One of my favorite world building tips comes from Victoria Schwab. In her “On Worldbuilding” video she says that as an author, we are only giving our readers a window view into our world. What she meant is there so much within a world we build, but the readers only see a slim portion.
I mention this because creating an entire culture is a daunting task, not to mention creating countless cultures. But you need to know the cultures you will be coming in contact with throughout your story. The cultures will define how your characters interact with each other, what they wear, their voice.
When I say cultures, I’m not speaking of countries necessarily, but groups of people with the same ideals and beliefs. There a few key aspects I look at when building a culture.
This is where building the world comes in handy. Cultures are affected by their climate. People who live in a fertile land will have a different view of life than those who live high on a mountain or in a desert.
Are the people hunters, farmers, traders? What do they depend on for their livelihood? This is tied to their location.
Religion in the base of any culture. It is usually tied to their livelihood and location. This also really affects their voice. People tend to use their deities in swears.
Is it a Monarchy, a Democracy?
What is the social hierarchy in your society? Is there a group of people who are shunned? Is there a difference between men and women? Are LGBTQ people accepted?
What does your culture place their values on ? Is it family? Money? Education?
What do your people speak? Is there more than one language? Can they communicate with others? You don’t need to build your own language, though if you plan to The Language Construction Kit by Mark Rosenfelder is a fantastic resource.
How does your culture interact with others? Are they more aggressive or welcoming? Who are they in alliance with, who are they in war with?
There are just a few basic ideas to get you started on building your cultures. If you want to go into more detail, there are plenty of resources to guide you.
What do you focus on when creating cultures? Comment below!
Dana, thanks for another great post! Almost every day I discover another little detail I haven’t yet thought through about the world of my novel. Thanks for a good list of things to think about.
Thanks for an informative and helpful post, Dana!