1. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,222
    Likes Received:
    4,228
    Location:
    Alabama, USA

    "Chop, cut and paste" real-world cultures in my fantasy world.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Link the Writer, Sep 15, 2014.

    I blame The Elder Scrolls for this. Basically, my fantasy world is filled with "chop, cut and paste" real-world cultures stitched together in a clumsy way. Allow me to demonstrate:

    First, my character names. Mishu sounds like Japanese name, while her best friends Akeshia and Jelena do not. Jelena, especially, sounds like she could easily have come from one of the Scandinavian countries. Her father, Arjun, sounds like he could've come from India. Samula, another character, sounds like he comes from Spain, or somewhere in the Latin American part of the world.

    My thought was to have these characters come from different cultures, so Mishu's people come from one area of their world, and so does Samula's people. Their cultures are somewhat based off the real-world counterpart (Mishu- Japan, Samula-Spain, etc.) The bulk of the story is set in a country that's a sort of 'melting pot' and is ruled by a queen, which explains how they all know each other: They live in the melting pot country.

    Two problems:
    (a) This, to me, is sounding dangerously close to The Elder Scrolls, with people and countries representing/based off of different real-world cultures. Even though my lore is not at all like The Elder Scrolls, I can't help but feel like I'm making a half-assed version of this series. I mean, I even have cat-people! They don't look like Khajiits (the cat-people of The Elder Scrolls), but they're still cat-people.

    (b) I know this is fantasy and I can do whatever I want, I still can't help but think that this is just too clumsy, too stitched-together. If I did do what I outlined before with the making my characters from different cultures, it'd still feel as if I'm taking Japan, Spain, the whole of Scandinavia, and other places and just ramming them together and calling it my fantasy world. I'm not well-versed in the fantasy genre, but I don't think that's how it works. Even if my characters have their own culture that that's blatantly supposed to be a real-world culture, their names would still suggest something of that nature to the readers

    And don't get me started on the magic. All I know now is that they all say it's a blessing from their Goddess, everyone can do magic, but if you're poor and can't pay for schooling, you're S.O.L.

    So...thoughts on how I could fix up this messy setting I've created?
     
  2. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    Michu is actually a popular French name.
    I hear it all the time.

    Honestly, there's tons of books where the "fantasy" cultures are based off real cultures or borrow heavily from pre-modern times.
    Cat-peeps, dog-peeps, and all that has been done. Heck, children cartoons are mostly anthropomorphic these days.
     
    Link the Writer and Wreybies like this.
  3. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,911
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Agreed with A.M.P. Lot's of fantasy (and even Science Fiction) even tries to impose the fantasy as the precursor to the reality. Stargate, BSG, the whole Avengers/Thor/Whoever else Universe.
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  4. PensiveQuill
    Offline

    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2014
    Messages:
    358
    Likes Received:
    210
    Location:
    Australia
    It's messy because you're saying it is, not because I truly think it is. So am I right in guessing that you feel it lacks originality and cohesion? Then maybe it's time to pick apart the bones of your story, rearrange them differently then re-write one of your chapters and compare them. If you don't have good reasons for making all your characters culturally different then yeah that could be an indicator of appropriation.

    Like others have said though, originality is thin on the ground in any genre. Imagine how original a romance is, when the basic plot is the same in every book, two characters meet, stuff happens in the middle, happy ending. Fantasy can basically be put down to character finds out the entire empire depends on him/her, does interesting stuff in the middle, fixes shit at the end.
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  5. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,222
    Likes Received:
    4,228
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    Thanks for the responses, you all are fast. :D

    Yes, I do feel a slight lack of originality and cohesion in my fantasy. It's improving steadily, and I like it, but some parts of it just doesn't make sense. The whole 'making my characters from different cultures' was a response to my discovering how they sounded so different from each other, how they sounded as if their heritage were from different places.

    But I agree, fantasy is either trying to save an empire or destroy it, and if it's not that, it's save the world from some bad guy. :p

    Though I'm having trouble finding out where I start. Do I start with races, flora/fauna, military weapons, their magic? The history of each culture? I mean when I look at the lore of The Elder Scrolls series, I'm completely blown away by how much content there is. Then I think about my fantasy and get overwhelmed by how much work I'd have to do. How much lore/world building would a fantasy writer (of a book, not a videogame) need to do before he/she could sit down and write?
     
