Search This Blog

Worldbuilding: Shelter

Where do your characters live? Once you pick a time and place,  or started creating your fictional world, you have to decide how and where they will live. 

Research your historical setting. You can use a real place. You can utilize a real place and change the name. You can invent a plausible town in a real geographic place.

What type of housing do your characters have: outdoor nests or caves, stacked stones, carved stone, wattle or mud huts, adobe, clay, grass and feces, tepees, tents, wigwams, long houses, log cabins, wood houses, thatched roof, or brick walls. 

Are there tiny homes, McMansions, or palaces?

Do they have communes or group homes with assigned quarters?

Perhaps they live in apartments, hotels, or rented rooms.

Is the place rural, suburban, or urban? Do they live on farms, small towns, cities, the frontier, quaint villages, hamlets,  the wild, the woods, the mountains?

Do they have states, counties, districts, regions, provinces, states, countries, continents, or multiple planets?

Where do they sleep: outside, hammocks, cots, trees, caves, roof, porches, lanais, lofts, bedrooms, floors, shelves or benches, or rugs? 

Do they have communal sleeping areas, dormitories, barracks,camps, or segregated housing based on gender or status?

Do they have mattresses, linens, and pillows? Perhaps rope beds, feather beds, corn husks, furs, flannel, wool, or animal skins?

Do they have cots or elaborate four-poster beds or sleeping cabinets? 

Do they have bed warmers or warming bricks for warmth or fans to keep them cool? 

How did they keep warm: fireplaces, heating stoves, furnaces? Did they have fans or air conditioning when it was hot? How did they deal with the temperature extremes if they didn't have mod cons?

Do they live together in large groups or tribes, a large family together  in one home, or separately either as individuals or couples?

What domestic amenities did they have: cooking stoves, brick ovens, electric ovens, microwave ovens, ice chests, ice boxes, refrigerators, spring houses, dishwashers, toasters, pots and pans?

Did they have wooden trenchers, clay plates, metal, ceramic, wooden dishes, or finest china? 

Did they use knives, forks, spoons and all the myriad kitchen gadgets, fine silver, stainless steel, wood, or plastic?

Did they drink from carved wood, jeweled chalices, or tinkling crystal?

Did they have "kitchens" with shelving, cabinets, pantries, dumbwaiters, sinks and running water, indoor plumbing, and water heaters?

Did they use clay tea and coffee pots, samovars, iron cauldrons, silver tea service, oriental tea service,  or fancy espresso machines?

Did they have wine or food cellars, spring houses, smoke houses, summer kitchens, greenhouses, or conservatories?

How did they clean things? Did they wash in the creek or river, boil the washing and hang it to dry, or have electric appliances to make it easy?

Did they have towels for their wooden tub, clawfoot treasure, or massive master suite? Did they use face cloths, loofahs, brushes, or showers? Did they have saunas or hot tubs?

Did they utilize chamber pots, outhouses, or flushing toilets?

What types of rooms did their homes have? 

Did they have outbuildings like stables, carriage houses, mews, garages, attics, basements, dungeons, guard houses, gate houses, servants quarters, barns or animal corrals.

What furnishings did they have, wooden benches, cement built-ins, or silk settees? 

Did they have dirt floors, rugs, rushes, carpets, or wooden floors? Stone, tile, mosaic, or marble floors?

Did they have windows with or without glass, shutters, or french doors?

Where did they store things: hanging on pegs, trunks, closets, wardrobes, vanities, dressers, drawers, or cabinets?

Did they have lighting: candelabras, oil lamps, wall sconces, chandeliers, gaslight, electric light?

Did they have options for art work and other decor items from vases to statues to collectibles?

The types of homes and how the characters cared for and decorated their private spaces can tell the reader much about the character and the world he lives in. You don't have to pile it on, but knowing the answers can help you bring the world alive with careful selection of details as they move around the setting.

Next week, we will explore public spaces.

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  

No comments:

Post a Comment