Friday, June 2, 2023

Worldbuilding 101 for Writers: Agriculture

by A.C. Williams @ACW_Author

What type of clothing are you wearing right now? Something made from cotton? Maybe polyester? Have you got knitted socks on your feet or shoes made from leather? 

What did you have for breakfast today? How about lunch? Or dinner? Is it something from a local restaurant or a chain? Or maybe you visited your local farmer’s market and bought a bunch of fresh produce from a neighbor. 

Food and clothing are so essential in everyday life that we don’t often think about them in the context of a story, but even characters in a fantasy world need to eat. And, I really hope they all wear clothes. 

What kind of thought have you put into where the food and clothing in your storyworld originates? 

So far in this Worldbuilding 101 series, we’ve talked about Existing History, People and Social Circles, Language and Communication, and Climate and Geography. All of these elements of worldbuilding are essential in how you shape a culture, and they should be a huge part of your story itself. This month we’re going to go a little bit deeper into the Climate and Geography conversation, though, because there’s a part of it we don’t really think about when it comes to worldbuilding: Agriculture.

This is why climate and geography matter so much in the conversation. If your storyworld is set high in the mountains, the type of agriculture they will be able to do is going to be limited unless they have trade routes developed with other areas of the country (which is something we will discuss in a few months in Economics). If your storyworld is set on an island, the same thing is true. But if your storyworld is set in a plains area that has access to multiple geographic land types, the way they think about food and textiles will be very different from other more isolated locations. 


If your people are on an island, it’s highly likely they’ll have a diet of primarily fish and wild grain. Depending on the location of the island, they may have tropical fruit. 

If your people are in the mountains, they’ll probably have a more carnivorous diet with a lot of dairy. Fresh produce will be scarce. 

If your people live in space, they’ll be limited further unless you have technology (which we’ll also talk about in a few months) that replicates food or can create food. At one point there was talk of a 3D pizza printer up on the International Space Station.

These are all things you need to consider when you’re building a storyworld. Now, granted, food and meal-type scenes are important in setting the stage and developing certain relationships and sensory details, but they shouldn’t be the focus of your story. The only author I’ve ever seen get away with highly detailed banquet scenes is Brian Jacques in the Redwall series (and I was always so sad that I hadn’t been born a woodland creature so I could drink tea out of an acorn shell). 

Clothing and Textiles

Agriculture is an essential part of producing materials for clothing. And if you count livestock as part of agriculture, that includes leather and hides for shoes and other sturdier types of clothing. 

Again, climate and geography are massively important with this. People who live in the very far north are going to wear heavy skins and furs of arctic animals, while people who live toward the equator are going to wear clothing that’s light and airy. 

If you’re writing apocalyptic steampunk where the atmosphere is poisonous and the rain is acidic, people will need protective clothing to survive outside. So where are those textiles going to come from? These are questions you need to ask, even if you don’t ever explain it in the story itself. 

My Favorite Research Tip

That being said, you aren’t limited to the natural climate and geography of a culture when it comes to food and clothing materials or styles. Do your research. Look around in the area where you live. 

I live in Kansas, y’all, which is pretty boring on the surface, but we have a huge variety of different cultures living in our fair state. Sure, we have an Amish community that does awesome homestyle cooking, and we have the traditional Midwest meat-and-potatoes fare readily available. But we have some of the best Vietnamese and Lebanese food in the world, and we also have cuisine from El Salvador, Nigeria, Korea, Cuba, Greece, and many other places. 

Talk to the people in your circles. Talk to people outside your circles. Make friends with people who are different from you. Be willing to learn how food and clothing work in other cultures, and not only will your story benefit from it, you will too.


Don't Miss the Other Posts in this Series!

Award-winning author, A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at


  1. What a great post, A.C.! It's informative a valuable resource for writers!

  2. Great info here and in all of your posts, A. C. :-) Thank you for being such a wonderful writer resource! And for Edie and this blog. :-)