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World building basics (Part 2 - Society and culture)

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Feb. 21, 2020

Last week, I went into the basics of building your fictional worlds. We’re continuing on with our second instalment where we’ll dive a bit deeper into the nitty gritty of world building. Without further ado…

What’s your world’s system of government?
Politics plays a large role when it comes to the everyday citizens' lives. Is your kingdom a democracy or a monarchy? What is the currency? How are laws made and governed and what punishments are in place for those that break it? Who is in power and how did they get there? These are all aspects worth considering when shaping your world as these laws and systems ultimately form the rules in which your character lives within.

This aspect of world building can have the greatest impact on your characters and their development. What class system is in effect in your world? Where in that class do your characters fit? Consider the type of racial groups that might exist, their sexual identity as well as gender norms and expectations. Are all races equal or is there discrimination between groups? What are their customs? When considering the topic of prejudice and discrimination, take the time to research past societies and how they operated, particularly if your society is based on history.

Also take into account the education system, how widespread/accessible it is and at what age children might start learning. This goes hand in hand with how children are raised and what values are instilled in them as well as what occupations and careers might be available and/or coveted.

Get cultured!
Does your civilisation have a religion and, more importantly if the answer is yes, what is it? Are there multiple gods or a single one? What type of mythologies are present in the culture and what values do they teach? For instance, a warlike culture would value strong warriors as gods and worship acts of prowess, whether a farming culture might lean towards fertility gods or animal deities, encouraging their people to respect nature. How does your belief system (or lack thereof) affect art, music, literature, science or magic? Do they have any holidays or customs? These are all important aspects to consider.

Join me next week for part 3 of this world building series as we continue further down the rabbit hole.

In the meantime, how would you describe the society in your comic? Did you draw on history or other works of fiction when building it? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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bravo1102 at 3:37PM, Feb. 22, 2020

It helps if you know enough about culture and history to be able to break things down to see how the stuff comes together. It also helps if you know a little about patterns and phases of cultures. Some things just happen. Other things evolve over time. Institutions are founded and often the people who did them are revered. Take feudalism. There have been feudal systems all over the world from Japan to the Hittites to Central Africa to Medieval Europe. But some features are the same and others are different and they can be mixed and match so long as the system makes sense by its own internal logic. And that logic can be twisted because there were folks in the past who were twisted.

bravo1102 at 3:30PM, Feb. 22, 2020

Some do rational world building and others just have a world populated with flesh eating monsters to challenge to characters and no herbivores in sight for the flesh eaters to eat when there aren't characters walking around. The most important part of world building is that the world has to have its own internal logic and stick to it. If you have an entire time line, things change over time and evolve and go from novelty to rigid institution. Sometimes things will be left hanging because no one saw an end. Watch the old Connections TV series. You can't have one thing without another. Research how one thing leads to another and let that form your worlds. It's your world, anything is possible but it has to make sense in the context of the world. It can be completely at odds with our world but it has to have it's own logic. It helps

marcorossi at 3:40AM, Feb. 21, 2020

In my case, I generally work the other way around: 1) I start with a vague idea that for some reason sounds cool, let's say space pirates who are caught in a space maelstrom; 2) I break down the idea by putting forth the main 4-5 charachters (e.g. the hero is a white collar that just got kidnapped by the pirates before the went into the maelstrom, the love interest is an overaggressive she-pirate who is actually the one who kidnapped the hero, the bad guy is the space pirate captain who snaps during the maelstrom etc.). 3) Once I have the main characters, I build the society around them. For example, The space pirate captain is a sort of decadent aristocrat that went into piracy because his family went into disgrace, but the hero is just a normal accountant, so the setting will be a weird space-cyberpunk where solar system-wide corporations control all the economy but the upper echelons of said companies behave as aristocrats, etc.

Cathlinn at 1:16AM, Feb. 21, 2020

This is a great post, doing world building really helps with the storytelling. Ill be honest when i've done stories i've not dug that deep into my worlds before, but maybe i should heheh :D Having a holiday or something to mention inside a story DOES make it feel like a realistic world we're in. Or even having newspapers showing dates and what has happened in the background of a comic panel. Its not a massive interuption in a story in form of info dump, but it creates a great sense of it being a real world with real people.

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