me. They have their own history and their defining principles might get a makeover with each era.
For example, back in my empire, a large portion of the upper classes have adopted a form of clothing that differs greatly from what is considered their traditional clothing, which is still worn by people who can’t afford the other one or who prefer to stay old school. They’ve just adopted a new religion within the last few generations, they only became an empire within the last 34 years, and in the same time frame have gone from a pretty closed and often forgotten country to a key player and worldly politics. All of which have changed certain aspects of the culture and a character’s experience of the culture.
I said my main thing when I build worlds is making sure they feel lived in. And really I think one of the easiest ways to do so is to make sure not everyone experiences their own culture the same away. So. A culture is condensed to like the shared “way of life” or art forms, traditions, etc of a people. It’s very easy to say all people of X Kingdom like to do the same things and eat the same things with no variation and for the most part that’ll be true but really, does everyone all have access to the same resources? Does one region of the same nation not have their own spin on a shared tradition? Do people not fill in the gaps with something new because they lack something that the majority has?
Any time I think about this I remember growing up I didn’t have a chimney and I was raised Christian, so we celebrated Christmas. Santa is supposed to come down a chimney. My mom didn’t want me to not believe in Santa but we didn’t have a chimney or a fireplace. So she told me, and my dumbass believed, that we wrapped empty boxes to put under the tree and then Santa climbed through the window and zapped our presents into said boxes with the same mystical powers used to travel around the world in one night. I never questioned this and color me shocked when someone told me this was not the case in their household.
Now, of course, in order for a culture to have adapted to the modern age or for particular groups of people who do not have access to the wider majority, it still needs to have core principles and shared aspects.
I myself am heavily inspired by reading by other cultures or when I’m world building, I try to think about how the environment would have influenced the people who first stamped down and said: “okay, this is a country now.” What doesn’t change no matter a person’s position in society, hometown, or history?
Which brings me to the quick way I usually start culture creation
What A Society Needs
I’ve looked at the environment.I decided I wanted these people to live right next to the coast in warm weather all year round, they have a hurricane problem in the summer, but the agriculture is rich and they really like fishing and there’s freshwater too. Cool. Basic needs covered. From that base then I start adding the things they may not need but definitely want or enjoy or would prioritize as a people. And honestly, sometimes shorting culture creation to “what do they prioritize?” is a good starting point. At least for me. The basics are enough to spark a lot of ideas like
- An obsession for small dogs.
Just one of these things as a core principle for a nation will likely trickle down into many aspects of their culture and the daily life of a person in that society.
I think I started to mention in my first post something about not needing to know all the background information. It’s 100% going to say more about your world and make it feel less textbook and built if instead of telling me where your characters get the materials for their clothing but why they wear it. Or why they choose to wear certain things when something else might make more logical sense but modern culture prefers fashion over practicality. And it’ll say enough about the world your character lives in already if they have the luxury of choosing looks over something practical.
I talk a lot about food in my books and not just because I wish I had been a chef but because food says a lot. Not just what they eat but how they eat. Is it normal to share meals? Are there certain ceremonies or rituals that come with certain eating habits? How are certain dishes prepared? And what dishes or ingredients are shared across the entirety of the culture and what will change with each town/region your character could visit? And how does what they eat also influence other aspects of their culture? I could likely go on for hours about how Escan’s eating habits have ingrained in them such a serious affair with dental hygiene much to the point it’s one of the things they brag about.