Jul 22, 2015

Getting Cultured: One of My Favorite Parts of World-Building

Right now, I'm working on planning a new fantasy idea I have, and recently it's dawned on me that I love a book with a really unique and distinct cultural aspect to it. It can be a real culture that's different from my own, or it can be a neat fantasy culture. Either way, it adds something to the story. So, today I'm going to talk about some things I'm doing to develop the culture for my fantasy novel.

1. Choose a "Base" Culture

It helps me to have a real culture to base my fantasy culture off of. It can be just one culture that I kind of make my own, or it can be a combination of two or three different cultures. Either way, this gives me a nice starting point and a way to help me add a little bit of realism to my story.

2. Determine a "Defining" Characteristic

This can be a particular attitude, hobby, architecture style, whatever. But having something that makes them stand out and/or ties them all (or most of them) together can help cement your fictional culture and help it to stand out.

For some fictional examples, I'm thinking of The Winner's trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. You have the Valorians, known for their strength, fighting skills, and sense of honor. Rutkoski tries to tie these things into as much as possible. These things are their "core" per se. Then, there are the Easterners. Man, oh man, I love this culture so much. It is one of my favorite fictional cultures. It's actually what inspired this blog post. They have a love for "small things" as Arin points out. You see this trait come out in a few different ways.

3. Figure out the Land They Live In

Where you live can have a big impact on how you live. A group of people living in the desert are going to far a little differently than a group of people living in the middle of a rain forest. They adapt to their climates differently, and chances are, it's going to affect some pretty big aspects of their culture, and not just their food.

Going back to my example from The Winner's trilogy, the Easterners live in a plains-like area, and this affects how others interact with them. It also means they live alongside tigers, which causes some problems for the main character. See how figuring out the culture and everything that goes along with lends potential conflicts for your characters?

4. Write Out Their History

What major events have happened to this people group? How have they shaped them? What's their contact with other cultures been like, and how has this contact affected them? We are affected greatly by the people we live around and the stuff that happens to us. A war-ravaged culture is going to act a bit differently from an isolated culture that's known a primarily peaceful existence.

Alright, so those are the big ones that I have! Do you have any tips to add to my list? Or any good books with a unique/distinct culture (fictional or otherwise)?

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