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Worldbuilding: Employment

In your story world, what are the employment options? 

There are too many possibilities to list here. Get as detailed as you need for the story.

If writing a Historical tale, research which jobs existed in the time and place.


Did workers 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?

Was there a hierarchy of power?

Did they receive awards or honors? 


How did your society feel about different workers? Did it give them advantages or disadvantages?

In your historical era, people had limitations and unique opportunities. Exploring the differences supports theme and allows you to illustrate the strata of society.

One of my pet peeves is the idea that there was a time when women didn't work. Women have always "worked." There may have been a time in history when a specific set of rich entitled women didn't do manual labor, but I am certain most of them had "chores." I imagine, just staying well coiffed, organizing one's social calendar, and keeping one's mouth shut when one wanted to rant or scream was a full time effort.

In the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, people were sorted by districts and each district had a specialty like farming or mining. In Divergent by Veronica Roth, people were segregated based on personality type and had specific roles based on those traits.

With Science Fiction and Fantasy, you can have fun creating jobs for your characters. What jobs were exclusive to your fictional planet or outpost? In Star Trek, in addition to the ship's captain, there were doctors, engineers, and communication specialists. With space exploration, creating environment specific jobs performed by humans, robots, and artificial intelligence adds spice to your story world, creates unique conflicts, and helps support theme.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling had a Ministry of Magic. Adding magic to a world creates unique job opportunities, such as management of magical creatures, dragon trainers, or a board for magical compliance. What jobs did supernatural worlds require?

Whatever the genre, your characters have obligations, challenges, perhaps extreme motivations related to work.

Suggested references:

1. The History of Work by R. Donkin
2. The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ascher
3. Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice by Gary P. Latham
4. The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains by Thomas W. Laqueur
5. Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
6. Organizational Behavior 1: Essential Theories of Motivation and Leadership by John B. Miner
7. The Concept of Work: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern by Herbert Applebaum
8. The Oxford Book of Work by Keith Thomas
9. Work: A Critique by Steven Vallas

10. Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States 1970s to 2000s by Arne L. Kalleberg

Next week, we examine Technology.

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: Education

In your story world, how were people educated?

What age do they begin instruction? What age do they finish?

Who received an education?

Who decided the type and level of education: parents, elders, social status, ability, wealth?

Where did students receive an education and who taught them?

 Did they have Socratic lectures, one-room schoolhouses, boarding schools, colleges, or universities? 

Were they taught by family members, elders, tutors, governesses, teachers, professors, or religious leaders?

Did their schools have levels? Did they have uniforms?

Were there apprenticeships, military boot camps, or artisan schools?

What areas of study were available?

Did the places of education have governing bodies?

What determined their career path?

Was higher education valued?

Did education level indicate status, position, wealth, race, caste?

Did they have to travel or relocate to obtain an education?

Were people content or discontent with the options available and access?

In your Fantasy or Science Fiction world, you can craft unique options such as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series, the school for vampires in the House of Night series, or Camp Half Blood in the Percy Jackson series. You can base it on a real system such as the English boarding school or come up with something entirely new. Readers love discovering new twists.

In Historical novels, you can take us back to the one-room school house. 

Secrets lurking at a university or boarding school are perfect settings for suspense or murder mysteries.

Suggested references:

1. School: The Story of American Public Education by Sarah Mondale
2. Advanced Educational Foundations for Teachers: The History, Philosophy, and Culture of Schooling by Donald K. Sharpes
3. Sixties Legacy: A History of the Public Alternative Schools Movement, 1967-2001 by Richard Neumann
4. Teach Like Socrates: Guiding Socratic Dialogues and Discussions in the Classroom by Erick Wilberding
5. Socratic Logic: A Logic Text using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles by Peter Kreeft & Trent Dougherty
6. The One-Room Schoolhouse: A Tribute to a Beloved National Icon by Paul Rocheleau
7. The American One-Room Schoolhouse by Henry R. Kaufmann
8. On the Methods of Famous Teachers Lao Tzu Gautama Zeno Socrates Jesus, Hypatia, Muhammad, Hildegard, Clare, Nightingale, Galileo and Gandhi by Anthony Barton
9. A History Of Education In Antiquity by H.I. Marrou & George Lamb
10. Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature by L. D. Reynolds & N. G. Wilson

Next week, we consider Employment options.

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: News and Information

Once you choose a place and time, you can determine where people obtained information.

We can thank the Science Fiction community for inspiring the inventions of today from the cell phone, to the television, to the iPad.

