Worldbuilding Series: Cultures and Languages
Click here to read the first in our series: The World and Maps
Click here to read the second in our series: Populating the World
Since most stories start with characters or are soon followed by characters, then how the characters act and interact with each other is important. But for fantasy people and creatures, then they might not always act how we're used to.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret on how you can make your cultures unique. That secret is: Read about other cultures. That's right. Read. One of the most fascinating classes I took in college was World Cultures. Our own peoples on Earth are fascinating.
For example, the Yanomamo who live in South America are a small tribal community. When someone dies, they actually drink the dead person's ashes, so they can keep a part of their loved one with them. It sounds a bit icky to most people, I would think, but it's a fascinating characteristic of their culture.
If you're writing a futuristic story, think how customs change throughout time. Writing a historical fantasy, look at history.
Write these cultural nuances down, so you can be consistent.
Another aspect of culture is languages and linguistics. The fantasy author best known for creating languages is probably J.R.R. Tolkien. Most people don't create their own languages for their fantasy novels, but you can create fantasy words for certain things. Think like your characters. For example, curse words are particularly fun to create. In The Phoenix Prophetess, the characters have "Inashara's tits" and "Hypobus" for curse words. Inashara is the goddess of love, so Inashara's tits means "I'm f*cked" or "I'm screwed." Hypobus is the god of the underworld, so it's more like saying "hell" or "damned."
Most cultural/language references don't come in the first draft for me. Some don't come until near the end of editing, but those little things mean so much and focus the reader on the magical world you create.
Have you created different cultures or a new language for your stories?
Next Month's Fantasy Chat: Worldbuilding Series: History