The writing process is filled with joys and challenges, and one item that fits under each of those categories is world building (for any type of fiction).
I like to start my world building with a small stump of an idea that I hope will grow into a massive tree of knowledge that answers my readers' questions about the world they've been thrust into. At least that's how I envision my process. Much like a tree, the branches will expand and a world will be formed from the answers to these questions as you begin your worldbuilding process. Here's how to start.
- Is this a monarchy? Democracy? Oligarchy?
- How are leaders chosen?
- Is there a military? What does that look like?
- How did this world come to be?
- Did it used to look like our world, or has it always been like this?
- How has the main character's family history/ancestry played into the overall history?
Customs, Occasions, Holidays
- What are holidays like?
- What is celebrated?
- How did these celebrations begin?
- What are occasions or customs like? (i.e., religious dinners, culturally-observed celebrations?)
Every Day Life
- What is a typical day for the public like?
- What are the townspeople like?
- How is the town setup? Are their markets, banks, etc.?
- What is the cultural ideal of beauty and how does that shape your characters' insecurities or charms/luck? - What are the cultural norms? How do they shape your characters' fears or dreams?
- What are the different races, ethnicities, species?
- This could include fantasy creatures: elves, fairies, ogres, etc.
- What are their prejudices?
- How did the prejudices begin, and why?
- Is there a caste system? If so, how is that setup?
- What divides the classes? Income, location, race, etc.?
- How did the caste system begin?
I recommend building a guide book. Call it what you want: a codex, the tome, your bible, whatever. Either way, keep the notes handy to guide you along as you write. Even better, if your novel becomes a longer published series, the thick binder of notes itself could be made into a reference book for your readers to enjoy.