Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Do You Believe in Magic?

The fantastical wonders of magic
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, I talked about creating your military and war-making. Today, I’m going to be talking about magic. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an expert in this subject as I typically avoid it in my own work, but I will do my best to give you as concise a direction I can for when you plan how you want to put magic into your world. 

Magic Users

The first thing that you want to establish is who can and can’t use magic, why, and how. Let's talk about where magic comes from to start: does it come from the gods to bestow upon their people? From nature? Is it a learned skill or one that you’re born with?
The reason it’s important to establish this is so there are no surprises...or there are. We’ve all read the story about the surprise magic user who will save the world, so if it’s established early on what, who, and how, your reader will be—excitedly we hope—surprised when a character doesn’t follow the mold.
School is for losers
First of all, let’s not be dude-bros about this. Everyone has to learn how to harness a craft, whether they’re born with it or not—prodigy or not. No one likes a Mary Sue/Marty Stu. 
Let’s talk about the kinds of schools that you can have. We’re all familiar with Hogwarts, whether you’ve read the books or not, because Harry Potter is so prevalent in our culture. This is one example of the kinds of schools you can have, where everyone learns a bit of everything until they start to get a little more specialized in their later years at school. This is the one I personally would recommend, but it’s not the only kind. 
There are two schools that are very often seen in fantasy novels: Private tutoring and guild masters/master-apprentice tutelage. The first is especially prominent if the characters in question are nobility. You can find this kind of student-teacher relationship in founder B. C. Marine’s A Seer’s Daughter. For master-apprentice teaching, you can see examples all throughout history, especially when it comes to architecture and painting. However, if you want to see it in a piece of fiction, you can check out another of B. C. Marine’s work, “Seeing Through Him.”
One of the other kinds of schools that you can have is like a trade school for magic, where you learn to do only one thing until you’ve mastered it. This is much like the guild masters but on a larger scale. Is this effective for people who want to have specialized magic users who only have one thing they’ve mastered, like healing? Sure. But what if someone comes along who knows how to do battle magic and attacks a hospital, and there are very few people who can help? It can be an interesting story, for sure, but you’re going to make your characters needless suffer for their ineptitude. 
Rules are meant to be broken
But are they? Everything has its limits. Power is not infinite, no matter how much we want it to be. One thing you’ll need to establish right off the bat is what kind of rules there are going to be for your world of magic. Does magic follow the laws of nature? Can people cross the veil or wander the Elysium Fields in the Underworld to bring people back to life? Is that a big no-no because the cost of power is too much and could kill the caster? 
Are there going to be any moral rules, like there were in Harry Potter? Would there be any consequences to taking over someone’s mind to, say, go rob a bank and give you all the funds you could ever wanted? Will there be any sort of magical council that handles its magic users when they commit a crime? An Azkaban where the most evil of evil are sent, perhaps? 
You might be thinking, “But I don’t want to limit the magic users!” That’s cool, but think of magic the same way you would the law in your town. The person who has the only car in the city wouldn’t be allowed to just speed through town and endanger all the people in it—and potentially kill someone by not knowing exactly how to control it—so why would you let a magic user run rampant through society with no consequence?
No good deed goes unpunished
What does this mean exactly? It means that nothing comes without cost. So, in your rules of magic, what is the cost of using it? I’ll use David Eddings as an example this time. When Garion is learning how to use his magic under the tutelage of Belgarath the Sorcerer, magic uses a massive amount of energy. When Garion tries to move a boulder, he ends up sinking into the ground because of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: a force always acts in an equal and opposite reaction. The reason why Garion sinks into the ground is because the boulder was pushing back with force equalling the amount he was using. 
I’ll give another example from The Belgariad. In the books, magic follows the laws of nature, specifically the first law of thermodynamics: energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The magic users in Eddings’ world pull not only energy from themselves, but the world around them in order to use their magic. So, if a magic users channels too much of their own energy to create a spell, they can die.

I can do it, and so can you for the low, low price of $9.99!