What type of written communication did they have: stone or clay tablets, scrolls, papyrus, handwritten or printed books, newspapers, or magazines?


How was information transmitted locally: carvings, cave paintings, town criers, public proclamations, town meetings, or houses of worship?

Did the people rely on word of mouth, messengers, community gatherings, town halls, mail, pony express, postal system, telephone, telegraph, teletype, fax machine, email, internet, television, or radio?

Did they have libraries, schools, training facilities of some kind, or colleges and universities?

How much knowledge of, or access to, the wider world did they have: none, local, regional, national, international, intergalactic? Did they have in-depth knowledge of the past or information about the future?

How accurate or reliable were the sources of information?

Did they have ways of disguising communication: Morse code, codex, enigma machines, ciphers, secret codes, spy technology, bugs, or other listening devices?

In Fantasy and Science Fiction, inventing unique communication methods adds richness to the story world.

In Historical settings, it helps to know how people communicated, what they knew, how they found out about it, and how accurate their sources were.

Suggested references:

1. A History of Bookbinding by Various
2. Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions From A Master Craftsman by Kojiro Ikegami
3. A Short History of Bookbinding by Joseph William Zaehnsdorf
4. Johann Gutenberg and the Printing Press by Kay Melchisedech Olson & Tod G Smith
5. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein
6. A History of Reading and Writing: In the Western World by Martyn Lyons
7. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing, 1450-1800 by Lucien Febvre & Henri-Jean Martin
8. The Library: A World History by James W. P. Campbell & Will Pryce
9. The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World by Roy MacLeod
10. The Book in the Renaissance by Andrew Pettegree

Next week, we tackle education.

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: Communication

I have always been fascinated by language. Its origins. The way it spread and changed. That we have the capacity to not only make our thoughts known but to use language as a pallet and canvas to create masterpieces.

Whether targeting a specific decade or creating a new world,  how do people communicate in your story world?

Sign language/hand gestures probably came first, then spoken language.

This developed into written symbols and hieroglyphs. I found it humorous that some researchers have decided the earliest languages revolved around counting and claiming things. What does every toddler learn early? Mine!

There are thousands of written languages. What languages existed in the time and place of your setting? Language gets tricky when writing fiction because you have to write it in a way your audience understands. In the USA, that means you write the story in English and have to creatively indicate how people from other locales communicated without dipping too far into foreign languages or abusive phonetic spelling tangents.

There is a greater push in American television shows and movies to incorporate foreign languages, especially Spanish. Unfortunately most people are not fluent in more than one language here. So I advise you to still stick with English, which tends to be the "universal" language at the moment, or whatever your native tongue may be.

Programs such as Google Translate cannot be relied upon for accuracy. If you wish to utilize a foreign language you are not fluent in, especially if you want a foreign translation of your work, hire a professional.

Thanks to the world wide web, you should be able to connect with someone who can help you with a specific language. You can also research books, magazine, and articles written in foreign languages. You can watch movies and You Tube videos to get a feel for how the language sounds and perhaps their slang, exclamations, and expletives. You can incorporate the rhythm of the way others speak English without resorting to stereotypes.


Did they have different dialects, accents, or pidgin versions? You can convey different speaking patterns without resorting to phonetic spelling abuse by altering sentence construction and rhythm.

What were some of their slang words or jargon? Readers find it hard to wade through paragraphs of unfamiliar names and words, but a few carefully chosen slang words, terms for objects, place names, etc. enrich any story world. Scatter them like delicate spices.

What were some of their curse words? One of the biggest challenges for me writing Mythikas Island was to avoid any modern words. That included expletives and exclamations. I had to develop a list of things characters would say when angry, surprised, etc. When you create a Fantasy or Science Fiction world, this is a fun exercise.

When writing about a specific historical era, you'll have to research what people were saying to each other. Using modern words in that setting rings false. Writers throw in the F-bomb into any setting these days. It's frankly annoying. Caesar did not say F-U Brute!

What were their terms of endearment or expressions of love?

Were there cyborgs, mind readers, or telepaths?

Did they have runes or hieroglyphs?

Dialogue is such a large part of writing fiction. Making it effective deserves time and attention. No dull dialogue!

Suggested references:

1. Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler
2. The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter
3. The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention by Guy Deutscher
4. Linear B and Related Scripts by John Chadwick
5. A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and their World by Y. Duhoux & Anna Murpurgo Davies
6. The Rosetta Stone and the Rebirth of Ancient Egypt by John Ray
7. The Rosetta Stone by E.A. Wallis Budge
8. Egyptian Hieroglyphs for Complete Beginners by Bill Manley
9. Hieroglyphic Dictionary: A Vocabulary of the Middle Egyptian Language by Bill Petty PhD
10. Learn American Sign Language All-in-One Beginners Course by James W. Guido

Next week, we will consider how your cast transmits information.

