Search This Blog

World Building: Public Spaces

What types of public spaces did they have: town squares, courtyards, gardens, parks, circles, lawns, shared land, public walkways, pavilions, bandstands, clock or bell towers, arenas, or common grounds?

What public buildings do they have: churches, temples, or other holy spaces, m
asonic or other lodges?

Did they have monuments, statues, fountains, reflecting pools, museums, or memorials? Who did they celebrate? What did they memorialize?


Did they have motels, hotels, hostels, or inns?

Did they have office buildings and skyscrapers in a crowded urban area, or sprawling suburbs, or distant and isolated rural spaces?

Did they ruins, catacombs, graveyards, mausoleums, or other architectural marvels like the seven world wonders?

Did they have large university campuses, libraries or reading rooms, government buildings, palaces or castles, mansions, or presidential residences and embassies?

Did they have slums and ghettos?

Were they near water (lakes, rivers, or oceans)? Did they have lighthouses, wharves, ports, or piers? Did they have canals, waterfalls, waterwheels, bridges, ponds, lakes, or piers?

Did they have industrial parks or warehouse blocks?

Did they have fair grounds, carnivals, amusement parks, pleasure palaces, or freak shows?

What utilities did they have or pay for: electric, sewage, gas, water, cable, internet, satellite, telephone service.

How did they handle garbage? Did they have garbage dumps? Did they recycle?

Did they have driveways and roadways: dirt, grass, gravel, cobbles, paved, runways, helipads, airports, or armories?

Using carefully selected items to illustrate your story world brings it to life. It can support theme and aspects of this exterior world can create conflicts your characters must overcome.

Next week, we will explore food.


For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.  

Worldbuilding: Finance


At some point, people decided to go beyond bartering and trading services to exchanged a tangible asset for a representative asset such as a bone, a bead, a shell, or a coin. Then the concept of "credit" occurred and one could joke that it was all downhill from there.

Nevertheless, currencies of some form are exchange in most culture. What form of "currency" did your story world utilize?

Did they have the concept of credit?

What was the punishment for unpaid debt?

What was the punishment for theft?

Where did they carry, hide, or protect their assets?

Did they have wages?

How much were they paid on average?

How were they paid (goods, services, cash)?

What were the top-earning jobs?

What were the lowest paying jobs?

Did they have banking? Who controlled the banking (individuals, companies, co-op, investors, rulers, religious leaders)?

How were the cash stashes protected? How vulnerable were the stashes from theft?

Did they have lending and investing?

Was there a hierarchy of wealth?

Where did they buy or obtain things?

Money is the source of conflict in many stories. Disparities in wealth add thematic depth.
Theft and financial infidelity are motives for murder.

We have gone from gold and silver coins, to paper money, to debit cards and credit cards, to cryptocurrencies. 

In your Fantasy and Science Fiction world, how do you wish to portray the importance of wealth and the types of financial transactions that occur?

What do your fantasy characters value and are willing to die for?

Suggested resources:
1 History of Money: Financial History: From Barter to "Bitcoin" - An Overview of Our: Economic History, Monetary System, & Currency Crisis by Mike Thornton.
2. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson
3. The History of Currency, 1252 to 1896 by William Arthur Shaw
4. The History of Money by Jack Weatherford
5. Debt - Updated and Expanded: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
6. Musalmans and Money-Lenders in the Punjab by Septimius Smet Thorburn
7. The Ancient Maya Marketplace: The Archaeology of Transient Space by Eleanor M. King

Next week, we will explore shelter.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.  

Worldbuilding: Entertainment

What did your characters do in their off hours to relax or have fun? From spooky stories, to dancing around the tribal fire, to virtual reality games, tell us how your characters liked to play.

What was their attitude toward leisure?

Did they take vacations?  Where did they vacation? Did they stay close to home, visit family, or travel the galaxy?

Did they have structured periods of time off from work or downtime during the day either due to scheduling or nature's limitations (daylight/seasons)?

What activities did they enjoy: painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry, storytelling, reading, writing novels, weaving, spinning, crocheting, knitting, other needlework, leatherwork, pottery, musical instruments, listening to music (live, recorded, venues), pottery,  musical instruments, live entertainment, plays, pantomimes, board and card games, crafts, needlework? (The workbook has an extensive list).

Did they have house parties, social clubs, church or women's clubs, charity work, picnics, fetes, festivals, or fairs?

Did they attend plays, theaters, sports arenas, or public hangings?

From the holodeck in Star Trek, quidditch in Harry Potter, to live-action chess in Alice in Wonderland, original pastimes and sports make your story world memorable.

Suggested references:
1. Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World by Donald G. Kyle 
2. On the Origins of Sports: The Early History and Original Rules of Everybody's Favorite Games by Gary Belsky
3. Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era by Louise McReynolds
4. The Ancient Olympic Games: The History and Legacy of Ancient Greece’s Most Famous Sports Event by Charles River Editors
5. Researches Into the History of Playing Cards: With Illustrations of the Origin of Printing and Engraving on Wood by Samuel Weller Singer
6. The Field Book: Sports and Pastimes of the United Kingdom Compiled from the Best Authorities Ancient and Modern by William Hamilton Maxwell
7. Game On!: Video Game History from Pong and Pac-Man to Mario, Minecraft, and More by Dustin Hansen
8. The Games We Played: The Golden Age of Board & Table Games by Margaret Hofer
9. Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations by R. C. Bell

Next week, we will explore Finance.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.  