We’ve all been sold a thing or two at 2:00 a.m. when we’re sleep deprived and watching As Seen on TV advertisements, maybe a little high on cough medicine because we’ve been sick for two weeks and accidentally took the daytime pills instead of the nighttime pills. No? Just me? Well, either way, it leads me into my next point: 
If there are people who can’t conjure magic on their own, can they use technology made by magic users to suit their own needs? I’ll give an example. If someone doesn’t want to dig a garden bed to plant their vegetables, is there an enchanted hoe—go ahead and giggle, I did—that will do the work for them? There are other options for this as well; if someone needs a healing spell or a curse, can they buy one to use on their own? 

Magical Animals

Behold, the dragon! 
Or not.
Next step in creating your magical world is deciding on whether or not you’re going to have magical creatures within it and how they interact with your people. Will you have dragons that are beholden to whomever conquers them? Unicorns that have made an alliance with the wizards so that they can hide from people and not worry about being harrassed?
No matter what magical animals you choose, you will need to know how the interact with not only with the world, but with the people. 

It’s a miracle!

Lastly, I want to briefly talk briefly about how magic works with whatever religion you have in your world. 
Traditionally, magic is seen as a heretical act. But will it be in your world? There are plenty of reasons why it would be heretical: it’s an unknown, only God should have power, man can only do evil with such power, etc. etc. But, that doesn’t mean that it has to be. There are plenty of religions that are aided by the use of magic, and you can even make your own religion that centers around magic, depending on what kind of story you’re telling—Earth versus Not-Earth—where it’s revered and loved, and it’s a blessing to those around. 

Next week, I’ll be talking about Education.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

This Means War!

The military, war, and weaponry of your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
This week, I want to talk about war making and what it can mean for your world. Your modern systems will be shaped by the people of the past, and to create a rich and believable world, you need to know how, and why, they did it.

I like a man in uniform

Before you can wage any sort of war, you’ll need a military of some kind. There are plenty of examples for how to structure your military, but I want to just go over what kinds of armed services you can have. Let’s start with the basic ones that we have today: the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard. I’m going to separate them out, talking about your land, air, and sea options.
Having an Air Force in your novel will only serve you if your world is technologically capable of having one, there’s magic that allows people or objects to fly, or you have mythical creatures. This is an armed service that will likely be used more in a SciFi novel, where they could have both an Air Force and a Space Force. What these would do is patrol the airspace for any sort of enemy or oncoming attack.
Next, you’ll have the land fighters—this will be your Army and your Marines.* You can call them whatever you’d like, they can all be the army, they can all be foot soldiers, they can all be knights; it’s your story. But these are the men who are going to get their hands the dirtiest because they’ll be fighting close up. There won’t be any water between them, nor will there be sky. I would like to quickly mention that if you don’t have an organized military, any force that forms to fight an enemy is called irregulars.
Lastly, you’ve got your sea options. Mostly, when people think of the sea-faring military, they don’t think of the Coast Guard, but this branch of the military does have a purpose other than rescuing stranded people. This branch enforces maritime law alongside the Navy. Generally, though, in a fantasy or SciFi novel, you aren’t going to see a distinction between the two, and they’ll likely get the blanket term of Navy. This force is what will be fighting any sort of sea battle for the protection of an island nation, or a nation that has water on at least one side of their border.
Now, this isn’t including elite forces that could be in any of the branches, like Navy Seals or Army Rangers and their specialized line of work. Whether you have those in your story or a single unified force in your story is going to be entirely up to your discretion.
*Yes, the Marines are a department of the Navy, but they are typically depicted as land forces and thus went into the land category.
Who can join the military?
Will there be a legal age of who can join the military in your world or limitations to one sex? Historically, wars have been fought by men, and if women participated, it was because they hid their sex in order to hide their gender and participate—I say this as a blanket statement, but as time goes on, archaeologists are finding evidence that there were women who fought without needing to hide their gender. In your world, you’ll need to decide exactly when and how someone can join. Another question that remains is, will your military be a voluntary service, a drafted service when the need arises, or a mandatory service for an allotted time to teach discipline and keep numbers up?
Ranking system
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the ranking systems of military—this seems to be something that people want to avoid putting in their books, and I can’t blame them. It’s difficult to come up with your own, and it can feel like you’re cheating if you model it after an existing one. But, here’s the thing: it doesn’t look any better when everyone’s a soldier, and you can’t tell who is in charge of whom. Go ahead and call someone a corporal or lieutenant colonel. It will help your readers understand any military situation better.

