Brainstorming Series: Politics & Government

Establishing your fictional government

If you have a society of any kind within your story, chances are there is some form of government. It might be a relatively new group of rebels trying to settle a home, or it might be a millennia-old empire.

Now, if you’re like me, grasping the formation and nuances of politics is really hard. I’m pretty sure I slept through most of my polisci classes in college and I definitely barely scraped by with a C. Unfortunately, even those of us who are polisci-indifferent often have to consider the impact of government within the stories we write.

So after some research and consultation, I have what I hope will be a thorough and helpful post. I try to balance my questions for both fantasy and scifi worlds, so if a question simply doesn’t apply to your world, feel free to skip it.

First, read a brief bit on forms of government. Here’s another focused more on fiction writing. Always a good place to start. Read it? Good. And keep in mind as your begin to formulate your government for your story, that most functioning governments anymore are a combination of two or more systems, not strictly adherent to one. Intro to polisci…check!

(I should mention that I’m not covering anarchy in this post. But this is a solid, exhaustive look at anarchy. Have fun.)

Then, shift your focus to your world. (Forget the real world. It’s lame anyway.)

First:  Will your fictional government be corrupt or just?

Then:

Structure

  • If there is a single figurehead or most-powerful entity, what is his/her title?
  • How many people make up the ruling body?
  • How did those in power rise to power?
  • How is power transitioned?
  • How is power maintained?
  • How balanced or divided is the hierarchy? What aspect determines a person’s placement within the hierarchy? (Money, Family, Education, etc)
  • How is the government primarily funded? What does it prioritize in its budget?
  • How did the government originally form? Did it grow organically from a tiny village or was it torn away from another country and established by rebels?

Domestic Policy

  • Does smaller, local government exist under the national umbrella? How do they relate to one another? How much power does local government have?
  • What is the money system based on? How valuable is the base piece of currency?
  • How much of an influence/role does religion have in government?
  • How much of a hand in day-to-day affairs does the government have?
  • What offices/schools/resources does the government fund or directly control?
  • How managed is the education system?
  • How important or ubiquitous is literacy?
  • How managed is the healthcare system? How physically or monetarily accessible is healthcare?
  • How does the ruling person or group address the average citizens?
  • What balance is there between freedom and safety?
  • How responsible is any given citizen held for the well-being of his neighbor?
  • How are citizens kept safe, or kept feeling safe?
  • How is food production maintained or overseen?
  • How is energy production managed and regulated?
  • How are surplus goods handled (saved, exported, destoryed)?
  • Are drugs or stimulants regulated? How?
  • How is magic managed? How are those possessing magic seen and treated by the government?
  • How do different classes, castes, or races feel about they are treated by the government (in relation to other classes, castes, or races)?
  • How regulated is exploration and discovery?
  • How much of a right does the average citizen have to be informed? Is information free?

Foreign Policy

  • What is the hierarchy of national powers within your world?
  • How are the borders managed, if at all?
  • How powerful is your nation’s currency throughout the world?
  • How is diplomacy handled between nations?
    • What are current relationships like? How long have they been that way?
    • Do international embassies or some equivalent exist?
    • How often to rulers meet between nations?
    • How publicized are meetings and general relations between countries?
  • Do different nations work together in science, exploration, and discovery? Do they compete?
  • How warlike is your nation? Are they going to attempt diplomacy for a long time or jump straight to war?
  • How is money treated between nations? How large a factor are imports and exports? Who regulates them?
  • How is jurisdiction handled in criminal cases? Who gets the final say?
  • How focused is your country on the outside world, if at all?
  • What does your country fear the most from other nations? How is that fear handled?

Other things:

Happy writing!

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