I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into with this topic! Then and again, that’s usually how I feel when I sit down to create a culture. Today, I want to leave with one good tip to get you started on creating: start with your own culture!
Culture is such a complex and dynamic thing. There are so many nuances that make it unique, but that’s what makes exploring it so fun and interesting. When I think about these nuances, I’m drawn to the hashtags/memes I’ve seen popping up that say things like #GrowingUpBlack, #GrowingUpWithStrictParents, #GrowingUp… you fill in the blank! All of these posts point toward culture.
Before we get started, think about what your “culture hashtags” would say. Mine could probably be narrowed down to #GrowingUpChristian, #GrowingUpAmerican, and #GrowingUpCapeVerdean.
Got your hashtags? Great. First, share them with me below! Now, apply them to creating your own cultures!
Simple, right? Well… yes and no.
Creating a culture is as simple as looking at your own culture and the cultures around you and adopting certain aspects. The hard part is making that mash-up of cultural tidbits one cohesive culture. I won’t lie; it can be a lot to handle!
In my own worldbuilding, I’ve found that I take positive and negative aspects of my culture and twist them to fit my fantasy culture needs. For example, in my life, growing up Christian has taught me about spirituality, while being American has gotten me accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle, and being Cape Verdean has promoted strong family ties.
Spirituality is something that I spread through all of my cultures on Eszailha, as the higher beings of the planet are the Eszeha spirits. In terms of my own fast-paced lifestyle, I created one culture that thrived on high energy and another that preferred to do things slowly and carefully. I did the same with family ties. In one culture, family ties mean almost nothing—children fend for themselves and marriages are uncommon. In another culture, families stay together even after children have grown and marriages are revered to the point that divorce could mean death.
This is the method I use in creating all of my cultures. I’ll even go so far as to research another culture, just to give myself some diversity. I mean, I can only stretch my own culture in so many ways, right?
Still seems a little overwhelming, doesn’t it?
Never fear! Resources are here!
The first is a cool worldbuilding questionnaire I found on the SFWA website. I will warn you that this resource is very in-depth and can be overwhelming, so remember that you don’t have to use everything they suggest! Use only those aspects that you need for your own culture and make it as simple or complex as you want.
The second is the Cultural Iceberg graphic that I found floating around (ha!) in some writing groups on Facebook. It shows you what aspects of culture you can see—Surface Culture—and what aspects are those nuances I keep talking about—Deep Culture.
Make sure you save these resources and use them often! Organization will be key in keeping your sanity while culture-creating!
I’ve given you my #1 tip in culture creation, but do you have any of your own? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!
(And remember to share your own GrowingUp “culture hashtags” as well!)