Judicial Systems: Maintaining Order & Justice

J is for Judicial Systems...
J is for Judicial Systems…

Stopping by for the first time for the A-Z Challenge? Read a short intro to the A-Zs of Worldbuilding here!

I have a post up on the Ferret blog today – J.R.R. Tolkien: A Bit of Gratitude.

I’ll be honest – I never really thought much about judicial systems in fantasy until I started on my current work-in-progress, Catalyst. And suddenly two-thirds of the way through, I found myself writing a court room drama, and I needed to know a lot more about the laws and judicial processes of that world than I expected. 

My point? There’s a reason for all this worldbuilding – so that when you realize you need to know something, you don’t have to start completely from scratch. You’ll have, at the very least, a foundation laid that you can ground new things in.

Establishing Law & Order

Authority

Who is responsible for creating laws?

Who is responsible for enforcing them?

What sort of criminal justice system is in place, if any?

Jurisdiction

Are different parties responsible for different aspects of the law?
– One arm of the government may be responsible for crimes against the state, another for crimes against individuals, etc.

How much of the law is handled at the local (city) level, and how much at the a state/province and/or national level?

Maintaining Order

What are the most basic laws your society follows?

How long have those laws been around?

Are they still followed, or are they considered more archaic laws?

When laws are broken, who is responsible for the aftermath?

In Conclusion…

Have at least a minor understanding of how law and order is maintained in your world, and who is responsible for it at the different levels in society that your characters may encounter.

You might like this post, too:   Time: Tracking the Hours, Days, and Years of Your World

Original image used in header is by Vassilena, under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. The image has been cropped and edited.

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12 thoughts on “Judicial Systems: Maintaining Order & Justice

  1. I’ve had to think about a judicial system for the books I’m writing with my sister, The Haward Mysteries, it’s based, thankfully, on the ordinary British system, but we’re having to wind magic into it while keeping it secret from the general population. Haven’t written a court room drama though – kudos! 🙂
    Sophie
    Sophie’s Thoughts & Fumbles – A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX – A to Z Drabblerotic

    1. I thought, when I initially outlined Catalyst, that the trial I knew was going to happen would be brushed over and we’d just move to the next part.

      And then when I reached that point in the story, I realized there were still so many unanswered questions from all the characters involved in that moment that I had to put the trial in. The story wouldn’t have had a satisfying resolution without it.

      So I had to drop everything in the middle of NaNoWriMo and figure out HOW the trial worked – even if I knew it was rigged in the first place. That was a fun weekend, haha.

      Basing a judicial system off an already existing one sounds much simpler than what I had to do! There are elements of a judicial system that can be recognized in my story, but it’s twisted and tweaked just enough that it’s definitely not what we’re used to in modern society.

  2. In my first book, I had a special branch of the police force for dealing with vampires, but since the story was 1st POV, I didn’t get into them much. A friend and I did make some mock up posters that the branch would have that would have fit right into that world. I wonder what I did with them…

  3. These posts are fascinating. I don’t write fiction myself but it’s amazing to learn of all the different pieces that go into crafting a novel. The workbook you are planning will be a great resource!

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