No Flag, No Country

Wars are often fought for the sake of colonization, but that isn’t the only thing wars are fought over. Wars can be waged over poor relations between countries, resources, colonization, and so on and so on. You can be a pacifist all you want in your world, but it doesn’t mean that your world won’t have a history.
How many wars have there been?
This is not a question you need an exact number for, but you do need to know the basic history of your world through war making. We don’t even know the exact accounting of wars that take place in our own history because our written history only started five thousand years ago. No doubt, between interbreeding, Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens warred with each other over hunting grounds and other resources.
What you need to know for your world will likely only be a few hundred years, and a millennia at most. You might think that’s a huge time span to know for your story, but each war will affect the way that your world is shaped. Take Genghis Khan for example: his leadership in conquering and nearly uniting all of Eurasia changed the world for the better. You might not think a man responsible for millions upon millions of deaths could spread anything as wonderful as religious tolerance, international laws, free trade, diplomatic immunity, and a regulated postal service called “Yam,” but all of that was the result of one man’s ambition. And all of that happened less than nine hundred years ago.
What kind of wars have been fought?
There are so many types of war, you might not even think of the possibilities for your world. I only want to cover a few of them because, otherwise, I’d be writing you a novel that you didn’t ask for and I’m not entirely qualified to write.

Wars of Aggression

These are wars that are fought solely for the sake of territorial gain and subjugation. So, basically what England did for hundreds of years until their empire was as complete as it was going to be. These wars might be hard to justify within your world—especially with our 21st century mindset—and just like in our own, often lead to rebellion and throwing off the yoke of oppression through more wars, which make for really great stories.
Wars of Independence and Civil Wars
It’s pretty easy to guess what this means, and it’s a war following a declaration of independence and autonomy as a new country from its sovereign country; said sovereign country sends military force to stamp out the rabble rousers. These kinds of wars are often seen in fantasy books because they make great stories of the oppressed winning against all odds.
The reason why I’m combining these two is that the only difference between civil wars and wars of independence is who wins. Let’s take the American Revolutionary War for example: if the British had won, it wouldn’t have been a war of independence; it would have been a civil war between England and its colonies. Or even the American Civil War—if the south had won, it would have been the War of Confederate Independence rather than the American Civil War.

Preventive Wars

As with Wars of Independence, it’s exactly what it sounds like. These wars are started to cut off any possibility of a future attack from another country that has either postured that they intend to make an attack in the future, or to avoid a shift in the balance of power.
Cold Wars
You’ve likely heard this term often in reference to the United States and Russia in a conflict that spanned almost half a century. This kind of war happens when no military action is taken, but fought primarily either through espionage, economic, political, or propaganda measures.
Religious Wars (aka Holy Wars)
We’ve all heard of this type of war, thanks to the crusades and the medieval Catholic church. This type of war is rooted in religious ideologies and can sometimes be used for land grabs and sometimes for conversions. For the sake of peace and decorum, that’s where I’ll leave it.
How are wars waged?
You don’t need to be a brilliant tactician to be able to put this kind of information into your book. As with the kinds of war, I only want to go over a few kinds of attacks that can be waged during battle for the sake of brevity. Keep in mind, some of these tactics are going to feed into each other.
Guerilla Warfare
I want to talk about this first because we can see examples of it throughout history before the term “guerilla warfare” was even coined. This is when a group of combatants use ambushes, raids, sabotage, and petty warfare to achieve their goals. In other words, this is a hit and run of people in times of war. Historically, you’ll see this tactic used by the Goths in ancient times, Europeans to prevent the Mongols from taking a stronghold in all of Europe, and, even in more recent history, the World Wars.

