Questions to Ask When Creating Fictional Cities

     It's no secret I am a wild fan of world-building. Creating worlds that I can mold with my hands and mind is one of my favourite parts of writing! So I've decided to make "Questions to Ask When..." a permanent blog series! I've really enjoyed writing the previous installments, and you all seemed to find them super helpful, so here's the third post in the series! Hopefully I'll have a new one up monthly or bi-monthly from now on.

     Today's topic is creating fictional cities! And the questions aren't just for fantasy cities, so don't worry! You can apply them to any city setting in your story.


     To the questions!

1) What is the city called by its inhabitants? By outsiders? Does it have any nicknames?

     For this example and the following I'll be using a city from my current WIP, Golden Revenge: Peresay. Its inhabitants call it the "City of Bad Singers", however! For good reason...

2) What is the "hub" of the city? A market, shopping district, garden, etc.?

3) Are there any famous landmarks? Are they natural/geographical, such as a mountain, or man-made, like a clock tower?

4) Where does the city's government reside? A building or elsewhere? How does the city's government differ from the country it resides in, if at all?

5) Geographically speaking, where is the city? Besides a river, in a valley, in plains, by mines, etc.?

    Peresay rests beside Dreaming Rock, where the Dreamers (the central figures of one of the world's religions) were said to have created people. Believers of the Dreamers claim the massive orange rock was a piece of the sky that fell down with the Dreamers when they came to the earth.

6) What is the city's water and/or food source? The river, the ocean, surrounding farms?

7) Why did this city grow from a town/village into its current state? Is it the capital, a hub for trade, a key resource area, or have some historical/religious significance?

8) What kind of defenses does it have? Walls? Buttresses? Guards/police who patrol?


9) What's the average income for its residents? What is the most common occupation?

10) What kind of architecture would be seen walking around its streets? Are most of the homes made of brick, wood, stone, cement? Are paint colours vibrant or subdued? Do buildings crowd each other out, or are they evenly spaced? Does it change depending on the part of the city you're in?

    Peresay's buildings are almost all made of red, yellow, and orange bricks, which is a reflection of the dusty and rocky area the city rests in. Little wood is used, as they don't live near any forests. But there are splashes of colours in vibrant rugs that lie before the front door of each home.

11) How is the city with crime? Is it overrun by murder and theft, or is it fairly quiet and peaceful? Are criminals bold in flaunting their power (if any) or do they stick to secretive means?

12) Who holds the most power? The government, businesses, criminals, other organisations?

13) What does the city smell like? Does it reek of fish caught at the docks, thick perfume of blooming flowers, the stench of sewerage, etc.?

14) What kind of relationship do its inhabitants have with inhabitants of other cities? Are they friendly, rivals, neither?

     As an official rebel army stronghold, the residents of Peresay are strong believers in the rebel cause, so they have a good relationship with any other cities that support the rebels. If there are any cities that are in the royal grasp, on the other hand, they will have nothing to do with them. This is a civil war, after all.

I imagine Peresay a little like this, except with a massive rock next to it! (And no ocean in the background.)
15) Are there any places of religious gathering? (Eg. churches, temples, altars, etc.)

16) What are those secret spots that only long-term residents know about? Is there a "best cafe in the city", or peaceful garden tucked away from the hustle and bustle?

17) How popular is the city with outsiders/tourists? Is it a well-known travel destination, or more isolated?

18) What kind of cultures are seen in the city? Are its residents a singular ethnic culture, or a mix?

19) Does the city have any celebrations/festivals specific to itself? When and how are these celebrated?

    Whenever the rebels win a battle or have some other kind of victory, those in Peresay climb to the top of Dreaming Rock, where an altar rests. Then they'll have animal sacrifices, incense, loud music, and dancing all night long, to thank the Dreamers for their grace.

20) What is the city's history? Has it been under siege or attack? What major historical events have taken place in its depths, if any?

Isn't this city gorgeous? I'd love to live here!

    That brings us to the end of the questions! I really hope they can be of help to you when brainstorming a city setting, or adding those juicy world-building features in edits!
Tell me about one of your fictional cities! What landmarks does it have? Who lives there? Oh, and are you a big fan of world-building too? Any suggestions of what theme to have for my next "Questions to Ask When..." post?
Good luck with your writing, and have a spectacular day! <3

Comments

  1. Oooh, thanks for this! I always struggle most with world building, so this is super helpful!! :D

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    1. Oh I'm so glad Gray! Happy to be of help. :) Thanks so much for commenting!

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  2. World building is so difficult, thanks for simplifying it a bit!

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    1. No problem Skye! I'm happy to help out. XD Thank you so much for commenting!

