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Worldbuilding: Flora & Fauna

 Developing unique flora and fauna for your Science Fiction or Fantasy novel adds depth and intrigue to your story world. 

What plants (non-food) do they have in the area? List five to ten of each category. Insert them into descriptions and settings as needed. 

Did they have wild flowers, cultivated flowers, vines, weeds, toxic plants, bushes, trees, ground cover, grasses? 

What plants were of value to them? Tulips were once a valuable source of trade. Orchids can be extremely rare and expensive. Some plants are carnivores.


What domesticated animals were pets in your story world? Did they have pets?

What domesticated or wild animals were used for food or on farms?

What wild animals, dangerous, or magical animals roamed their world?

What kind of insects did they have?

What aquatic animals did they have?

What animals were endangered or held sacred?

Did they have sanctuaries, reserves, or zoos?

Did they have legal or illegal hunting or trading?

Did they worship any animal?

Did they have any myths or legends surrounding animals?

Did they have dinosaurs or know about them?


Have you invented Fantasy, magical, or futuristic animals?

Suggested resources:

1. A New World: England's First View of America by Kim Sloan
2. Biologia Centrali-Americana: Contributions to the Knowledge of the Fauna and Flora of Mexico and Central America by A. P. Maudslay
3. Fauna and Flora in the Middle Ages: Studies of the Medieval Environment and its Impact on the Human Mind by Sieglinde Hartmann
4. The Origin of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition by Charles Darwin
5. Nature Illuminated: Flora and Fauna from the Court of Emperor Rudolf II by Lee Hendrix & Thea Vignau-Wilberg
6. Amazonia: Flora Fauna by Salvador Monteiro & Lionel Kaz
7. Field Guide to the New England Alpine Summits: Mountaintop Flora And Fauna In Maine, New Hampshire, And Vermont by Nancy G. Slack & Allison W. Bell
8. Bogs of the Northeast by Charles W. Johnson
9. Trees and Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest: Timber Press Field Guide by Mark Turner & Ellen Kuhlmann
10. The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Department of the Army
11. The Wildlife of Southern Africa by Vincent Carruthers
12. The Biology of African Savannahs by Bryan Shorrocks & William Bates
13. Southern African Wild Flowers - Jewels of the Veld by John Manning & Colin Paterson-Jones
14. Trees of Panama and Costa Rica by Richard Condit, Rolando PĂ©rez & Nefertaris Daguerre
15. Handy Pocket Guide to Tropical Plants by Elisabeth Chan & Luca Invernizzi Tettoni 

Next week, we will explore governance.

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: Climate & Weather

What is the atmosphere like on earth, your fantasy world, or distant planet? Is it a heat wave, an ice age, stable, or unstable?

Do they need special equipment or adaptations to live there?

What is the climate zone: subtropical, tropical, temperate, equatorial, or polar?

What are the average temperatures for the different times of year? Do they have seasons?

How clean is their air, water, and land? 

How safe is their natural world overall? 

How safe is their ten-mile radius?

What weather do they experience?

What is their ecosystem : aquatic, marine, large marine, freshwater, lake, river, wetlands, rain Forest, swamp, terrestrial, forest, seaside, riverbank zone, urban, suburban, rural, desert, bio dome, space station, space outpost, or magical kingdom with other unique features? It could be above ground, underground, or floating in the sky.

What is the topography: craters, deserts, forests, mountains, plains, savannas, tundra, valleys, canyons, volcanoes, caves, caverns, lava tubes, lava flows, waterfalls, unique rock formations, sandy beaches, rocky beaches, cliffs, rolling hills, hot springs, geysers, rain forest, glaciers, ice caves, ice floes, or permafrost?

 What natural resources do they have?

Do they have easy access to drinkable water?

Do they trade or travel via water?

How easy is it for them to leave their area?

How easy is it for other people to reach their area?

Next week, we will explore flora and fauna.

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: Food

Whether exploring the past or developing the future, it is important to consider what types of food they had access to. It is hard to imagine today that we didn't have aisles and aisles of exotic foods and a hundred types of ice cream back in the 1970s a in small town grocery. Our town didn't have lots of fast food options. We had a root beer stand and a drive-in with popcorn and pop.

What will we eat in the future and how will we produce it?

In fantasy, I always wonder where all of the magical food items appear from. I know it is magic, but you still have to assemble molecules, right?

What is your character's favorite beverage or meal? How hard is it to obtain?

Is it a land of plenty or famine? What are people willing to kill or die for?

How do your characters obtain food? Are they hunter gatherers, farmers, fishermen?

How do they grow food: household gardens, community gardens, commercial gardening, greenhouses, hydroponics, or some future technology?

Do they have Frankenfood (genetically modified) or synthetic substitutes?

In your fantasy world, can they make food magically appear? Do they take it from somewhere or does it materialize out of thin air?

Was food scarce or plentiful?

Was it available to some or all?

Were there droughts, famines, fires, or other shortages affecting supply?

Where do they acquire the food? Individual homesteads (you grow/kill what you eat), local farmers or sellers, community co-ops, butcher shops, bakeries, farmers' markets, local grocers, distant suppliers, importing? Do they have soup kitchens or cafeterias?

Do they have kitschy diners, drive-ins with skaters, food trucks, or fancy restaurants?

What foods did they have access to: nuts, seeds, berries, greens, legumes, gourds, fruits, meats, dairy, cheeses, vegetables? What food items were common and what were considered rare?

Did they have sweets like sugar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, or other synthetic sweeteners?

Did they bake and have access to baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, yeast, or salt or some form of grains or flour? Did they have common or exotic spices?

In your Science Fiction world, what do they eat in space? In a Fantasy world what kind of food items are magically delicious?

What meals did they eat, when, where, how often, and common menus?

Did they have special feast days or holidays they celebrated with food?

What beverages were on tap: milk, fruit juices, ales, beers, whiskey, rum, champagne, vodka, or other alcoholic drinks? Do they have alcohol in space or special magical drinks that affect the senses?

Did they have cocoa, coffees, teas or other hot drinks?

Suggested references:

1. Everyday Life in the Ancient World: Learn about homes, houses, and what food the Romans, Celts, Egyptians, and other people of the past used to eat by Halstead, Rachel
2. What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?: Diet in Biblical Times by Nathan MacDonald
3. Agriculture in Iron Age Israel by Oded Borowski
4. Hunter-Gatherer Foraging: Five Simple Models by Robert L. Bettinger
5. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
6. Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner
7. Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History by Rachel Laudan
8. Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages by Patrick E. McGovern
9. The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou Heiss & Robert J. Heiss
10. Coffee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Coffee by Jack Frisks
11. The Complete Guide to Your New Root Cellar: How to Build an Underground Root Cellar and Use It for Natural Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Julie Fryer

Next week, we will explore Climate and Weather.

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.  

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.