Building A Fictional World: Population

Deciding on the population of a fictional world is important to the overall development of a good story.

For some ideas for your people, think about your own physical location.  Are there different ethnicities represented?  If so, then how do the people react to each other.

What clothing styles do your characters wear daily?  Every society has a style that is reflective of most of its members. 

You must take into consideration the cultures and religious beliefs as well.

Does your character belong to a group that must wear a specific uniform?

Populating your world needs more detail than just “there are five races of people that John sees as he walks to work.”

For the world to take on a feel of realism, you must think about it in real terms.

Think about the area of the world you live in right now.  How many races do you see daily?  What are some of the different cultures that you interact with at your job?  What makes each group or culture stand out from the other group or culture next to them?

Let’s dive into a few of the details your writing must cover in order to get your fictional world populated.

Physical Attributes

What physical attributes do your people have that makes them different from other races or cultures in the same world?

Do you have a race of people that are tall and athletic that make a good warrior race, or are your people short and strong ideally to work underground in tunnels?

Are your cities built above or below ground?

Is the climate in your city cold or hot?

These are important questions to answer when you are developing your race.

If your people are outside in the sun all day every day, their skin type is likely to be tan and leathery, whereas people who live and work primarily underground may have a pale appearance.

When you are deciding on your physical attributes, it is also important to consider what the culture is known for as a whole.

While you will always have some outliers in every culture, your main workforce may look very similar.

A warrior race will likely be very muscular because of physical training required but an intellectual race that uses primarily technology may be thinner with less muscle mass.

Physical attributes of importance to a warrior society in your fictional population.

Other attributes you may consider are physical abilities or disabilities that your race or culture might have.

If your race lives primarily underground, your character might have better eyesight in a dark area while being at a disadvantage when above ground in the sunlight.

Just as people in the real world have evolved to adapt to the living conditions in the world, so must your fictional races.

If your world is set in a frigid setting, your character would have difficulty adapting to a desert climate if they travel to another world or area that is primarily arid.

They can, of course, adapt, but that adaption would take a little time and some possible change in how they dress.

For example, a person who lives at sea level might have trouble adapting to the lower oxygen levels of the mountainous areas.  While they certainly can adapt, it will take time, and your character may be vulnerable for a period.

Clothing Styles

Every era in history had their own clothing styles.  While many of us would not be caught dead wearing the corset that women were forced to wear in the 1800s, at the time, it was considered an essential part of the female closet.

If you are writing a historical fictional story, it is important that you research the details of the clothing that people wore during the period.

If your fictional world is purely fictional, then you can design clothing to be whatever you want it to be for the different cultures.  Taking this into consideration, you still must be consistent with the styles throughout your story.

Does your story involve tradesmen guilds?  Do these guilds wear a specific uniform that quickly identifies which guild they belong to when walking down the street? 

Groups inside your population might dress alike in order to be identified more easily.

If the answer is yes, then all guilds must have an identifiable difference in their uniform that makes them stand out.

If the population of your fictional world all wear contemporary clothing, then you probably shouldn’t have one person who walks down the street in Elizabethan era clothing unless you can explain why.  For example, there is a costume party that the character is going to attend.

Each culture will have variations of clothing that they wear in general.  Military cultures will wear more formal military uniforms.  Farming cultures will wear clothing more suited to working outside in the elements.

When deciding on clothing, it is always best to first decide what your culture does and what climate they live in on a day to day basis.

Food Sources

Your fictional characters will need to have primary food sources.

A race of people that are vegetarians will have a farming-based society that lives near water and rich soil to grow food to feed the people.

A farming society would have ways to grow crops for your population.

If you design your race of people to be meat-eaters, then they would live near areas conducive to hunting game.

Some races will have both vegetarians and meat-eaters, and that would require them to live where both types of food are available to either be grown or hunted.

The population of a fictional world that lives underground would have limited availability of hunting targets so they might be more likely to eat root vegetables that grow underground.

When you develop a fishing society, they will live near water. Therefore, fish and seafood would probably be their source of food.

As you design your fictional world, it is always important to determine what they eat to determine what types of trades are derived from acquiring the food as well as what environment they live in daily.

Tradecrafts

Each society has its own types of tradecrafts.  It is important to develop trades and groups that benefit the type of society you create.

A warrior race would have tradecrafts that center around a warlike notion.  You would have armor and weaponsmiths.  You might have fighting guilds that specialize in archery or swordsmanship.

A more contemporary take on the warrior guilds might be tank controllers and drone controllers.  Each specialized in its own way.

When you develop a farming society, your tradecrafts would more likely be those that grow foods and those who raise animals. You would also need craftsmn to develop and build the different types of tools needed for each.

Even a society that uses magic would have tradecrafts designed to facilitate it.  You would have those who research and archive.  You might have tradesmen that carve runes or sell potion ingredients.  There would be a need for teachers to teach youngsters how to wield magic.

Magic teacher in your fictional world population.

Each society you create must take these things into consideration.

What do you do if your society needs to trade with other societies in order to get the things they need?  A warlike society might need to trade with a farming society in order to get food for the troops.  They would also trade with a mining society to get the metals needed for their weapons.

Your society doesn’t necessarily have to have every craft available, but if they do not, then they need craftsmen trained to get the things they need to use but cannot get on their own.

Religion

Most societies and cultures have a belief system that they adhere to in general.  They inherently believe in something whether it is a mystical being or a living being that is in a place of prominence.

Some societies have a mystical being, such as God or even Gods.  These societies usually believe that an omnipotent being created their world, and it is purely based on the faith that this being exists.

Your fictional population should consider religion as part of the belief system.

Other societies believe in a living being that is all-knowing and who sets down all the laws and traditions that the society must abide by daily.

A society that believes in the living entity must have traditions that allow for the succession of that being in the event of death.

The population of your fictional world might also either be monotheistic or polytheistic.  This society will have a main god and lesser gods in their hierarchy.

Even if you decide that your world is atheist, there is some type of belief system that the people adhere to, whether it is a supreme ruler or ruling power such as a computer-based technology that rules that society.

The people must believe that someone or something has power to follow it into battle or follow the laws it or they hand down.

If your society believes in nothing at all, there would be chaos with everyone making up laws or rules as they go along.

Why This Is All Important

How your people live daily, what they believe, how they dress, and how they feed the population of your fictional world i important because these things will tell you how your character and his/her friends fit within the world.

No character lives in a vacuum where there are no other people that exist or have existed in the past; otherwise, you have no story to tell.

Even a post-apocalyptic world had a back-story as to how the past world ended, leaving just the remnants of a world today.

Taking a little time to flesh out your cultures and societies will mean the difference between writing a plain story or writing a great story.