I would hope by now I’ve made it obvious that I write political fantasy. The politics of the world I’m building is usually the aspect I focus on the most. Talking about governments, the current issues, and its significant history is where my mind usually goes when I start building a world. Talking about fantasy politics have also done wonders for the false perception people have of me being smart. How did that happen?
A Society Divided
Having spent time making sure the culture of one nation is not a monolith or giving a religion different sects/branches or contradictory beliefs or imagining a history lives room to naturally breed conflict. That’s all anyone needs to create a political situation in their story. The history of the Republic of Abenland might not be immediately relevant to my main plot, but the aftermath is and so is how it frames some character’s minds on the current political situation of the area.
To create politics all you need to do is create the opportunity for characters to have different opinions on the governance of their area or something that would spark parties or fractions.
It’s really simple but also very nice when someone actually says they’re impressed by it. Under this bubble, I’ll just list some stuff people within in the same community could have potential political conflict about.
- Who’s in charge. (The most obvious clearly but we love a simple argument)
- What they call themselves. (This alludes to something I’ll go into further. Remember Oskya and Gegra, my fictional countries? Due to a portion of land they’ve both owned back and forth like every ten years, the people in that area get to choose if they consider themselves more Oskyan or Gegraen. Often)
- What religious or other powerful group holds dominance.
- Building relationships with other communities.
- All things dealing with money.
- Who ensures they have clean water or streetlights, or just community maintenance.
- Changing, getting rid of, or creating new traditions.
And beyond coming up with a conflict like for instance the popular “the people are rebelling” also make sure to come up with why. There are likely a hundred reasons. It’s probably best not to name all of them but people should have a variety of reasons for backing the same thing. This adds to the whole “not a monolith” thing. This gives characters and even the background people more of a life without dragging on endlessly about them. It gives the world more of an essence of being real if everyone in it doesn’t all think the same thing.
I don’t think these necessarily need to only be inside issues but hey. It fit under this tab. Moving on.
Me, You, and the Continent Too
Forging relationships with other nations or communities is a great way to talk about how those cultures interact with each other and also presents the perfect opportunity to discuss what might make them clash (thus insert some seamless exposition) or where they might mix. And remember, it’s not like borders are like closed doors. On the lines where one place becomes another, what’s it like?
When I’m writing my own book a lot of my attention goes to the alliances and relationships one of my countries has with its neighbors or ones far away from it. I don’t like isolating their history to just within where they drew their lines on maps. Giving them relationships and a past with their surroundings makes me feel grounded in the setting and gives me ideas for misconceptions or assumptions one character might have about another based on what they would have been told about where that character is from.
A lot of inspiration for conflict comes from who owns what when it comes to land or things like war or inner conflicts spilling over borders and upsetting another person in power or maybe country a just wants what country b has for no reason at all.
Who are the key players? The newcomers? The ones who seem to be involved in everything that makes up current events or recent history? Who are the peacekeepers? The ones who stay out of absolutely every little thing?
I think it’s also important to note why some countries would have such a strong bond with each other or would have the complete opposite of that. In my book, Escan and Oskya have grown so powerful and so close despite being so far from each other because the monarchs of both nations were childhood companions and came into power under circumstances no one would have guessed. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been raised together. Even if it’s not story relevant I think it’s good to know as a writer why some countries have alliances with each other or don’t especially if the plot holds any political intrigue because the why frames the interactions or how actually lasting said alliance (or hatred, you do you) is.