World Building Wednesdays: The Checklist

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I always start a new project with a checklist, or series of checklist. They serve two purposes, first as a brainstorming device the second to map key world building points. The second point requires further explanation. Let say I’m thinking that about writing a space opera. I would then ask a series of questions about the project such as:

  1. Scope: Planetary, star system, galactic, universal or multiverse?
  2. FTL: Yes/No? Casual or Limited? Limited to travel or does it include faster than light communications?
  3. Weapons: Energy based or ballistics?
  4. Aliens: Yes/No? Less, as or more advance than Man? Co-exist? Rivals? Enemies? How many?
  5. Psionics? Yes/No? Regulated or Not?

These questions help create a framework for the story setting and technology. You can create similar check lists for any spec-fiction story using any values you set. The key is to know what you’re working on. You can get into the specifics later, if you want, but this is a good place to start. It is also a good indicator of what the audience should know. They need to know that in the future people still use ballistic weapons, but they don’t need to know the 2,800 year history of said weapons. The same thing goes for mental powers. Yes, some people can move objects with their mind, no need to try to prove that Lamarck was right.

Finally, it helps with consistency. Once you set down an item on your checklist, you can change it, but there must be a good reason for it.


6 comments on “World Building Wednesdays: The Checklist

  1. I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type writer. I love the organic feel to it. That said, I don’t write Sci-fi. Which is funny considering how big a fan I am. I don’t read it either. Funny again. I have to look into that.

    Anyway, I do plan on trying and have written a sci-fi script. Thankfully it will never see the light of day. I wish I had this list back then. I can see how this would work with Sci-fi or even fantasy. It helps keep the “physics” aligned.



    • The checklist came about because I needed something to guide me while I plunged into the icy waters of pansterism. 😀 Just because you are a discovery writer doesn’t mean that you should not keep good notes. If nothing else, they are a great way to break down writer’s block.


  2. Man, I don’t think I could manage to write sci-fi. 🙂

    But I suppose having a checklist full of magic, politics, and mythical creatures for fantasy tends to hit a lot of those same points.


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