Monday, October 8, 2012

Fantasy Chat: Worldbuilding Series: Rules and Laws


Worldbuilding Series: Rules and Laws

Click here to read the first in our series: The World and Maps
Click here to read the second in our series: Populating the World
Click here to read the third in our series: Cultures and Languages
Click here to read the fourth in our series: History

Everything must come at a price, and characters learn that the hard way in our novels.

Rules and laws not only dictate our characters' world but also can create conflict for our characters. Often times in fantasy, there are supreme rulers of a land that create such rules. Magic is often ruled by laws and guidelines. Governmental rules often play a large part in dystopians.

But what kind of rules should you consider when creating your world?

It depends on the novel. Lots of fantasies have magic. Who has magical abilities? Are there rules and laws against using it or not? For example, in Harry Potter, underage wizards can't use magic while not in school. This creates quite a mess for Harry who often needs his magic at all times. A bit closer to home, my The Phoenix Prophetess novel has a rule about who has magical abilities. Only those of royal descent have magical powers, and those powers only manifest themselves when they turn eighteen years of age. You should see how that affects my main character.

When creating rules and laws, I often like to think what will make my character's life even harder than it is now. Think of your own rules around the house, your state, your country and how they affect your every day life. For example, there is a law against speeding. Just think of the consequences of what might can happen if you go against that law and get caught. Using ordinary rules can be modified for something extraordinary. What if your characters ride broomsticks to travel, but can't do it between sunrise and sunset? And sunrise is only a few minutes away. Chaos and conflict will ensue, and stories thrive on conflict.

Have you created any rules or laws to govern your characters?

And, folks, this is the end of the Worldbuilding Series. I hope you enjoyed it and perhaps learned something new.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think I used more rules in my first book than in the second or third. Although the last one includes intergalactic politics, which always complicate things!

M.J. Fifield said...

This is a cool series. And definitely things anyone writing fantasy needs to keep in mind.

Unknown said...

Although I love reading about alternative worlds, my character does not live in one.

Great comment on the role of rules and laws for our characters.

Nicole said...

A good end to a great series! I love all the worldbuilding advice. Rules and laws are definitely something I incorporate in my work.

Christine Rains said...

Interesting post. And it's been a great series! I like putting big rules or laws to try to control my characters. Like magic is illegal or only licensed people can use it.

Lindsey Duncan said...

Great post! Rules and laws really are crucial for magic in particular. I think I'd make a distinction between governmental / society laws, where there are consequences for breaking them, and (for lack of a better term just now!) "natural" laws, where it's an immutable part of the world and there's no way around them (usually!).

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Particularly with magic I think it's important to set rules because magic by nature seems so 'free', and we all know nothing is wholly free. Adding limits would enhance the realism to an otherwise unrealistic element.

Golden Eagle said...

Yes. My first novel was full of rules and laws, due to the government having a big influence on the life of the characters.

This has been an awesome series! :)

Cathy Keaton said...

Great series, Cherie!

I don't know that I've created rules for my world building, although I might realize I've done it unintentionally if I thought about it. But, I agree that rules must be maintained or the credibility of any story will go out the window.

Unknown said...

Great stuff to remember. My main rule for my books right now is the power of belief. When a character believes without doubt that something can be done, then it can be done. But with zero doubt...that's the tricky part.

Unknown said...

Most of my rules revolve around magic systems more than anything else. I feel that people can forgive a flaw in political law, but they'll not forgive a failing in magical law. An excellent series!


Trisha said...

My world-building never seems to happen systematically. Little ideas pop into my head randomly as I go along. Sometimes it means I have to go back and change what I've already written.

Elise Fallson said...

Oh my, I so need to catch up on the rest of these series! Yes, I have rules in my novel too, mainly about magic and some vampire laws too.

Samantha May said...

I had to be careful of how far I tried to stretch the rules. My novel is set in a fictional southern town in the 80s, so there were some rules that I could bend and some I could not. A very tricky situation ;)

sjp said...

great point about considering ordinary laws and how they apply :)

Unknown said...

Okay, this post made me have some horrific memories from writing the book I recently fininished. It was so much fun to write and completely worth it, but establishing the magical rules upfront so I would be prepared for the rest of the series was very difficult.
Having a firm understanding pf your rules in your world is so important. This is a great topic.

I'm really enjoyin your blog. I am following you now over at

Thanks for the great post :)