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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  

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