  6. PensiveQuill
    Offline

    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2014
    Messages:
    358
    Likes Received:
    210
    Location:
    Australia
    Well as you've discovered the Elder Scrolls author and indeed Tolkien as well did very little inventing of their worlds. They've appropriated them from myth, legend, folklore et al. The cat people probably came from the legends of Bast for example. For me, and it's just my own opinion. The richest and most cohesive world's I've read have been closely based on actual legends and folklore, usually of a single culture. Doing that creates a kind of familiarity with the reader, as if they can sense this world really exists because it's pinging their subconscious and stirring up memories. So the invention part doesn't have to be huge.

    In my own writing I've only really sat down and invented aspects of the magic, the rest is based on well known folklore that I've put my own stamp on, to claim it. But them magic is a central device used over and over again in my story. If magic is only peripheral to your story then you can be a little less detailed with it.
    I'd say decide what are the core themes of your story, build those to a rich level either by borrowing or inventing and then use research to hang the rest off.
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  7. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    Jelena (pronounced Yèlena) is an old and still very popular Serbian name. Jelen (Yèlen) is a male deer, so it comes from that I suppose. So at least you don't have to worry about Scandinavia :D

    Joking aside, I haven't read the book you mentioned, so what you wrote here about your story sounds perfectly ok to me. However, it's clear that you feel there's clumsiness, inconsistency, and also, that you don't fully relate to the story world you created. The names and mixes of cultures are perfectly fine, imo, that isn't your problem because most fantasies are written in such a way. But cat people might be too much, although, I'm a firm believer that you can make anything work.

    Do you have any world building guides? I have a detailed questionnaire somewhere (I found it on line, I can send it you you if you want) designed to make you think about your world in such a detail that you can really build it into something substantial, so when you encounter something new, you can fall back on the principles and keep it all consistent. World and story building are as much about us as they are about the stories. There are infinite ways to tell any story, what path we choose will depend on who we are and who we want to be. Decisions can be hard, and some decisions feel wrong no matter what you decide. In the end it comes to making the best of whatever choice you made. :)
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  8. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,222
    Likes Received:
    4,228
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    I would love to see the on-line questionnaire, @jazzabel . :D

    @PensiveQuill - Thanks for the advice. Will do so.

    And thanks for the responses, everyone. :) It's been helpful.
     
  9. Robert Klein II
    Offline

    Robert Klein II Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    12
    I'm not trying to say I have a German speaking race in my fantasy world, but I have a German speaking race in my fantasy world. I'm also not trying to say that I have a French speaking race in my fantasy world, but I have a French speaking race in my fantasy world.

    There's nothing wrong with having real life references in a world, it's yours, do what you want! I'm not good at all this language making business so I thought, "You know what... there sure are a lot of languages on this Earth... I know what I'm doing!"

    In my opinion, it's nearly impossible not to use real world cultures in your book. My most cliche race (The Frost Giants, which I may nuke and throw out a window depending, or change their name) is a lot like the ancient Norse Vikings. However, there are many differences. (They're mostly just bulkier humans with a slightly lower intellect and a joy of fighting.)
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  10. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I found it, and it's a Word file. Let me know your email or how else you'd like me to send it :)
     
  11. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,222
    Likes Received:
    4,228
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    You could PM the contents via copy/paste if it works. :D
     
  12. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I pm'd you already :) I'm not sure it'd be wise to copy/paste because it's very long (lots of questions) but I'll try.
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  13. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,222
    Likes Received:
    4,228
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    @jazzabel - Thank you so much for the text. I've copy/pasted and saved it on my computer. It'll really help me with the world-building aspect of my story. :D This was exactly what I was looking for. Again, thanks so much.

    And thanks to everyone else. Your advices were very well-spoken and I'll keep them in mind.

    Now I'm off to work on the world-building.
     
    jazzabel likes this.

Share This Page