Writing a fantasy novel requires world building, a topic I’ve written on and delivered radio shows on in the past. I always advised authors to write a world “bible” – a document that explains the magic of the world, the rules under which the world will operate. Then, like the basic hypocrite so many of us teachers can be, I didn’t bother to do one for my vampire world.
Until now! I used a tool from my strategic management class to define how the world operates. It’s called a PESTEL analysis and it works to explain the factors affecting a specific market. But it works in fantasy worldbuilding, too. Check it out:
P = Political
What are the political factors that affect the world? In Harry Potter this includes the Ministry of Magic and the usurper He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named who attempted to seize power in the wizarding world J.K. Rowling created. For my vampire novel, the politics are murky in the first book but consist of the Brevet who are sacred priests of the Salvia faith. They maintain the Breviary or the sacred text and enforce the rules of the faith. The three vampire lineages are meant to live in harmony with one another.
E = Economic
What are the economic factors that affect the world? This is how people earn a living, pay for goods and services, and maintain households and status. In Star Wars we know there’s a good deal of smuggling and Luke’s uncle was a moisture farmer. In my vampire world, Blue works on a ranch for cash but in Las Vegas he’d been a barback in a strip club; many vampires flock to such professions for their proximity to prey.
S = Sociocultural
What social and cultural rules dominate the world? In Kushiel’s Dart, the society is divided into a caste system with each house having its origins in one of the disciples of their faith’s scion. The system defines how people speak to one another, how they’re educated, and what they expect from life. It was this faith system that inspired me to create my own faith for my vampires.
T = Technology
What technology is available to the world? I set the vampires in the late 90s on purpose. I didn’t want mass use of the internet, social media, or other modern technology to threaten the subversion of imposters or make literary research too available.
E = Ecological
What natural world elements exist in the world? What is the climate like? What weather do the characters suffer? What is the condition of the planet?
L = Legal
What laws are the characters bound by?
This framework can help you fully envision the fantasy world you’re building and create a rulebook that you can reference while building your stories. Whether it’s the elaborate worldbuilding of Tolkien or Rowling, or simply infusion of magic and dragons into the middle ages, fantasy books have governance, social customs, and technology. Figuring out how yours work is a rewarding and challenging undertaking.