Worldbuilding for Preptober… The Family Questions

All right, so far I have:

  • An urban-fantasy post-apocalyptic setting, several generations (probably 2-400 years) after a major catastrophe.
  • Magic which is limited in scope but, within that scope can be very powerful. It is only wielded by 5-10% of the population, and only about 10% of them have any formal training. Exactly what it can do is going to depend on the story for the moment, as will how it works.
  • The government of [country] is intrusive, totalitarian, and controlling, although it loses some control in the remote areas. It covers a country approximately the size of Texas. It is not necessarily malevolent but it is intent on being in control.

Places to go from here include:
The Physical World

  • Geography: what sort of place is it? Are there mountains? Lakes? Islands? Oceans? Is it flat and boring? Hilly and gorgey?
  • Climate: How much weather does your main location get, and of what sorts (obviously not an issue on a space ship, unless you want it to be)

The Governmental World

  • How much does the government interfere with people’s day-to-day lives? Do they even notice it?
  • How granular is the government? Are their regional leaders? How far down (state/town/ village?) do the governments go?
  • What are the leaders called and how do they become leader? (Queen, hereditary; Innermost Circle, wealth-boosted meritocracy; President, representative election by proxy votes).

Where I’m going first:
Family life: What is the family structure, and how did it come about?

  • Who did your protagonist(s) grow up with? Is this common?
  • Who is responsible for child-rearing? Education? Punishment? (are children punished?)
  • What age is adulthood?
  • Marriage? Does it exist? How does it relate to child-rearing, if at all?
  • How much is the state involved in the government?
  • Potential family units include:
  • Polygynous: One husband, many wives. Common in fantasy. Not my fave.
  • Polyandrous: One wife, many husbands. (See Wikipedia). An option that intrigues me here is fraternal polyandry.
  • Polygamous: all the spouses, everywhere! Group marriage, in this case, since polygamy covers both of the above options. This includes Line Marriage, a la Heinlein.
  • Single-parent households.
  • Extended families as a household (Addergoole’s Shahin, for instance, grew up in an extended family of her mother, her mother’s sisters, and her mother’s mother).
    …You know, all of these are based on a dual-sexed human species. If you’re going alien… well, you’re well outside of my expertise, but have fun! Five-pointed marriages, anyone?

I’ll note here that what kind of upbringing characters have had will color what they expect out of their life — what partners they may or may not be looking for. Is their family (or their government) going to arrange a marriage for them? How do they feel about that? Are they looking for a partner, three partners, a line marriage to join? It may not be their primary consideration, but even the lack of a consideration is worth a note.

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