Attrition Warfare

This is very similar to guerrilla warfare in that its purpose is to wear down the enemy by continual losses in personnel and/or resources. What this means is there will be small parties that launch raids to either execute personnel or steal/destroy supplies from their enemy as they do in guerrilla warfare, but on a much grander and continual scale. This is used in an attempt to take away the enemy’s ability to fight, and if you want a good example of this type of warfare, you can look at General Grant’s strategy to win the American Civil War.
Maneuver Warfare
This is another tactic that you’ll see in a lot of wars, and it can arguably be said that you can’t fight a war without using this tactic. Maneuver warfare is when you try to wear down your enemy’s decision making abilities with shock or disruption. This tactic aims to make your enemy lose the will to fight.
Siege Warfare
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress where the forces or residents within refuse to surrender. This is really a combination of both Attrition Warfare and Maneuver Warfare in that it aims to not only prevent the enemy from fighting, but also to make them lose the will to fight through lack of resources. What’s unique about Siege Warfare, though, is that it can work both ways. If a fortress is well stocked and fortified, the longer an army is forced to stay staring at a fort with no end in sight, that army will gradually become demoralized and give up because they’re needed elsewhere. If that fort isn’t well provisioned, the soldiers within can quickly grow weak and demoralized for seeing no way to win and then surrender.
Chemical Warfare
This isn’t something entirely new to warfare, but what we’ve come to think of as chemical warfare is after WWI. What our current definition is, is using things like mustard gas, chlorine gas, or hydrogen gas to subdue an enemy. But, that’s not the only thing that quantifies as chemical warfare. This can be using poison arrows (like Hercules did, using the venom from the hydra), arsenical smokes like the Chinese used, and poisoning water supplies with deadly herbs. All three of those tactics were used in the ancient world, so your fantasy novel doesn’t have to be limited to only modern era technology.
Let’s talk a little bit biochemical warfare. There's a long history for spreading disease to enemy camps through contaminated supplies, contagious locals/prostitutes, or launching animal/soldier corpses via catapult. So, you could easily have some smallpox blankets given to locals (ahem, colonials) to kill them off so you can grab more land.


Weapons are going to be an important part of any defense, whether it’s self defense in the home or defending your country on the battlefield. I only want to go over a couple of types of weapons that can be used by almost anyone, and since five seems to be the magic number of this post, I’m going to limit it to that.
These I see so often in fantasy novels that they’re practically a staple of the genre. These are small weapons that can be easily hidden for self defense or sneak attacks and don’t require years and years of practice to use for the purpose of self defense. Is it better to have it? Sure. But that young lady traveling in a caravan doesn’t need much further knowledge than to stick people with the pointy end to get them to leave her alone. Another wartime purpose for the dagger is to deliver a mercy blow to a wounded and dying soldier on the battlefield.
Heaven above, there are so many swords, I don’t think I could list them and their definitions in five pages, much less this short paragraph that I’m going to be writing. The only two that I want to talk about are the quintessential fantasy swords: the longsword and the broadsword. If you want a quick visual reference, the sword that Brienne of Tarth uses (Oathkeeper) is a long sword—it’s longer than the average sword, and the hilt is long enough for two hands, but it can be used with one or two hands, depending on the strength and skill of the wielder. The broadsword has a basketed hilt—which means that there is metal that goes over the hand for its protection—and is meant to be used with only one hand, not two. If someone is using that two handed, they’re going to look like an idiot. These two swords are often mixed up and are definitely not interchangeable.
Out of the four types of bows, it’s likely you’ll only see three within fantasy novels. These will be recurve bows that are often used on horseback in military or hunting excursions, longbows made for long distance shooting during wars, and crossbows. Bows have their place in and out of war and can be an effective weapon if used correctly.
Gunpowder weapons
These are going to be your cannons, muskets/rifles, pistols, and mortars. Pretty much anything that needs to be propelled and goes boom that isn’t a futuristic weapon only seen in SciFi novels and shows. The type of boom-boom weapon that you’re going to want to use is going to depend on your setting and the advancement of your people. If you’re writing in a medieval setting, your average cannon is the way to go. Do you have a more futuristic society? Probably a gun of some sort.
This a particularly useful weapon in mounted warfare. Some of you might know what these are, and some of you might not. A caltop looks quite similar to a jack in the game “jacks and ball” but can sit mostly flat on a surface when thrown down, and they have sharp ends to puncture the hooves of mounts or soles of foot soldiers. These are thrown down before a mounted attack and are very effective in felling a large number of horses at once.