Worldbuilding: Transportation

How do people in your story world navigate? Did they use the position of the stars, latitude and longitude, altitude, or meridians?

Did they have compasses, sextants, star charts, nautical charts, maps, atlases, land surveys, or satellite positioning?

What land routes did they use: trails, dirt roads, gravel roads, cobblestoned streets, paved roads, railroads, highways, bridges, tunnels, sky lanes?

What water travel did they have: rafts, canoes, kayaks, catamarans, sailboats, gondolas, frigates, sailboats, motorized boats, ships, aircraft carriers, submarines, canals, locks, shipping lanes, ferries, water taxis, barges, cruise ships, mobile drilling stations, underwater modules?

How did they travel: on foot, horseback, mule, oxen, camel, elephant, other animals, snow sleds, dog sleds, skis, sleighs, carriages, wagons, caravans, rickshaws, bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, motorcars, automobiles, snowmobiles, show shoes, snow boards, hover boards, jet packs, trains, golf carts, buses, trams, sky cabs, chair lifts, trolleys, subways, shuttles, ferries, trains, bullet trains, taxis, limousine service, car services?

In your invented worlds, unique forms of travel can make your story unforgettable:  the train to Hogwarts, the magic carpet from Alladin, Star Trek space ships.


Did they have air and space travel: balloons, zeppelins, dirigibles, gliders, airplanes, jets, sea planes, helicopters, cargo planes, supersonic jets, rockets, stealth technology, spaceships, rovers, space shuttles, space stations, star ships, intergalactic vessels?

Did travel require identification papers, passports, or visas?

Did they have driver's licenses (or other forms of transportation permit)? At what age?


Do they have some other machine operator licenses, such as CDL, train engineer, bus driver, pilot license, etc.?


Did they have barriers or checkpoints?

What fuel sources did they have and how easy were they to reach?


Do they have moving walkways, elevators, or escalators?


What other modes of transportation, transport of goods, or mobility did they have?

Suggested resources:

1. Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation by Edward Humes
2. China Clipper: The Secret Pre-War Story of Pan American's Flying Boats by Ronald Jackson 
3. Illustrated History of Ships and Boats by Lionel Casson
4. Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia by Lincoln P. Paine 
5. Rome and the Distant East: Trade Routes to the ancient lands of Arabia, India and China by Raoul McLaughlin
6. From Egypt to Mesopotamia: A Study of Predynastic Trade Routes by Samuel Mark
7. The Silk Road: The History and Legacy of the Trade Routes that Connected Europe and Asia by Charles River
8. We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific by David Lewis 
9. Ship and Boat Models in Ancient Greece by Paul F. Johnston
10. The Invention of the Automobile - (Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler) by St. John C. Nixon
11Steam Railways Explained by Stan Yorke

Next week, we will explore Entertainment

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.  

Worldbulding: Medicine

No matter where your cast is located, past, present, or future, there are illnesses and injuries. 

Who were the medical practitioners? 
Did they have herbalists, medicine men, pharmacists, pathologists, or apothecaries? Did they have neurosurgeons and cardiothoracic specialists?

Did they receive some form of payment?


Did they have badges, uniforms, hats, or other indicators of position?


Were they unionized or controlled by a governing body?

What is the hierarchy of power?


What were their working conditions? Were they operating on their kitchen table, a tent, or a futuristic hospital?


Do they have degrees, licenses, specialties, or awards and honors?

How much knowledge did they have about diseases, viruses, and bacteria? Did they believe in “humours” or other explanations for terms and illnesses? Did they have cures for them? What diseases did they fear? What had they eradicated?


What unusual treatments did they use? Different times and places used rituals, chanting, praying, accupuncture, cupping, massage, reflexology, trephination, bleeding, leaches, herbs, poultices, tinctures, powders, and poisons.

From penicillin to vaccines to antidotes, what did they have at their disposal? Do they have advanced pharmaceuticals that can do things not currently possible?


Did they have cellular augmentation (physical or mental), DNA grafting, genetic tinkering, growing things from stem cells, cell regeneration, vaccines, micro-tracking devices, mechanical or cyborg parts, nanoparticles, etc.?


What medical tools did they have? From scalpels and needles to surgical instruments, microscopes, otoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, to sutures. What did they know about disinfection?


Vision: Did they have glasses, glass eyes, contacts, implantable lenses, Lasix, augmentation of some form?


Did they have x-rays, scanners, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, thermal imaging, bioscanners, or other specialized technology?

Did they have tooth-pullers, professional dentists and hygienists, fillings, crowns, false teeth, braces, implants, or future technology?

