Creating (And Breaking) Rules

Last week I posted a blog on creating fictional societies using the cause-and-effect method. This week we’ll be discussing how to create fictional governing systems. 

This will be a two-part blog (at least) so be sure to join my newsletter so you won’t miss the next installment of this series.

Governments are the result of a growing society. After all, rules are only necessary when there are people around that could/would break them.

Questions To Consider

Just like we did last week with creating a society, we can use a simple method to create a governing system, similar to the cause-and-effect method.

In this case, it’s a matter of asking a lot of questions—and then answering them.

So let’s go ahead and answer the big questions you may have when creating fictional governing systems for your story world: 

  • Why do governments exist/why would people listen to the “people in charge”?
  • How does/could someone receive the “power” to govern others? 
  • What are the different types of governing systems?
  • Why would people allow a government to become tyrannical/what makes people stay under the control of a tyrant?

Finding The Reason

Let’s start with one of the biggest questions.

Question: Why would anyone willingly let someone else tell them what to do?

Answer: They wouldn’t. Not unless they get something in return.

When you’re world-building governments, it’s helpful to ask yourself what exactly the governing system will do for its citizens.

What would the people get in return for following the rules of the person/s governing them? Why is it worth it to be under the control of someone else? What can the government do that citizens can’t do for themselves?

Safety & Protection

Can the governing system keep citizens safe from bandits, neighboring societies, or the occasional dragon attack? Does the governing system have access to weapons and supplies that regular citizens can’t get on their own? Will the governing system build/repair fortifications in and around the society to protect its citizens?

Rights & Law Enforcement 

Will the governing system help out when thieves break into a store, or vandals destroy a merchant’s booth? Will the government do anything if someone copies an inventor’s invention and tries to pass the invention off as their own? Will the government keep the people who work at horse stables from dumping manure into the river? What sort of “rights” do citizens have that the government will protect?

Taxes

If the governing system demands taxes, where does the money (or whatever your society accepts as payment) go? Does it go into hiring people to fix the cobblestone streets in the marketplace? Providing for widows, orphans, and those with disabilities? Funding an army or militia to protect the society?

Production & Distribution 

Does having a governing system make things easier for citizens? Does the government help merchants secure safe passage to and from different societies so that the trading industry can thrive? Does the governing system make it easier (and less risky) to start a business? Are the citizens able to buy or receive all the things they need from other societies and each other?

Communication 

Has the governing system made it possible for citizens to communicate with business partners, family, or other people that live outside of the society? Is there a mailing system or some other sort of communication method that the governing system supports? (Dragon messengers? Ravens? Pigeons? Mail carriers? Technology?)

Education

Does the governing system provide opportunities for citizens or their children to learn? (You may want to figure out what education looks like in your society—whether it includes finding and hiring educators to educate children publicly, or supporting/funding guilds that take on apprentices, or something completely different and unique to your world.)

Health

Does the governing system ensure that medical aid is available to those that need it? Does the governing system employ doctors, healers (or whatever your world considers doctors), or does it simply provide a building or space for them to tend to patients? Do they provide equipment for those who are permanently disabled (canes, prosthetic limbs, etc.)?

Research & Development 

Does the governing system look for ways to improve the quality of life for its citizens? Do they employ researchers, scientists, or scholars to research cures for illnesses, new inventions, and innovations? Are they dedicated to improving infrastructure? Finding solutions for the problems that citizens face? Do they build public libraries? Distribute books or information? Conduct experiments? Or do they fund private companies/industries/individuals that do?

Entertainment

Does the governing system schedule/host holidays, festivals, or feasts? Do they encourage artists and entertainers, or whatever the people in your society deem “acceptable” or “fun”?

Religion

Does the governing system allow all their citizens to have religious freedom, and protect them from any violence that may be directed toward them because of it? Or does the government uphold/support the religion that the majority of its citizens follow? (if the governing system is built around religion then these questions are fairly important.)

How Many Do You Need?

It’s possible that your governing system doesn’t have all ten of these advantages—it may only have/control 2-6 of them—or maybe it has way more than ten incentives!

Either way, your governing system must have some method of keeping the citizens in your society happy (unless you’re intentionally trying to make the citizens unhappy and spark a revolution, of course).

In any case, these are some great questions to start with as you begin creating a government for your fictional world. In the next blog in this series we’ll be discussing the makeup of a government: who’s in charge of your government, why, and how did they get there?

Before You Go…

What is the strangest rule that your fictional society/government created for its citizens to follow?

Let me know in the comments below!

Missed last week’s blog? Read it here!