World-building: Creating a political system


1. Know on which real-life system(s) it’s based

  • Is it a bureaucracy, monarchy, democracy etc? Maybe it’s a combination.
  • Research different political systems and I promise that great ideas will come to you.
  • Plus, once you’ve decided which model your system is based on, it’s a good idea to make sure you understand the ins-and-outs of that model.
  • Hand-in-hand with this is understanding the way the economical sphere is structured in your world. Does the country have a feudal, capitalist, communist or socialist system? Once you know, you can do enough research to understand how the economy would influence your characters’ lives and how trade would occur.

2. Draft a mini Constitution

  • Does your country/kingdom have something like a Constitution? You should know which values are entrenched in it, which rights your people have and how governmental power is structured.
  • I’m not saying you should go ahead and create a 300 page Constitution, but having a rough outline of what it would contain can really help you to understand the political system. 
  • Examples of things you can include in your Constitution: Parliamentary system, hierarchies of government, legal system, voting procedures, entrenched rights, age restrictions on holding certain positions etc. (Look up a few Constitutions and you’ll get the general idea)
  • Even if your world doesn’t have a true Constitution, it will probably have some type of document setting out how the power structures work. Or perhaps it’s just unspoken or there’s a custodian of the laws. Whatever is applicable to your world, you need to understand how the politics work well enough to draft a mini Constitution.

3. Is there separation of powers?

  • Does your world have a legislature, executive and judiciary? Are there other organs of state with specific powers. Does the power of the law and the State rest with a single person? Is there an artisan council that decides on specific aspects?
  • Basically: does all the governmental powers vest in one person (with a few advisers) or is there separation in functions and personnel between the different branches of government?
  • Knowing this will help you understand who can make which decisions.
  • Having no separation of powers can also be a great way to create a dystopian government and introduce conflict.
  • Separation of powers is also definitely something you should include in your Constitution.

4. Determine the role of religion

  • Historically (and even today), religious institutions and leaders had great influence on the politics of the world. Therefore, it’s important to know how much control high-ranking religious officials have in your world.
  • Maybe the “church” is the political authority. Maybe you have a completely secular state. Maybe religion isn’t supposed to play a big role, but your world leader is prone to seeking spiritual guidance. Figure it out.
  • This is also a great source of political conflict/corruption if you’re looking for a way to structure a dystopian world.

5. Does the true power lie with your leader?

  • Is the King/President/Whoever Leads truly the one pulling the strings? Or are they merely a figure head playing a ceremonial role?
  • Oftentimes, the real decision-makers aren’t the public faces. And this will play a huge role in the political decisions made in your world. It’s once again also a good source of conflict/abuse of power.
  • This could also impact who the ultimate villain/hero is in your story. So, it’s a pretty important thing to know.

I hope that this helped spark some ideas in terms of creating a political system. If you have any questions about this topic (or any aspect of creative writing), my inbox and asks are always open.

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