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: Hygiene

From bathing in streams and hot springs, to lavish Roman baths, to modern tiled showers the size of a log cabin, humans at some point started caring about cleanliness.

Historical time periods had different rituals associated with the resources they had available. In space, these mundane matters still matter. In a magical realm, they too must at some point evacuate waste and bathe.



We don't need an endless replay of mundane personal hygiene activities, but the realities of your story world will intrude at some point. In invented worlds, these details can add interest. You won't spend paragraphs talking about them. A passing mention will do.

When and how often did they bathe?

Did they associate bathing with health? Were they aware of germs and bacteria?

Where did they bathe: mineral springs, bodies of water, public baths, bathrooms, wooden tubs, sinks, bowls and ewers, showers, claw foot or porcelain tubs, or saunas?

Did they have a form of plumbing for water carrying: viaducts, cisterns, rain barrels, catchments, wells, or bodies of water?

How did they get rid of bodily waste: chamber pots, outhouses, flushing toilets, or trenches?


At another point in time, humans started removing and sculpting body hair.

How did they feel about body hair for men and did they have a method for removal? Where on the body and how?

How did they feel about facial hair for men? Did they prefer clean-shaven, bearded, mustaches, goatees, sideburns? Did they have a method of removal?

How did they feel about facial hair for women? Did they have a method of removal?

How did they feel about body hair for women and did they have a method for removal? Where on the body and how?

Did they have a form of odor control or perfumes?

How did women handle feminine hygiene? What did they use? Were there special routines or rituals associated with it?

Next week, we tackle forms of communication.

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: Physical Appearance

From dwarfs to giants, babies to crones, human forms are brilliantly diverse. People from different areas have certain traits that are passed down. From the frosty Nordic races to the darkest African tribes, we are all glorious shades of beige.

In Science Fiction and Fantasy, you can create your own beings. The only limits are your imagination.  How rooted in reality you want them to be is up to you. If you go widely astray in Science Fiction, you should be able to back up the choices through a credible rationale based on physics or biology. In Fantasy, magic can, well, work magic.

What body type was preferred (slim versus voluptuous, toned versus soft)? How tall were they?

How did they feel about skin tone? What tone was native to the time and place? How did they feel about differences? Did color indicate status, role, position? Had they eradicated prejudice or had it just shifted to other qualifiers?


How did they feel about exercise and physical fitness? What did they do to stay healthy or in shape?

How did they feel about body modifications (such as cinching in waists, binding feet, fake nails, fangs, adding horns, stretching necks, binding heads, plastic surgery, surgical modification, gender reassignment, castrations, mutilations)? Did they have cultural significance? Did they indicate rank, status, or role?

Did they have colored or unusual contacts?

Do they have any form of physical augmentation or mechanization: prosthetics, glass eyes, hearing aids or cochlear implants, dental implants or fillings, false teeth, other implants, bionics, cyborgs, organ transplants, etc.?


How did they feel about piercings? Where on the body, how, and with what? Did they have cultural significance? Did they indicate rank, status, or role?

How did they feel about tattoos? Did they have cultural significance? Did they indicate rank, status, or role? Men and women? Children?

How did they feel about hair color? What colors were native to the time and place? How did they feel about differences? Did color indicate status, role, or position? 

Did they alter hair color? How? What colors were possible or popular?

Were particular hairstyles dictated by role, position, class, religion, etc.?

Do your characters wear their hair to blend in or stand out?

Did they wear wigs?

Did they use hair ribbons, bows, bands, clips, or other embellishments? From towering wigs with birds and fruit, to artful braids, hair has been a source of fascination throughout the ages.

At some point, people began to paint their skin and face.

Did they use cosmetics? What colors and styles were popular?
Eyeliner or Kohl? Mascara? False or enhanced eyelashes?

Eyebrow liner, modification, shaving, or other manipulation?

Eye shadows to alter the shape of eyes or enhance their natural beauty?

Face powder, concealer, foundation, rouge or blush for beauty, to hide skin conditions, stage makeup, or disguises?

Lipstick or gloss to enhance or disguise?

Beauty marks or stickers?

Building a character is part of the fun of creating a story world. While you shouldn't spend pages describing your characters as they enter the story, knowledge of your story world will organically saturate your prose.

Next week, we take a look at hygiene.

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.