Town & City Development Questions

So you want to create a town or city to set your story in, or maybe you're trying to populate a whole world full of towns and cities. Here's a list of questions to ask yourself when developing your town and city.

Before we begin, there are a few very important things to bear in mind. Boredom and dissatisfaction in general is often at the root of many criminal behaviors. People who are bored (which is easy to be if there's nothing around to do, or if you're too poor to afford what there is) and dissatisfied (which is easy to be if you can't afford nice things other people commonly have) are more likely to join gangs or get into other kinds of trouble.

Likewise, the people who are most likely to turn to substance abuse (and potentially get into all of the trouble related to it) are those who are bored out of their skulls or have problems that they can't otherwise escape. Read Rat Park and Other Children's Stories for more information.

People and groups who are distrusted or held in low regard by those who hold most of the wealth and political influence will be less likely to get to get high-paying jobs, contributing to the above. And schools attended primarily by distrusted or poorly regarded people may be given less funding or sponsorship, meaning that graduates often won't have the qualifications to work in higher-paying jobs.

So when it comes to the relevant questions, always factor these in. Now, onto the questions!

  • When was it founded? Who founded it?
  • What's the local climate and biome like? What's the geography like? What about the geology?
  • What racial and ethnic groups comprise the population? What percentage of the total population comprises of each group?
  • Which religous groups comprise its population? What percentage of the total population comprises of each group?
  • In which parts do the wealthiest people live, shop, and work? What about the middle class? What about the poor?
  • What are some notable places to shop and eat that cater to lower class people? What about to middle class people? Upper class people? Who owns and manages these places?
  • Are there parts of it that are heavily populated by certain racial, ethnic, or religious demographics? If so, how did it come to be this way?
  • Which groups are considered strange, unsavory, or suspicious by its "upstanding" or "respectable" citizens? Why? How do the people viewed thus see the "upstanding" or "respectable" citizens?
  • Who are the biggest employers, and what kind of businesses or industries do they run? What types of people work for for these employers, and in what positions? How much does the economy depend on these employers?
  • Are the jobs provided by the biggest employers likely to remain stable in the long term, or will resources soon run out or demand for the product decrease dramatically for one reason or another?
  • What are the highest-paying jobs around? What are the lowest-paying jobs around? Which ones are in the middle?
  • Which demographics most often end up working which jobs and for which level of pay? Why is it this way?
  • Is there any correlation between race, ethnicity, or religion and overall net worth, even if actual income is about the same? If so, why is it that way?
  • What schools are there? What demographics make up the student body of each one? How well-run and organized is each school? What is the quality of education at each school? Why is it this way?
  • What hospitals, clinics, or equivalent are there? What types of people go to each one? How well-run and organized are they? What quality of health care can people expect to receive from them?
  • How religious are its various demographics overall? Where, if anywhere, do they go to hold services, meetings, or rituals pertaining to their faiths?
  • Where do the locals get their news? What types of local newspapers, TV channels, radio stations, or websites does it have? Or if these things do not exist, are people limited to a notice board or word of mouth?
  • What types of transport are used by citizens? What types of people are most likely to use which?
  • How efficient is the police force or equivalent law enforcement system?
  • Are there certain types of crime that the police (or equivalent) will put little, if any effort into solving? Why?
  • Will the police often overlook or put little effort into solving certain types of crime if the people were involved were members of certain demographics? Why?
  • Does any organized or syndicated crime go on? If so, how much, and what it's about? What kinds of people are involved in it?
  • What types of crime are the most prevalent? Why?
  • In which parts does the most crime occur? Why?
  • How much substance abuse goes on? What types of substances are the most commonly abused, and by which groups? Which demographics are the most prevalent substance abusers? Why?
  • How much gambling goes on? How much of it is legal? How much is illegal? Which demographics are the most likely to gamble over what? Which demographics are the most likely to gamble, period? Why is it this way?
  • Has any crime garnered national attention? If so, what was it?
  • What efforts have been taken to keep certain crimes or criminal activity from occurring? How well do they work?
  • Are there any notable local ordinances? Are there any that are downright ridiculous? Are there any that are just plain odd? Are there any that are so weird, ridiculous, or outdated that nobody bothers to enforce them?
  • Who is the mayor, or equivalent? Who all is in charge of running it? What kind of people are they? How well do they do their jobs, all things considered? Is there any notable amount of corruption that goes on?
  • What local venues, if any, offer fun and entertainment? What types of patrons do they cater to and/or attract? Or is there such a dearth of decent places to go that people would often find themselves having to look elsewhere for fun?
  • Does it have any parks? What are they like? What kinds of people most often visit them?
  • Does it have any museums? If so, what do these museums display? What kinds of people do they attract?
  • Is there a library? How big is it? What kind of books does it have? Where is the library located?
  • Does it have any festivals, holidays, or events unique to itself? If so, what are they? What are they about? How did they start?
  • Does it have any other local culture, EG, food, music, clothes, etc. that originated there? Who invented it? How well-known is it to non-locals?
  • Does it have any sports teams? What do they play, and how well do they play? How much are people invested in their team or teams?
  • Are there any notable subcultures living there? How large are they? How are they perceived by other people not in these subcultures?
  • Are there any social clubs? If so, what are they like?
  • Does it contain any locations considered historical? If so, why are they considered historical?
  • Is there anything that attracts tourists? If so, how much tourism occurs? How many people make a living off of it?
  • Does it have have stores, restaurants, or attractions that are famous outside of it? How many people come to visit them? From how far away?
  • What are the oldest buildings around? What are the newest? Who built them?
  • Are there any places that are utterly run down, if not abandoned? If so, why did this happen?
  • Are there any places that have been recently renovated and renewed? If so, why did this happen?
  • Does anyone famous live there? Has anyone famous ever come from there? What did or does that person or people do?

You might also like:

"I Need A Name For My Town/City!" - Help Coming Up With Names For Fictional Towns And Cities
Country-Development Questions
Points To Remember When Worldbuilding

Fantasy & Science Fiction Creature Development Questions
Tips To Write Better & More Believable Cover Ups
Worldbuilding-Relevant Generator Index

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