Three Quick Tips for Writing Governments

Time for another session of The Servant Writer, here to pass along useful tidbits of writing knowledge. Despite it being near the end of May, there are no final exams, and no tardy slips–especially since I’d have a huge collection for being so late on this installment! My apologies. I’ve been working on a new draft of the urban fantasy, which might very well be the final one. Hah! Plus, as a teacher, I have plenty of actual final exams to deal with.

Now, without further ado, here is another excerpt from:


Chapter 3 – Government

Government. To some the savior of civilization, to others a dirty word, but by all counts a necessary part of culture-building. The kind of government you choose will directly affect how your culture will behave, and so after religion, government is the next important building block.

Now, the idea of making a government can seem intimidating. A quick Google search yields a bewildering array of choices and of course there are countless of variations and details. Ignore them. Remember, you’re not building a massive infrastructure. You are building only what you need to help your plot make sense. You can always make up more things later as required. That being said? For a stripped-down list of governments with definitions, go here.

Three Quick Tips for Government Systems

1.) Ask not what you can do for your government, but what your government can do for you. Feel free to use any system that works for you and your story needs: socialism, capitalism, Communism, tribalism, etc. Unless you’re making this book a platform to push your own political agenda, leave your existing ideologies at the door. Think of what best suits your plot. What does your civilization need to work in a manner that will help your plot progress?

2.) The government governs best that gets in the way as much as possible. Like or not, the system of government in place has a huge effect on characters and situations. Don’t be afraid to have your chosen government system play havoc with your characters goals – and try to take fresh examples, instead of just “we need to blow it up/overthrow the government” which is so popular in dystopian fiction. For example, in Touch of Color, the Scepter of Knowledge is run by an intellectual oligarchy and the only way to petition them is through documented certificates of educational achievement. Since they aren’t oppressing anyone (knowledge is free), instead of grabbing a weapon, my country-girl heroine has to navigate ridiculously huge libraries and solve complex riddles.

3.) Feel free to mix and match government systems. It can be really easy to find yourself falling into stereotypes. Medieval or primitive setting? Go for a monarchy. Futuristic? Try something repressive, such as Communism. Instead, dare to think outside the box. How about Communism/militarism in a quasi-medieval setting? Maria V. Snyder did it in Poison Study, to excellent effect. Futuristic? Why not a theocracy? Maybe one involving a pantheon of gods, like Battlestar Galactica’s reuse of Greek mythology. Or what about a peaceful anarchy? A post-government society that doesn’t involve violence or retribution. H.G. Wells tried it in The Time Machine with the Eloi. Granted, they had a rather unsavory relationship with the Morlocks, but still, it’s a different perspective.

Thanks for tuning in! For more information, please check out my page on World-Building From the Inside Out!

4 thoughts on “Three Quick Tips for Writing Governments

  1. I like the idea of mixing up stereotypes! Good things to ponder here. 🙂 My book’s world has a monarchy/oligarchy of sorts, and I haven’t thought it through as much as I should.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you found it helpful. It’s funny how how governments can be overlooked in fiction, considering what a big role they can play in Real Life — even with things like annual taxes. A monarchy/oligarchy sounds intriguing!

      1. The world in the book is ruled by a king, but he doesn’t have a lot of power; he has a team of 16 advisors who are elected by the people and make most of the laws and such. But it’s been so long since I thought that through – I really should examine it again and worldbuild a little more deeply. 🙂

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