Knowing the construction in your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, Editor-in-Chief Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Everyone has to live somewhere, but what is that going to look like in your world? People have lived everywhere from caves to huts to rich palaces with several different types of material used for their construction. So what is that going to look like in your world?
Where will people live?
People are adaptable; they can live in almost any condition, provided that it’s not cold enough that they will freeze to death or have their blood boil within minutes of stepping outside a climatized home. Now, if you’re writing a sci-fi novel, your people could live in a climate controlled colony on Venus for all I know, but in that case, you’ve already figured out how, where, and what they’re going to live in, and this post might not be for you.
People peopleing everywhere
Your city’s architecture is going to be different than that of the country. Cities are generally in closer quarters, but what does that mean for your people? Depending on your time period, that means highrises, high pollution, and few possessions within the household because of space constraints. But, this isn’t the only thing you’ll want to think about when constructing your city.
One important thing to think about is how your city will be laid out. Will you follow the example of, say, New York, where it runs on a grid system that is blessedly easy to navigate once you’ve got your bearings? Or will it be closer to Washington DC, which also runs on a grid system but is far more complicated to figure out? Or will your city operate on something entirely different that expands its roadways as the needs of the city grow like the random mishmash of streets that is Seattle? The latter is particularly useful if you have scallywags within your story that need to run from the law.
Population will be a driving factor in is what is considered a city versus a town or village. Speaking of the population, will any people be relegated to certain parts of the city, like the Jews who went to Rome were? Affordability and discrimination of peoples are often how cities end up with certain demographics to a region, but it will ultimately be up to you on how that’s going to run in your world.
Lastly, I want to talk about how the interior of the living quarters will be laid out. In cities, we see everything from studio apartments to multistory townhouses. Economics will also come into play when you’re making the decisions; will the poor suffer with having to live several to a house, or even a room, and will the rich have entire blocks devoted to their own homes? Will the latter be made for opulence? Will it be a great achievement for your poorer denizens to get into something larger than a single room?
I wanna be where the people aren’t
As mentioned above, there are less densely populated living spaces, so now I want to touch on those and what that could mean for your people. For the people who live in, say, a hamlet, how will their houses be built? Are they going to be clustered together, spread far apart so each person can have their own field to labor in? How will they make any sort of repairs to their homes, being so far away from everything? Or will the people be servants to the lord of the land and be either serfs or indentured servants where their general needs for repair and replenishment are taken care of for them?
There are other options for dwellings; there is still a province in China where people live in caves. So, if your people have this option, is there a social hierchy to who gets the best cave? Or any social hierarchy for a village? Are there elders who approve what can and cannot be done, a medieval homeowners association, if you will?
In the order of things, this really should go first...sort of. Location is going to determine the type of building materials needed and how easy or expensive it would be to import said materials. Will your story be more modern and have plywood and drywall, or will your buildings be made from cut logs and mud or stone?
We also can’t forget the tools that accompany building. Today, we would be remiss if we didn’t use a level to make sure what we were building was straight and perfect, but what if you don’t have those in your world? How will your builders make sure that things are level? Don’t forget, with almost every modern invention of power tool, there was an archaic version first that you can find the name of with just a little bit of research.
How things are built
We’ve talked about schools before, so in your world will people be formally trained in architecture and construction? Is it a skills that’s taught at home by every father to their son to make sure that they’re self-sufficient and can build their family a home no matter where they go? Will construct go by way of magic in your world and you have a class of mages that specialize in home construction?
It’s up to you how you want to handle the building of your structures, but make sure that you know how it’s done if it ever comes up in your work.
Grand scale buildings
Your grand scale buildings are going to be things like your castles, manor homes, palaces, and cathedrals, where you’ll need people who excel in artisanal decoration. If you have a guild set up for architecture, will only the guild master be able to work on such a project because of his or her prestige in the craft? Will you have people skilled enough to make glass windows, and will they be affordable for anyone or just for the rich? Will there be anyone who specializes in stained glass for decoration for the cathedrals? Will you have someone who knows how to do the math to make sure the pendentives and squinches will work within the building’s structure or how to build flying buttresses to perfection?
If you want to avoid these areas in your description, that’s fine, but if you do want to put these kinds of details in your work I would recommend getting either Understanding Architecture, or A History of Architecture.
Finally, the fun part. These are going to be your heating/cooling, running water, and appliances. Depending on the world that you create, you might not have all of these. While nice, they sometimes just don’t fit the story. It would be odd to see someone with a root cellar that they use to keep their vegetables fresh two chapters down the road talking about having a ceiling fan powered by electricity to keep the occupants cool in the summer months.
You can certainly break rules if you’d like, like having a civil war era house with a kitchen built within its walls instead of being a separate building (in case it wasn’t obvious, it was so if a fire started in the kitchen, it wouldn’t burn the whole house down), but at least try to make sure that the types of amenities make sense within the world that you’ve created and the time period you have it set.
Join me next week when I talk about art and entertainment.
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