World Building: How To Create a Culture In Your Story
Earlier this year, I wrote about the process of creating a world that will draw in your readers and make them not want to leave it when the story is done. If you haven’t read that post, you can check it out here. In this post, I am going to go deeper into the art of world building, particularly the people of the world where the story is set.
Creating a civilization from scratch can definitely be quite the daunting challenge (I spent an entire year in school doing just that for a year-long project). There is a lot that goes into it, but it can also be a lot of fun.
When it comes to creating an entirely new civilization of people, simply making each group of people difference in appearance just won’t do. There is so much more than that aspect. This would be the culture. Read on for different ideas on how to create interesting, and distinguishable, cultures in your story.
If you take a look at and compare the buildings in your city/state/country to those of someone in another, chances are that there a a few differences, whether it be the materials they were made with, the design, the number (or functions) of rooms, and more.
As with architecture, clothing changes with culture. For example, the clothing someone who lives in Antarctica is going to be very different from that of someone who lives on the beaches of California. When creating your culture(s) in your story, make sure that what they wear coincides with their way of life, and make sure that it differs from other cultures. A great example of this is Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. If you look at the clothing and armor of the people of Rohan, it is quite different than what a civilian or soldier of Gondor would wear. They are easily distinguishable and serve the purpose of conveying each culture’s way of life.
When it comes to food in a certain culture, whatever is on the plate for a meal can tell a lot about those who made/eat it. Chances are that a country next to a lot of water (like Japan, for instance) will have many dishes that consist of seafood while a country that has more forests would have more game.
Again, not every country you visit will ever be identical to another. When writing, keep the social structure of your culture in mind. Are women more prominent and revered than men? Who can read, who cannot?
There are many different forms of government all around the world, from monarchies to democracies. When it comes to creating a culture, the political structure of the people is very important, because it determines much of the culture’s other aspects of life such as economy, military, etc.
As with political structures, religion can have a large impact on society as it sometimes dictates both social and political structures. You can bring a culture to life by giving it its own deities and belief systems.
While there is more that goes into creating a culture in a story, taking these six aspects and utilizing them will help you bring the people that inhabit your world to life.
A 21-year-old native of Michigan, Evan Morgan is an aspiring author and screenwriter. Coming to the video production and acting school, Center for Creative Media in 2014, he now lives in East Texas amongst a dangerous number of books.