And on that happy note, I hope you’ll join me next week when I talk about magic!

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Your Obedient Servant

What does politics mean in your world?
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week we talked about governments, and naturally, what will follow are politics. Politics will be a large part of your book whether you intend it to or not, and I’ll tell you why.
“Politics” is a word that makes you groan when you hear it because, today, the world is so divided by politics, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it at all costs in your world building. There are politics present in every part of government and relationships between countries and peoples. A few things that you’ll want to think about are how your leaders are chosen, how long they’ll stay in power, and if you have different political parties, what they stand for and if they dissent with each other.
How are your leaders chosen?
This is a simple answer, depending on how your government works. In monarchies, advisors/politicians can be appointed by the king or queen to their position, inherit their position, or if they’re a constitutional monarchy, they can be elected into the position by the people. But, for your world, how will you do it? You could create a totally unique way of getting leaders for your country; perhaps a test of endurance, intelligence, or cleverness will do the trick for your people. For all we know, at the moment, you might have a Sci-Fi novel reminiscent of The 100 that has a leader of the people chosen by the kind of blood that they have and their fighting mettle, and is implanted with a device that imparts all the wisdom and memories of the leaders before them.
How long will they stay?
For your politicians, you’ll need to decide if it’s a lifelong commitment or if it’s something only lasting for a few years, a couple of terms, or something else entirely that you decide. Is being a leader in politics going to be a full time job for your leaders, or will it be as it was in the time of Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson, where a job in the government was only held in certain months of the year? With whatever decision that you make for this, make sure that it not only fits in with the way that your story is planned, but the type of government that you choose.  
Bear in mind, the longer that a politician stays in power, the easier it is to become power hungry and corrupt, which can lead to many interesting revolution stories.
Political parties
Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Whig—these are all names that we’ve heard for political parties around the world in some form or another. You can have whatever name you’d like for political parties in your world if you decide to have them, but you’ll need to know what it means. I don’t mean the definition of the word, per se; I mean what it is to be part of that political party. Does one stand on a platform of oppression? Does another stand on a platform of utopianism and world peace for all? Is there one in the middle ground that wants world peace without the risk of creating an unsustainable economy?
No matter the political parties that you choose for your world, make sure that it fits within the government you’ve chosen. Another thing you’ll want to think about is if your political parties are diametrically opposed (foes) or if they have some things in common, and how that plays out in not only the government, but for the people as well.  If you live in America—or anywhere, really—you’ll know the destructive power of dissenting sides of the political spectrum.
Hierarchy of the political spectrum
Lastly, in this section, I want to talk about the hierarchy of the political spectrum within your world. What will it be decided by? If you have a monarchy, will it be decided by the rank (duke, earl, viscount, etc) of the person, or will it be dictated by the position of the person within the government? Would you have a low born man like Thomas Cromwell rise through the ranks and become an advisor to the king? Would your position in the government and respect be based on how long you’ve been there alone?
There are a lot of options that you can go with in your story, but as you’ve heard me say many times before, and will hear me say many more times over the next nine weeks, make sure that it fits within the type of story that you’re telling.
Foreign Relations
Unless your country is an isolationist, there are going to have to be some sort of foreign relations with the countries surrounding it. What exactly will this mean? Well, it could be anything from race relations to geopolitical ones.