Did they have psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, psychics, mediums, bone readers, mind readers, asylums, rehabilitation facilities, etc.?


What did they know about cleanliness, diet, hygiene?


Do they have hospitals and/or emergency centers?


Do they have old age or advanced care facilities?


How did they treat and cope with the disabled, deformed, and otherwise challenged individuals? Were they compassionate or cruel? Supportive or disgusted?


Did they have embalmers, morticians, funeral directors, burial specialists, crematoriums, graves, graveyards, mausoleums, etc.? What did they do with the dead: burial, cremation, etc?

Do they have birth certificates or records? Do they have death certificates or records? In the past they utilized the family bible, town rolls, church rosters, etc. Then they started taking the census and people began researching genealogy.

In your fantasy worlds do creatures dissolve or disappear? Do they still have cemeteries or pyramids or elaborate mausoleums? Do they believe in souls or life after death, reanimation, or reincarnation?


In the Outlander time travel series, the character Claire is a nurse/doctor in the future and uses her information in the past.

Suggested references:

1. The Cambridge History of Medicine by Roy Porter
2. The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine by Clifford A. Pickover
3. Ancient Medicine (Sciences of Antiquity Series) by Vivian Nutton
4. The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine by Shigehisa Kuriyama
4. Physicians, plagues and progress: The History of Western medicine from Antiquity to Antibiotics by Allan Chapman
5. Famous Chinese Medicine Physicians in History (Journal of Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture) by Pharm Tao
6. Ancient Indian Herbs by Sharlene Snow
7. Ancient Herbal Remedies by Carmen Mckenzie
8. Latino Folk Medicine: Healing Herbal Remedies from Ancient Traditions by Anthony DeStefano
9. Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Next week, we explore transportation.


For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.  

Worldbuilding: Dates and Measurements


In your story world, how did they track time: shadows, position of sun and planets, sundials, hour glasses, bell tolls, clocks, atomic clocks, watches, timepieces?

Did they have the concept of seconds, minutes, hours, etc.?

Writing a book set in the far distant past, I couldn't figure out other terms that would relate the passage without our cultural shorthand for time: weeks, days, etc. 

In future or alternate worlds, you can make up the rules. But how do you convey that a day on Mars is equivalent to three days on earth without saying so or saying three rotations of the sun, etc.? If anyone has a good answer, please share!

How did they track dates: position of the planets, equinoxes and solstices, star movements, position of the sun or moon, shifting tides, days, weeks, months, years, etc.? Did they have calendars, star charts, or atlases? 

In your alternate worlds, do they have seasons? What are they like?

How did they measure things? Each ancient tribe and village measured things in unique ways, such as the size of a ruler's hand, foot, or pace. It is hard to convey measurements without referencing modern methods.

Market towns developed their own ways of measuring and counting until standardized pounds, tons, etc. were developed. 

Cooking required pinches and handfuls to cups, ounces, etc. Once civilizations started trading, the need for standardization led to two major systems: imperial and metric. From distance to cooking, each had its own proportions and proponents. Imperial uses inches, feet, yards up to miles. It uses cups and ounces. Metric uses millimeters, centimeters, meters, up to kilometers. It used liters. Arabic numerals (1,2,3)won out over Roman numerals (I, II, III) in most places.

How did they measure distance (miles or kilometers), speed (mph, kph), nautical miles, light years, latitude and longitude, meridians, temperature, land mass (acres, hectares, etc.)?

Did they have survey equipment or topography maps or nautical maps?

How advanced were their mathematics and sciences?

What was their knowledge of space and astronomy? Did they utilize zodiac signs? Did they have projections for earth's (or their planet's) demise?

Had they explored space? Were there other worlds and galaxies? If they traveled the galaxy, had they met other life forms?

I once critiqued a story where a space ship landed and no one was surprised, scared, etc. Unless your cast has knowledge that there are other life forms, it is unrealistic to think no one would be alarmed when an alien descended. If it were only one being, they might be more curious than furious, but they wouldn't just take it in stride. If a group arrived, they should be terrified, especially if they were extremely different in appearance or sported weapons and advanced technology.

Did they have space stations or colonies?

Did they understand atoms, dark matter, worm holes, or find a way to wrinkle time?

Could they travel at the speed of light? Did they have warp speed?

In your magical world, can they portal or just appear and disappear at whim? How far can they travel? Are there limits or rules regarding magical travel?

Suggested references:
1. Time Telling Through The Ages by Harry Chase Brearley
2. History of the Zodiac by Robert Powell
3. Telling the Time by Rupert Matthews
4. Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts about the Universe by Carolyn Collins Petersen
5. Rising Time Schemes in Babylonian Astronomy by John M. Steele
6. Astronomy and Calendars – The Other Chinese Mathematics: 104 BCE- AD 1644 by Jean-Claude Martzloff
7. Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon: The Calendar in Mesoamerican Civilization by Vincent H. Malmström 
8. Greek and Roman Calendars by Robert Hannah
9. Measurement: A Very Short Introduction by David J. Hand
10. Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress by Hasok Chan

Next week, we investigate Medicine.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.