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blog A Quick Guide to Worldbuilding Cultures

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Black Dragon, Sep 6, 2020.

  1. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    Ban submitted a new blog post:

    A Quick Guide to Worldbuilding Cultures
    by Roel Karstenberg


    In a previous article called Worldbuilding on the Crossroads I wrote about a technique writers can use to quickly create cultures for their worlds. For a background group this might be sufficient, but what if instead of a mere outline of a culture, you want to create an in-depth culture? A culture filled with customs, traditions, values and more? Well, I wouldn’t raise the question if this article didn’t provide an answer.

    The process established below should be seen as suggestions, not as a clear-cut guide. The more complex you want your culture to be, and the more complex their history is, the more you will wish to jump between the different sections. The “finished” state of the culture you are building is up to you to decide, for cultures are complex structures which can be expanded upon without an end ever coming in sight. Such is the nature of worldbuilding. The work can never be truly finished, so it is up to you to call it quits when you have satisfied your worldbuilding needs. With those words of caution out of the way, let’s delve into this guide.

    Environment and Migration

    The first order of business is establishing the environment of your fictional culture. For this section you write down (in a few key points or sentences) what the environment in which...
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
  2. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    Have you ever considered writing sacred texts or histories for your cultures, like Tolkien did?

    I spent some time writing a "bible" for one of my cultures, although I didn't use very much of it in the end.
  3. Silvahkir

    Silvahkir Dreamer

    I was once part of a group that talked about "western culture" or "American culture" but all their characterizations were guided by the thought, "What are all the things wrong about the culture we live in." I found this sight, http://www.bu.edu/isso/files/pdf/AmericanValues.pdf?scrlybrkr and suggested that we look at culture as a set of more or less unspoken values that are shared by the group. It doesn't mean everyone in that group has those values, but they usually have to be in a kind of dialogue with those values that are more or less taken for granted. I put the link in here because I think as a writer it is good to try to understand the culture they have been exposed to most. This is important because when creating a culture, especially one that we may see as evil as the people who really accept that culture as there own will most likely be pursuing positive values, or what they would judge as "good". We might describe a culture as brutal, but that may be because we don't value strength or define strength in the same way.
  4. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    Hey Black Dragon. I have written bits and pieces of in-world sacred texts for at least two different projects. One of them was based on the Holy Piby and represented the beliefs of a Rastafarian splinter religion, while the other was set in a fantasy world and had a quasi-Gnostic basis. I think that religiosity is a great way to explore a world and its characters, but I more often explore that through the material world and folk values than segments of sacred texts, because I believe that it is rather easy to miss the tone with such texts, making them either too modern, too old-fashioned or too shallow to be representative of a living, breathing religion. Whenever I write passages from an in-world religious text I make sure to keep them short, a paragraph or two at most, so I don’t risk missing the mark. How do you tackle them?
    Black Dragon likes this.
  5. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    Hello Silvahkir. I agree with what you've written. It is far too easy to assume that the world at large values the same foundational things which one is raised with and views matters in the same way, when one is not exposed to other ways of thinking dominant among other cultures. I believe that the more aware a writer is of the effect that the cultures one is exposed to have on our perception of the world, the better our ability to write diverse and interesting people becomes.

    One site you might enjoy is https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/ which allows you to compare the values of different real world countries based on five different criteria. Some countries are better explored than others in the comparison model, but most of them have additional insight on each country listed below them. The model does not address regional cultures, but it is a good tool for getting an idea of how different cultures might view the same things.
    skip.knox likes this.
  6. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    Hello Baylee Predovic. With poetry you can start any way you want, and depending on the type of poetry you're interested in you may wish to throw all rules out the window. That being said, if you are new to it I would suggest you google different rhyming schemes and play around with those, trying to fit your words and your story into a pre-established scheme. The puzzle of trying to word your thoughts in such a way that they rhyme according to a scheme you set out in advance can be quite fun.
  7. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Char: (Primary World) Began as a game setting inspired by the AD&D 'Historical Earth' supplements. The map was inspired by the one in the old 'Raven' series by Kirk (from the glory days of pulp). That's so you know where I was coming from. I wrote 'game mechanic' versions of the primary nations cultures and organization, much of it taken directly from the AD&D handbooks. Did a pile of history as well.

    Most of that proved...not all that useful...when I really got into the writing. Parts of it were handy, and helped add depth, but much else was created out of whole cloth or greatly reworked.

    Aquas: (Secondary World, literally called 'World 2' in my earliest notes). Also began as as a gaming setting, inspired by Kim Stanley Robinsons novella 'Short Sharp Shock' - a real mindblower. Due to geography, the primary landmass on that world is a monumental PIA to map - I've tried several times, with less that satisfactory results. The earliest version - a massive three-ring binder - includes notes about individual cities and cultures. I refer to it occasionally for the latest WIP which takes place there. Yes, there's a history, and yes it's relevant...but it's also lacking.

    Backburner project set on another landmass on Aquas, a more conventional continent: the realm of 'Falling Towers,' a land decimated by ancient strife, and under the fast crumbling sway of rival wizard groups who dwell in towers scattered throughout the land. The inspiration for that came from 'Epic: the Kings Game' an old, old 'play-by-mail' game. What I have there is a bunch of short quotes and excerpts describing key prior events, used as chapter prefaces.

    For Book V of the 'Empire' series, I brought back to life the 'Basin World,' an old, old notion rooted in science fiction and...plausible...from a science perspective. This is a world with an atmosphere too thin to be breathable - save at the bottom of deep canyons and craters, whose floors are 2-3 miles below the rest of the planet - and even there, it's on the thin side. The largest of these basins is about a thousand miles across, give or take, with a couple large lakes in the middle and assorted fiefs and city-states on islands or along the shore. Quite a bit of history there - but the relevant point is the boss cities name is Carcosa and it's mountain sized tentacled overlord is Dagon.

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