May 01 2011

Worldbuilding Rules

Published by at 11:19 am under Research and Resources

If you’re writing a story with heavy worldbuilding, I’d recommend checking out K. Stoddard Hayes’ Worldbuilding Rules.  It’s a how-to blog with a lot of interesting articles about how to build innovative worlds and broaden your writing horizons.


  • What Does Your World Smell Like?:  This will help you incorporate smells into your story.  I don’t think smells come naturally to most first-world authors because we don’t encounter many on a daily basis.  That’s okay if you’re writing a story set exclusively in a sterile lab or a vacuum tube, but if you’re not, here’s some ideas about what you’re missing. 
  • Worldbuilding Legal Systems: If you’re building alien legal systems, this will help you keep them distinct from the ones closest to home.  Especially if you’re Norwegian–nobody wants to read about publicly drowning criminals in mayonnaise, you sickos.
  • Clothes and Setting: This provides useful ideas about picking clothing that is culturally and physically well-suited to your story.  (In case you’re saddled with characters that can’t rock out in trenchcoats and sunglasses).
  • Language in Worldbuilding: This has some helpful ideas about how to use language to reflect cultural attitudes and other ways of thinking.  You know how Eskimos supposedly have ~30 bajillion words for snow?  Starcraft’s Protoss need just as many ways to say “we’re screwed.”


PS: I’m looking forward to Hayes’ upcoming superhero anthology, Gods of Justice, and not just because it won’t have many executions-by-mayonnaise.  She and Kevin Hosey really know their stuff.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Worldbuilding Rules”

  1. Mynaon 01 May 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Ooohh, this is gonna be really helpful for a story later on!

  2. K Stoddard Hayeson 01 May 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the lovely post about my worldbuilding blog! I return the compliment by saying that I have added Superhero Nation to my “Worldbuilding Resources” links, and have already referred at least one novice writer to your excellent overview of correct punctuation in dialog.

    As for Gods of Justice, it’s not really “mine,” as I was brought on board as a co-editor by the publisher, Kevin Hosey of Cliffhanger Books. I’m hugely grateful to him, because we’re having a “super” time editing some really excellent and unusual stories by the likes of DC writer Rick Sanchez and Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward, among others.

    And I can definitely say that the book will have no executions by mayonnaise!


  3. Contra Gloveon 01 May 2011 at 2:34 pm

    This one’s helpful to me right now. I’m making up many of the details of my world on-the-fly, but I do have a general sense of how my world works.

    The part about smells is especially important, since my aliens have a sense of smell as powerful as a typical bloodhound. However, this is only a generalization — sheltered urban dwellers (e.g., an average Tanjio citizen) are not as skilled as people who have to hunt for food (e.g., the natives that the Lonestars have to deal with) or trained soldiers.

    My aliens’ different biology would lead to a different legal system for them — depending on culture, of course. They’re just as politically divided as humanity is.

    My aliens have articles of clothing that humans would recognize (jackets, pants, skirts, etc.), albeit cut differently. This is because I don’t want them looking too weird.

    I wouldn’t actually make up whole languages for the different alien cultures, but I would have them phrase things differently based on where they’re from. In later revisions of my chapters, I’ll try to make the different aliens’ speaking styles more distinct — hey, I’m already doing it for the American Southerners and their children.

  4. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 02 May 2011 at 3:39 am

    Ooh I’m glad you posted this, because I’ve got a massive project to work on later. I’m going to write a giant world guide for myself, then write several stories set throughout the history of their world. One or two set in their ancient times, one in their medieval time, etc. Of course it’s not just a parallel Earth, so they don’t HAVE medieval times, but you get what I mean.

  5. Vixis Shiar'Deluson 05 May 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I was looking to get a little feedback on what I have so far for the human side of the house in my story world, which is an alternate-future of earth.

    Background of New America
    The government of New America was established in Haven, the first city of the new country within a few months of its construction. This new government was formed of leaders from various levels of business, government and military from the old world. There was little need for an economy in the beginning, but as time went on an economy was erected based on a modified version of the Canadian and US economies, though various companies have much less influence in the political realm. The three primary languages spoken are English, French, and Spanish. There are areas where other languages are spoken, but they are few and far between due to New America being cut off from whatever remains of the world there may be. A military was erected primarily from volunteers, though there has been a recent change to ensure that every male of age (16+) has been forced to participate in a draft of at least four years, after which their continued experience is up to them. The legal system is much the same as it was in the US, though crimes that had previously been petty are much more serious now – such as stealing and shoplifting.

    Food is not rationed out to the people of New America, but it is more expensive, and water is much more so. Medical treatment is fairly easy to come by for most things, including terminal illnesses, but those suffering from the Stillborn Virus are not allowed to reside in areas outside of infected camps as there are no known ways to treat it. As this was not known at first, there are cities and various swathes of land that are considered “infected zones” where those who are or who become infected by the Stillborn virus are allowed to take residence. There are also areas where those who are not infected allow those who are infected to reside, but this is illegal and is usually stopped by the government of New America when they find out about it. In infected zones, there are also camps of medical personnel that are working to discover a cure or treatment for the virus. In recent days, the camps and infected areas have started to overflow, and sustaining them has become much more difficult. This leads to increased tensions between those who are sick and those who are not, and many have of those who are infected are choosing to risk living in areas that are not monitored by the government/military instead of living in these camps.

    Barren are much more accepted than they were in years before the novae invasion, largely due to the development of rad pills, which absorb the radiation emitted by barren throughout the day and allow it to be safely deposited at various collection points throughout the country. The pills, in turn, are sanitized and brought to power plants throughout the city to assist in the development of nuclear energy (barren contributions attribute about 25% of radiation used in power plants) for the nation. There is a standard monthly number of pills that any barren is rationed (as the process to make them is quite complex and lengthy, and they can only be recycled a certain number of times.), but users can buy more if they need to. Additionally, the same material used in the pills has also managed to be used in the creation of jewelry and other accessories for a less messy approach to maintaining healthy levels of radiation. As a result of this, electricity is much cheaper than it was in the old world. Barren in the military are usually delegated to various forms of infantry, as the radiation they emit negates the effects of the terraformed ground that novae control. They also have a longer draft term.

  6. Vixis Shiar'Deluson 10 May 2016 at 11:56 am

    Hopefully that wasn’t too longwinded. I know I can get carried away sometimes.

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