Five Aspects to Consider When Building a Settlement



Whether it be a corporate-owned statelet in a dystopian future or a small and homely farming village in a high fantasy setting, settlements can serve as a good way to start when one wants to begin building a world. But starting such a process is never so simple, and writers might find themselves struggling. Have no fear, for this short and sweet list is here to help, with suggestions and examples to spare!

  1. The Settlement’s History.

    Before a writer can focus on the present day affairs of a settlement, they should start with building up its history. How was it founded? Is this a new settlement, or one whose roots were set long ago? How far the writer goes into these details is completely up to them, but building up a settlement’s past can lead to some interesting story hooks for the future!

  2. How the Settlement is Governed.

    Another aspect to focus on is how your settlement goes about governing itself. Maybe the government isn’t located out in the open, but rather underground - where a dangerous guild of thieves pulls the strings. Perhaps you’d prefer a totalitarian king and his noble family grinding their heel into the common folk. Does your government impose a curfew? Do soldiers march up and down the streets because people are unhappy with how things are run? The list goes on, but as you continue to build up your ideas, consider how heavily the government influences your settlement.

  3. Where your Settlement is Located.

    Location is an important cornerstone for any settlement, as it can help an author determine its culture. Maybe it’s a series of intertwining tunnels carved out of the side of an active volcano, or perhaps your sci-fi story takes place inside a large colony-ship drifting through space.

  4. Your Settlement’s Resources.

    How loaded is your settlement? Do they have a bountiful amount of material wealth and live everyday as if there were blue skies? Or do people scrounge around and engage in seedy activities because supplies are scarce? Maybe whoever founded this settlement didn’t build near enough natural resources, and now they have to turn to their neighbours to make due. Speaking of which...

  5. Settlement’s Relationship with Neighbours.

    Is your city at war? No? Phew, good to hear, but remember some settlements might be! Regardless of the reason, having settlements with a patchy relationship could make for an interesting story. That being said, other settlements have completely peaceful relationships, engaging in lucrative trade and maybe even arranging marriages. The motivations behind “why” is secondary and totally up to you, but stop to consider how your settlement might interact with others.


Daniel Neubauer

Daniel is a second-year student of the Professional Writing Program at Algonquin College with a terrible sense of humour and an interest in all sorts of music. Whether it be due to raw talent or absolute dumb luck, he’s somehow made it this far and is ready to subject more unsuspecting students to his opinions.