When you have relations with your neighboring countries, you’ll have dignitaries and ambassadors who will work on your or another country’s behalf. How your ambassadors behave is up to you and the country’s customs and people, but remember that these people will always be working in the best interests of their home country. This might mean that they’re going to be spying for their government, making magnanimous deals, or blackmailing foriegn leaders to ensure that they get what they want for their country’s, and sometimes personal, gain.
Ambassadors will also be the people who bring forward treaties to different countries and help work out the details based on the needs of their country and the approval that their leader gives them for trading power.
I spy with my little eye
Speaking of spying, will you have any spies in your world? Maybe they’ll go unmentioned; maybe they won’t, but there are many useful reasons to have spies. They can help bring down governments, they can improve governments, and they can also make wealthy families wealthier with information used for bribes and blackmail. Spies also make for great central characters and moving pieces on the political chessboard.
Race relations
I touched on what kind of races that you can have in your world in You’ve Got the Whole World in Your Hands, but now I want to talk about what that can mean if you have problems between races. Now, this doesn’t have to be only between fantasy races; it can also be between ethnicities of people as we’ve historically seen in the United States, but because this is a very touchy subject, I’d like to avoid getting further into it other than it can be a good example of systematic oppression of peoples that can lead to rebellions in your work.
There are a couple of things you’ll want to think about when writing about race relations, first being: How just how different are they? Are you going to have water races and land races, or closer to home, black versus white? And is it frowned upon to mix the races—Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, has talked frankly about his upbringing in South Africa and how he was the product of a crime: a mixed race couple loving each other. If there are mixed race people, what do they pass as? Is it obvious that they’re mixed race, or do they look like the dominant race of the world—do they have easier lives because of it, or is there a “one drop” rule?
Another is how races interact with each other. Is one race looked down on as inferior? Are they called names? And what names are they called? I don’t think I even need to mention what words have been used as slurs against different races throughout history, other than to say that they’re awful. But what kind of things will you have in your world? Let’s go back to the water and land-based race example: will they be called air-breathers and water-breathers with derision? Something a lot meaner that I’m not willing to come up with?
Unfortunately, poor race relations can be seen all over the world, and you don’t necessarily have to make it prominent in yours, but you do need to know the answers to these kinds of questions if they ever come up in your work.
I can’t talk about foreign relations without at least mentioning geopolitical relations because they go hand in hand. Now, if you’re wondering what geopolitical relations are, I’ll tell you. Geopolitics is the analysis of geographic influences on power relationships between international countries.
Just to give you a made up example to maybe help make this a little bit more clear, let’s say that Country A has a resource that Country B desperately needs, and it’s naturally and abundantly occurring in Country A. Country B will petition Country A to give them some of their resources in exchange for the one that they desperately need. Now, Country A knows that Country B will fail if they don’t get this resource at a steady rate, so Country A can now extort Country B for whatever it wants because neither Country C or D have this resource that Country B can ask from instead.
Mawwage… Mawwage is what bwings us
Marriage can be a very powerful tool in the world of politics, particularly if you have monarchies in your story. Historically, entire countries have been created by marriages. Take Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. After their marriage and the uniting of their countries, Spain was founded only a short time later. Granted, it was after they conquered other countries on the Iberian peninsula, but without their marriage bringing enough power and resources to their cause, Spain might not even exist today.
Countries aren’t the only thing that can come out of a political marriage. Marriage can bring in vast resources another country needs, an amount of money that a country might need to survive for the next couple of years, and allies for future wars—or to prevent the desire from future wars if the allies are powerful enough.