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  3. Great questions! I'm certainly going to use them when I need to build a city again.
    One of my favorite cities that I created was on that was built in the center of a ring of mountains. In the center is a giant extinct volcano that holds the palace.

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    1. Thank you! :) Wow that sounds like a really cool city, Rachel! I love the idea of the extinct volcano. :D Thanks for commenting! XD

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  4. I am sooo keeping this.. great work!

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  5. I LOVE world-building. I think theme and character arcs come before it, but creating a whole new world is such a thrilling thing. Like...there can be ANYTHING there.

    I recently "redesigned" the central "city" of my world, and I added a formal name for it then a nickname used only by the inhabitants. It made everything feel so much more real.

    Thank you for this awesome list of questions! <3

    audrey caylin

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    1. Yes world-building is AWESOME. Often when I world-build I come up with new character ideas, or the cultures add depth to my MCs, but definitely, characters should come first. :)

      That's great! Nicknames can really bring a city to life. XD

      No problem; happy to help! Thanks so much for commenting Audrey! <3

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  6. This is so thought-provoking! I'm definitely going to consider these questions when I create a complex fantasy world!

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    1. Oh I'm so glad Lila! :) Thanks so much for commenting!

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  7. This is so smart and helpful! Soon after finishing my current work, my sisters and I are going to write a series of fairytale retellings and this will be so helpful! <3
    Thanks for the post! xox

    Anna - www.worldthroughherheart.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Anna! :D Ooh that sounds great; I can't wait to hear more about the story. I'm glad this list will be able to help you! <3 Thank you so much for commenting!

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  8. Wow, thanks! I never really thought about doing this with my cities (granted, I'm an awful worldbuilder!)(I enjoy it, but I'm very bad at getting a good picture in my head of what things look like), so this is really helpful. Thanks so much!

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    1. Oh I'm sure you're not awful Julian! We all have aspects of writing we struggle with, but that doesn't make us bad. :) Happy I could be of help to you though! Thanks so much for commenting! :D

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    2. Just as a by the way, I tagged you over on my blog. I hope you don't mind! If you would like tags/not like tags, just let me know!

      https://juliandaventrymemories.blogspot.com/2017/07/the-early-writing-tag.html

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    3. Thanks Julian! I don't mind tags so long as I don't get buried in them, haha! I'll go check it out right now. :)

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  9. I love world-building!!!!!! I never used to like it, but I love the little details that started coming to me over time. So now it's definitely one of my favorite things in writing. I'll have to come back to this list and use some of the questions for my cities/towns/villages.

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    1. Yes, a fellow world-building enthusiastic! *high fives* The small details are often the best, as they truly bring the setting to life! :) I'm glad you liked the questions, and thank you so much for commenting Sarah!

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    2. Oh, I hope you don't mind, but I tagged you for the Cookies and Books tag over on my blog. If you want to do it, of course!

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    3. That's no problem, Sarah, thank you! I'll go check it out now. :D

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  10. This is such a helpful post, and I'll definitely be asking myself these questions next time I'm creating a fictional city! I'd say creating cities is probably one of my favourite things to do when world-building - there's always so much going on in them as opposed to the countryside! :)

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    1. Thanks Laura! I'm glad you think so. :) Definitely, cities are so full of life and sparkling with lots of exciting nuances. Country-sides can be nice, but they're not as complex, sadly. XD I'm a real city girl haha! Thank you so much for commenting!

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  11. OOh, I loved these questions. I'm planning a fantasy series for later this year (at leas,t outlining/writing the first book which is exciting. The first book is going to feature a city quite heavily, and it's goign to be mostly based on trade, with an interesting dynamic because her father, who she's with grew up there, but the main character didn't. I'm so into this story. And there is going to be a big magical monument nearby...I just can't decide if it's a river or a forest or something else. Anyway, these are great questions. thanks for sharing!

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    1. Aw thanks, I'm glad you think so Shanti! :D That does sound like an interesting dynamic! There are so many opportunities with trade and cities, so I'm excited to hear more about it as you develop it further. XD Thanks so much for commenting!

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  12. This is a really good post! I'm going to be developing a city soon for my NaNo novel. I'm trying my hand at adult sci-fi.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Oooh that sounds awesome! I look forward to hearing more about it. :) Thank you for commenting Victoria! XD

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  13. This post is awesome just like whole your blog! Your posts help mi a lot, there are so inspiring.
    Sorry for my bad english and greetings from Poland. :D

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    1. Thanks a lot! :) I'm glad my posts and blog can help you out! Your English is fine, no worries. Greetings from Australia, and thank you for commenting!

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