So in my first blog about character development I discussed race. Along with race it is important to establish the culture of those involved in the story. Fantasy writers have to work especially hard at this, but all writers should have an understanding of the culture that their characters are involve in. Sometimes it is easiest to write a story based on your own culture, but involving cultures outside of your own with help put depth into your story. I live in upstate New York, but if I want to write a story based in the New York City area, I should seek to understand the way of living there, as it would be different than here.
If you are writing a historic piece you will want to read what the culture was like during the time your story is set. What was the technology of the time? What were the primary religions? Was it an insult if a man wore a hat in a restaurant among other seemingly small things. This is also good to figure out if you are writing supernatural books. In one of the stories I am working on there is a ghost of a man who died in the 1920s so I have been asking myself questions such as: What kind of slang was used? What was the town like when he was alive? What did he listen to for music? What kind of vehicle did he drive? And other things as they pop up? Even with futuristic writing it is important to set up what the culture will be like. This will take some creativity but having an idea what the culture is like that the characters are placed in will help the story to move along.
You may have to do some creating for non-human races such as vampires, zombies, and others.
Fantasy writers especially can have a lot of fun with this. You can create races right from scratch. The Hobbits in J. R. R. Tolkien’s writings had their own little culture up in the Shire.
Here is a list of things when looking into culture
– Government Style
– Most Widely used language and minor languages
– Religion and its influence on culture
– Various ethnic groups
– Modes of transportation
– Sources of entertainment
– Dress Style
– Food and drink
– Various jobs and occupations
– Money system (Bills, gold, silver, trade)
– Appropriate greetings (Handshakes, bowing, cheek kissing)
– Gender roles
– Education system
– How the military works
– Law and order – What is legal and what isn’t
– Taboos (What kind of things are rude and offensive)
Cross Culture guide http://guide.culturecrossing.net/
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