Where does the environment sit in the larger scheme? i.e. is it a small city without much sway over the running of the state as a whole? Is it a key player to the country’s power?
    • Why is that?
    • Is anything being done to change that?
  • What are the broad sweeping politics ideals for that environment? i.e. how do they approach healthcare? The economy? International dealings?
    • How do they compare to the larger world?
    • How happy are people with those goals and ideals?
      • If not, how far are they willing to go to change them? What methods would they use?
    • What are the smaller politics surrounding your main character like? i.e. if they’re a factory worker, who controls the workers? How do people feel about that?
      • How do those smaller politics fit into the larger scheme? i.e. if the worker in control is sleeping with the factory owner, how does that impact the workers’ rights in that factory vs another factory?


  • Is there a main religion present?
    • If so, how is it practised?
      • How much sway do the clergy or clergy-equivalents have over daily life? Over the larger politics?
      • How does that impact daily life?
      • How does that impact business and trade?
      • How does that compare to other environments in the world?
    • Has it always been that way?
      • If not, what changed? What happened?
    • If there is no main religion, why not?
      • Are there any religions in this world?
        • If yes, how do the people from this environment feel about those who are religious?
      • Are there more than one religions present?
        • If so, how do they interact?
        • How did they form?


Crime and legal system.
  • How does the legal system work?
    • How does that impact daily life? i.e. are their policemen patrolling? Is there a set curfew? Do people live in fear?
    • How would a character go about becoming part of that system?
  • How much crime is there?
    • Is one type of crime prevalent?
      • Why?
    • Why is there so much or so little crime?
  • Are there other non-government sanctioned legal systems? i.e. the Mafia family style where they keep their own people in-line and the police stay out of it.


Arts and entertainment.
  • What is the primary form of entertainment?
    • Why?
  • What are the minor forms?
  • How would someone go about becoming one of those artists or entertainers?
    • What would their social standing be?
    • What would the benefits and risks be?
  • How does their entertainment compare to other environments around them?
    • How do the surrounding places feel about that?


  • What is their overall medicinal attitude and quality?
    • How does that differ between social classes?
    • Are they working to advance it?
      • If so, how?
      • Is there any conflict there? i.e. does the religious section feel they shouldn’t be doing it? Are they experimenting on prisoners and some people feel that’s unethical?
    • How does that compare to other places around them?


  • Is there magic present within the world?
    • Has it always been that way?
    • What forms does the magic take?
      • Why those?
      • What social ramifications are there for those practitioners?
      • What are the limitations of said magic?
      • Can the magic change? I.e. can a non-magical person become magical? Can a fire-wielder become a necromancer?
      • What are the dangers associated with the magic?
      • What are the benefits of this magic?
        • How has society adapted and altered due to this magic?
      • How common is the magic?
        • How does that impact the practitioners and non-practitioners?
      • How common is it within the larger world?
      • How does the legal system deal with the magical practitioners?


  • What is the technology level? i.e. stone age? Futuristic? Modern? Steam?
    • Why have they reached that point?
    • Are they trying to advance that technology?
      • What are the limitations?
      • How important to society as a whole is that advancement? Is it a priority given lots of money? Or something pushed aside in favour of something else?
      • Which areas are they trying to advance in most prominently? Military? Medicine? Transport?
    • How does that differ between social classes?
    • How does that compare to places around them?
      • How does that impact their political strength?
      • How does that impact their economic and trade strength?


World-building doesn’t have to be a dry exercise in question and answer. You can twist this up and make it more fun. I love my friend Miriam’s approach – she’s writing her world-building notes up like a hunter journal from the Supernatural boys. Each detail and entry is written from the point of view of one of her characters and their personal experiences and thoughts on them. How cool is that!?

I’ve written travelogues in the past for other worlds and series. I wrote incredibly descriptive journal style entries from the point of view of an unnamed narrator as they explores the city or wherever. It really brings it to life, for me anyway.

As with everything, do what works for you! Make it fun, make it yours.


If you liked this post check out my Urban Fantasy on Amazon. 

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24 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Prep: World Building.

  1. Reblogged this on Writing and Musing and commented:
    This is a great list of questions to help with world building. A lot of times I have a general idea of my world when I start writing and I fill in the blanks as I write. That method is really messing me up with my current project and I intend to do better with my NaNoWriMo novel this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m very lazy when it comes to blogging! It’s basically writing down the information about the world under different headings like a student or a researcher/hunter would, if that makes sense. I’ve a load more to do still actually lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This’ll be my first time attempting the big NaNo event in November, and your posts keep reminding me of everything I haven’t planned yet! 😛 (In my defence, I only made the decision today)
    Thanks for the reminder, Holly! Now, if you’ll excuse me – I’ve got work to do!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh, this is awesome! I will most definitely be using some of these questions to help me plan my NaNo novel (agh, I’m so behind!). The magic questions will help me a lot! Thanks! I have a NaNo survival guide post on my blog if you’d like to check it out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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