I'm outlining a new WIP that I'm super excited to start writing. When I outline, I need to know what the purpose of every scene is and where each plot point will fall. Bits of dialogue usually come to me as well, and I jot them down as I go. But in order to outline at the level of detail I prefer, I first need to have my world fully fleshed out.
So, how do I do that? I make... more outlines lol. And maps. And lists.
World building points and questions to help guide the process:
• History - My WIP takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. Even if it's never mentioned in the book, I need to know why and how the world my MC lives in has reached this point. Details like this are relevant to developing the world's political and social systems.
Why were there separate districts in The Hunger Games, and why were they forced to sacrifice their children? What was wrong with Sol-Earth that Amy (and her parents) in Across the Universe needed to be cryogenically frozen and placed aboard the Godspeed? What is the One Ring and how did Sauron use it to nearly enslave all of Middle Earth?
The history of your world affects everything from political and religious beliefs to the development of technology and warfare.
• Politics - Who's in charge? Is it a dictatorship or a democracy? A feudal system? A monarchy? A perceived utopia? And how will these things help and hinder your MC?
• Society, culture and religion - Is it a rigidly controlled society like in The Hunger Games and Matched? Or is it more diverse and rich like in The Lord of the Rings? Is there a division of classes or a social hierarchy? Are the people technologically dependent? Is there a predominant religion or a wide range of beliefs? Are the people monotheistic, polytheistic or atheistic?
• Magical system - If magic exists in your world, are there rules and restrictions? Is the "science" of it explained like in The Sorcerer's Apprentice or is it simply an inexplicable phenomenon? Is it genetic or random? Is it common knowledge or kept secret? Is there an entirely different magical history/politics/society from the "normal" one? What is the purpose of the magic? Are there magical instruments as well, such as wands and time turners like in Harry Potter?
• Technology - Since my WIP is a cyberpunk dystopian, there are cybernetically enhanced humans in it. I need to know all the hows and whys of their creation. I also need to come up with how this futuristic world uses technology in its every day routines, and how machines are both conveniences and restrictions to the people and my MC.
If your story is a steampunk, how might technology be unique to that world?
• Maps - A map of the world is usually handy if your story takes place on a finite stage, like the ship in Across the Universe. Or within a sweeping fantasy world like Narnia, or in a distant future like The Hunger Games. This can be taken even further with detailed maps of smaller areas and countries, like a map of both Middle Earth and then zoomed in maps of each of its countries. Or a map of the ship Godspeed and then detailed maps of each floor.
• Locations - Similar to maps, but not quite. I like to list every location my MC will eventually come across and flesh it out--how to get there, what it looks like, the atmosphere, the people there, and its purpose.
Ultimately, all these questions are linked together, each answer dependent on the next to grow and transform into a fully realized world.
Have fun world building! ♥