World Building - Culture

When you're creating a world, you've got to create its culture.  It must have a massive impact on your characters, just as our own cultures influence our lives.  The important thing to remember is everything has to have a reason to exist.  Religion, fashion, social status, gender, living arrangements, jobs, food, art, music, design - all of it matters. Depending on the story you're writing, one or more could be the main focus of your novel.

Experiencing another culture is a great way to get inspired. You can do it without leaving your country - all you have to do is research via the Internet and books, or go to a restaurant serving food from another country.  If you do get to go abroad, see as much as you can and take a ton of photos - no matter how random it may seem.

I'll use two examples: religion and gender.  Religion is visible everywhere here, but it's nothing like the old churches I see in England.  Many of the Hindi taxi drivers have a mini shrine on the dashboard.  Businesses have them too. We have Ganesha standing watch over our front door.  Images of religious leaders decorate huge billboards.  The mosques and temples are so beautiful! The rules for entering them may be different to what I'm familiar with, but I am so grateful to be allowed the opportunity to see and learn.  Here are some images from a Jain Temple in Mumbai's Malabar Hill district.




Gender is another huge difference.  Men dominate.  As a woman, I have had to accept that when I am in the company of a man, he is the one who will be addressed.  Being stared at is also normal (although I'm incredibly pale and have waist-length red hair. I have zero hope of blending in even if I am short ^^;). I've even been asked to have my photo taken.  But as much as I am struggling with the perception of women here, I'm finding it really inspiring. How could gender issues effect your book? How could it become entangled with other cultural issues?

How does the culture of your world impact upon your characters?

Comments

  1. I love all these little world-building tips. Even though I love world-building, I sometimes forget the little bits (like food) when faced with the bigger picture (like the landscape itself). Culture is a huge thing. It's bigger even than the land the people interact with, but it's also affected by it. It takes careful work to create a brand new culture.

    I'm glad you mentioned gender here. Even though us female authors might want to create worlds dominated by women as a nice change from the many male-dominated cultures of the world, working inside a male-dominated culture with female characters can be pretty interesting to write about. That's what I'm dealing with now, and my female chars have to develop new skills to get around the blockades thrown up by their male counterparts. They have to learn to work the system.

    So, a culture can either let a character breeze through or become an obstacle in itself. It's important to know which it will be.

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    1. You're welcome :)

      The way you talk about gender feels a lot like India. My perspective is that of an outsider with minimal understanding, but it is waaaay different to home.

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  2. Very neat examples of culture. And, again, the pics are awesome. Always nice to hear someone's take on worldbuilding - I love it!

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  3. All great points. I took the gender issues very seriously in my novel. So cool that you're in India.:)

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    1. It is pretty cool! I'm trying to make the most as I'm heading home to England next week.

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  4. I love how you are not only truly embracing your time in India, but you're trying to teach us what you're experiencing while there. And with beautiful pictures, too!

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    1. Thank you for such kind words. I'm really glad you're enjoying the posts and photos

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  5. Great post! My second-to-next book-to-write (did that make any sense?) is going to be high fantasy, so I've been dreaming and gleaning of the world I'm going to build. This series on world building is so helpful and inspiring!

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  6. I think that's why I love world-building. It's a real challenge to think of all those little nusances that we take for granted. If you change one thing it could have a massive impact on a world.

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    1. Absolutely! It takes a lot of time to cover everything but it's the little details that make the big picture.

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  7. Oh my god the colors in that temple. A.m.a.z.i.n.g. That second photo especially. Just. Yes.

    And I think people often underestimate how different culture can be across your own country. Even a two hour journey from your home can land you in a place that isn't quite the same as what you're used to. You're going to get a more radical cultural change with more distance, of course, but you may notice little things in nearby towns/cities that make you think!

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    1. It's quite famous in the area. We had to take our shoes off to walk around too. I appreciate why!

      Good point! London is very different to Brighton after all ^_^

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