Have you ever wondered what your world needs to seem real? How to immerse your reader into the world without info-dumping?
Every good fantasy or sci-fi novel (no matter the reading level) has one thing in common: a world you can lose yourself into. A world the characters live and breathe as easily as we do with ours. Culture, language, climates, it all plays a part. And you'd be surprised how many little details can play a role in turning your world from flat to round.
I've separated out the following questions into categories to hopefully make this easier for you to read. The fantasy & sci-fi questions are mixed together, so take or leave what you don't need for your genre.
These are questions I've gathered from various instagram challenges, as well as some I created for my own upcoming challenge. Feel free to use these however you see fit!
How much variety in climate do you have in your world?
What country/kingdom/planet has the most temperate climate?
What country/kingdom/planet has the warmest climate?
What country/kingdom/planet has the most varying climate?
What country/kingdom/planet has the coldest climate?
What do the seasons look like in your story?
How does the geography come into play in your world?
How does the geography help your characters?
How does the geography hinder/limit your characters?
How much of your world is accessible?
Do the characters have an understanding of the whole world, or are they cut off from other countries/continents?
Can they easily cross borders?
How is the world built (what architectural styles do they use)?
How does the city vary from the country?
How does the upper class (if using class systems) vary from the lower?
Are there any Wonders in your world?
Are there any natural disasters they have to worry about?
What happens if a natural disaster was to occur?
How many moons/suns do they have?
How does that affect their life?
What stars are visible at night?
Do they have their own constellations?
What does your magic system look like?
What are the rules/limitations?
Who has magic? Is it random or genetic?
When does their magic first show and why?
What advanced technology do they have?
Does everyone have equal access to it?
What does everyone have versus very few?
How does magic/technology influence the world around them?
Have they lost progress with one because of the other?
What is the cost of magic/technology?
Inhabitants of the World:
What species are included in your story?
How many are seen vs in the background?
Are there any legends about certain ones?
What do they look like?
How do their beliefs/behaviors differ?
What animals/creatures are in your world?
Can all of them be found everywhere?
What animals/creatures have they domesticated?
Do all species domesticate the same creatures?
What plants live in your world?
What areas do certain plants thrive/struggle in?
How was your world created?
Does anyone have any creation myths?
Who do your people worship?
Why do they worship those beings?
Where do they worship?
Are the areas of worship accessible to everyone?
If not, how do those unable to go worship?
How do they say goodbye to their dead?
Are there any celebrations or festivals attached to their religion?
What celebrations/festivals aren't attached? Why?
Do they believe in ultimate good/evil?
Any legends attached to their religion?
Any superstitions stemming from their religion, or their intolerance of other religions?
Who is art for?
Who creates it?
Who enjoys it?
Who pays for it?
What visual art do they create?
What medias do they use?
What does sculpture look like?
What does theatre look like?
What does music sound like?
What instruments do they have?
What does dance look like?
What tattoos or body art are included?
When is having a tattoo/body art celebrated vs unacceptable?
What does fashion look like in your story?
What jewelry do they wear?
What clothing do they wear?
How do they style their hair?
What makeup is common?
Ruling of the World:
What does your government look like?
What support do they have?
How does the government change hands?
Are there any significant colors attached?
What does the flag look like?
What hierarchy does your world follow?
What societal classes do they maintain, if any?
What rules have they decreed?
How do people break these rules?
How is justice carried out?
How does the punishment vary based on the crime?
What military do they have in place?
What makes them go to war?
What wars have they had in the past?
Life in the World:
What education can the people who live there receive?
What organizations (guilds/companies) exist?
Are there any secret societies?
What do people do for work?
What money system is used?
Are they on a barter system instead?
How do they obtain their food?
What system of agriculture is in place?
How common is hunting/gathering?
What type of food do they eat?
Do they bake?
Are there any common drinks?
What natural resources do they have access to?
Who do they trade with?
How do they trade?
What do they trade?
How does living in the city vary from living in the country?
What does marriage look like?
Are there any other forms of partnership beyond marriage?
How many children do people typically have?
What toys do these children play with?
How do people celebrate birthdays?
Are gifts typically given?
What competitions or tournaments are held?
What weapons exist?
What calendar do they use?
How old is your world?
How does history influence their life?
Significant history across time?
What language do they speak?
What are common slang words/phrases?
What swears do they use?
What idioms are common?
How do people communicate beyond language?
How are people named?
What do people in do their spare time?
Are there any games that are common?
How do gender roles play into your world?
How does diversity play into your world?
How are people transported in your world?
Are things close together and within walking distance?
Are boats/ships and cars/carriages accessible?
How accessible is medicine?
What is the quality of the medicine?
Is medicine different between classes?
What diseases are common?
Does disease spread easily?
Do people keep up with hygiene?
It seems like a lot, I know. But I encourage you to explore each question, not just about the area your story takes place in, but the full world around them too. You don't necessarily need to know the answer to every single one of these before you start writing; answer a few of them, and let the rest come to you as you write your story. Let your world, your characters, answer questions for you, and don't be afraid to change something if it's not working!