5 Tips – Organizations


5 World Building Tips (Vol 3, #2): Organizations

Here are today’s world building tips! The theme is Organizations. You can read more in Chapter 2, “Creating Organizations,” from Cultures and Beyond, (The Art of World Building, #3).

Tip #1: “What Do They Want?”

Every group wants something, so decide whether they want to control an object, possess land, hold power, uphold philosophical ideas, or something else. Not knowing what they want and why makes for an unconvincing group. We also don’t understand what will drive them, upset them, or make them go too far when thwarted. A goal is everything.

Tip #2: “Decide Who Their Friends and Enemies Are”

It’s too simplistic to decide that an organization operates without allies and enemies. Whether individuals, species, kingdoms, or other groups, those connections decide who they are. We sometimes must create those other groups first, but circle back and finish this connection. It will pay off.

Tip #3: “Create a Power Structure”

Does power rest with a committee or a single strong man? Is that strength physical or supernatural? Knowing who’s really in power and why helps us create tension within the group. Otherwise, they seem to just get along with each other too well. Tension is a story’s lifeblood, so don’t overlook threats to those in power and how it can taken away, and by who.

Tip #4: “How Do People Join or Leave?”

Can people leave this group or are they murdered for trying? What do they lose if leaving? How do they join? What must they do to be accepted or remain? This can add tension for members, who may be tempted away by other characters in our story.

Tip #5: “Create a History”

An organization has people with a shared viewpoint, so what events caused them to band together? What ideas drive people to them? This can be the rise or fall of an idea or government that they miss or want to oppose. Leverage other historical events already in the setting, by creating a group (or two) who dislikes what’s happened.

Summary of Chapter 2—Creating Organizations

Organizations for good or evil are a staple of both fantasy and SF. This chapter discusses both group types and their world views, plus common traits like goals, enemies, friends, and their source of (and quest for) power. How members join and leave such groups is an important element, as some organizations might prevent or inhibit departure. Prerequisites can also bind a member to the group. The history and actions of a group are an important part of its reputation.

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