Join me next week when I talk about war.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Big Brother’s Watching

The kinds of governments you can have in your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Big Brother, Uncle Sam, Fascist Pigs. We’ve all heard of some way our governments around the world are described but have you thought about how the government in your world is going to run?


I know, I know; government, what a bore! But knowing what kind of government rules in your world informs the decisions that your characters will make. I’ll apologize in advance, dear reader, this is going to be another long post.
In this section, I want to briefly talk about the seven types of government—there are plenty more specific government types, but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to limit it to the seven traditionally taught in school. I know, I know; you learned this in history class. We all need a refresher on what exactly these governments are and do in order to make informed decisions about the government in the worlds that we’re creating. And I promise not to let my background of wanting to be a history teacher get away from me. For each definition that you’ll see for the kinds of government, they will be coming from Merriam-Webster. Keep in mind that there are plenty of countries that can be variants of multiple kinds of governments, so just a single kind might not work for the kind of story you want to tell.
A democracy is a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.
What does this mean for your world? It means that your country can hold free elections without the influence of a dictator in order to win each election held. These aren’t often seen in fantasy or SciFi novels, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t work. If you want to look at this kind of government, you can look at the United States (sort of), New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, etc.
A republic is a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.
A republic is similar to a democracy, but rather than a single elected official ruling it’s a group of elected officials ruling the people. If you want to look at a combination of both a republic and a democracy, the United States is a democratic republic. If you want to look at just a republic then you can look at countries of Venezuela, Germany, Bosnia, Somalia, and more.
An Autocracy is a government in which one person possesses unlimited power.
An autocracy is going to include monarchies and dictatorships. These both lend themselves well to fantasy, dystopian, and SciFi novels. With your monarchies, you can have an absolute monarchy that is often easier to write, an elective monarchy, or a constitutional monarchy. Dictatorships also have multiple types. You can have a sole dictator, an authoritarian oligarchy (or collective dictatorship), and an absolute democracy. If you want to look at autocracies, take a look at the UAE, Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and more.
An oligarchy is a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.
This one is a combination of an autocracy and a democracy. These governments are often ruled by the wealthy, nobility, corporate, religious, political, or military control. As with autocracies, oligarchies lend themselves well to fantasy, dystopian, and SciFi novels. If you want to look closer at oligarchies, Russia, China, and Iran are well-known examples.
A theocracy is a government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.
When I first started researching for this post I thought there was no way I was going to be including a theocracy because who puts that in books? Turns out, a lot of people in very successful novels. If you want an example in books how a theocracy works, check out the Dune Series by Frank Herbert where he employs a feudal theocracy, or in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. If you want an example in world governments Yemen, Vatican City, and Afghanistan are ones to look at.
Communism is a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production.
Communism is both a type of government and a social ideology. This is a government where goods are owned by everyone and available to all when needed. This is often confused with socialism, which is the same in certain areas but different in others. If you want examples of communist states China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam are examples of communist states.
Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
A fascist government is a one-party dictatorship that is severely against democracy. This type of government puts the nation above the individual, and are historically militaristic. Take Germany or Italy during WWII—those were both fascist states. After WWII, however, there are very few surviving fascist governments. This type of government is perfect for a viva la revoluciĆ³n dystopian, fantasy, or SciFi novel.
I lied. I’m going to include one more that could be very effective in a fantasy, dystopian, or SciFi novel. A plutocracy is a government by the wealthy.
If you want an example of a plutocracy in fiction, look at the dystopian The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins. Panem is ruled by the rich while the districts are left in squalor and forced to fight against each other regularly. Unfortunately (for our writing purposes), there are very few modern examples of a true plutocracy. You could argue that Russia is a plutocracy, but they also have elections.
No matter what government system you choose, make sure it fits the world you’re creating and the story you want to tell. Other things you’ll want to think about after setting up this government is what kind of social hierarchy you’ll have within it, and what services are offered by said government.
Hallelujah! We’re finished with the kinds of government, and a huge congratulations to you if you made it through that. Now, on to services. These are going to depend on what government you choose, what time period you choose, and how many taxes will be collected in your world.
In this section, I want to list a couple of services offered by local, state, and federal governments you may or may not have thought of:
  • Education
  • Social services
  • Roads and transport
  • Waste disposal
  • Economic development
  • Countywide planning and the environment
  • Police and fire protection
  • Military
  • Trash collection
  • Environmental health
  • Tourism
  • Leisure and amenities
  • Planning permission
  • Parks and recreation
  • Libraries

Legal Systems
Your legal system will all depend on the kind of government that you choose for your world. Meaning, is it going to be a corrupt legal system that serves the state, or are your citizens going to have certain rights given to them by a constitution and can’t unlawfully be detained?
It’s the Po-Po! might not actually be the Po-Po. What you’ll want to think about while building your legals system and government is, who is actually going to be the one enforcing the law? Is it going to be state militias that the governing lords of the land put together for their purposes? Is it going to be an actual dedicated police force that is paid to enforce the law of the land without bias—or perhaps with bias? Or, will there be a state military that enforces the laws from above without questions or morals?
I’d like to call my lawyer
Lastly, I’d like to talk about who really upholds the law. This is also going to depend on what type of government you choose for your world because, like the above list, there are a lot of options that you could have. Will there be judges and court systems in your world? Will punishment for a crime be imprisonment without any recourse simply because you committed a crime, and you’re let out when you’re let out? Will trials be held by the lord of the land, such as a clan chieftain, and what he says goes?
No matter what kind of government, police force, and judge you choose, make sure that it fits within the world that you’re creating and makes sense within the story you’re trying to tell.

Join me next week when I talk about politics.

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