1. fantasywriter
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    fantasywriter Contributing Member

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    Creating Unique Ethnicities and Racial Backgrounds

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by fantasywriter, Sep 8, 2008.

    Ok, so I'm writing a series of fantasy shorts in which there are many different regions and continents of the world. We have several southern, plain regions, coastal regions, mountainous regions, desert regions, and many different types of islands and the like. I've had no problem creating the world; it's the people and their racial diffences that I'm struggling with.

    In our world, there are many types of races and ethnicities, but I'm finding it hard to decide what to do in my world. I know that I want the mountainous regions to be inhabited by people somewhat like the Native Americans back hundreds of years ago, but other than that all of my different regions's people all seem the same.

    I want each of the regions to have their own destinct differences, such as appearance, language, and culture. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions that may aide me?
     
  2. ABMiller86
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    ABMiller86 Member

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    A very close friend of mine draws inspiration from mythology (greek, roman, Northern, Celtic, ect), him being afraid that using the cookie cutter races of fantasy will make his writing mondane makes sure he mixes and matches, building cultures for these new species around the traits of the animals or creatures they were based off of.

    Also i dont know if you are looking just for humans or for more fantasy inclined races.
     
  3. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    you could try do it by climate like, you'll find fair skinned people in a cooler climate, they tend to have lighter hair and such whereas those who live near the beach in a hot environment will tend to be darker, have dark hair and what not. Thats what i'd do but i dont know if it'll be much help i just started my first fantasy story :p
     
  4. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    Actually, in a cold climate where it's primarily snowy you're likely to find dark skinned people (or at least with dark faces) as, apparently, you can get quite the tan from the sun reflecting off the snow. You can also go blind. Can't remember where I read all that though so you might want to double check it.

    One of my worlds had a sort of Inuit/Tumbuka(African)-ish culture; though their appearance was primarily African.

    Also, keep in mind someone from another culture is going to view ethical/social situations differently. What is their ultimate sin? Murder? Rape? Trespassing on Holy Ground? What are the appropriate punishments? What punishment is considered too harsh? Is there a punishment that is considered too harsh for any (even an ultimate) sin and therefore would never be used? What's there primary food source and how do they get it? Is there ever a time when it is scarce? What's their explanation for that? Do they believe in spirits? Are these spirits able to interfere with the mortal world? What is considered an invasion of privacy/personal space? Are there any topics that are considered taboo to talk about? Maybe mentioning the word "feet" is embarrassing to them. Why?

    Culture is fun :D
     
  5. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    A single race, or a small group of races, is perfectly capable of inhabiting various climates. But that's not your question.

    Environment plays a large role in culture. Deserts lack water, and thus, water is likely to have a spiritual or ritual connotation.

    Way of life has a related function. Depending on how they live, a people will develop certain customs. Look primarily for requirements for life. These will have a stron effect on culture.

    There is no real correlation between superficial language characteristics and climate, so no dice there.
     
  6. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Well it depends.... Are your societies in contact with each other or isolated?
     
  7. fantasywriter
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    fantasywriter Contributing Member

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    Some of them are isolated, like the people of the mountains, but others are connected.
     
  8. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    Also language families do tend to wind up in roughly the same area of geography but that's no hard and fast rule such as Afro-Asiatic language covering much of north Africa but in the far east Chinese, Korean, and Japanese are all completely unrelated to one another despite close geographically but they do tend to borrow from one another culturally, in fact, Japan borrowed from China so heavily it became the goal of one Japanese philosopher (I think) to find some part of Japanese culture that was uniquely Japanese.

    (Oh, and whether cultures in contact are friendly toward one another is another consideration).
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    If you have the time read a good book on sociology. It will forever help you create better cultures. Try to find one that also covers the myths of people and their religions.

    Understanding how different cultures evolved on earth, will help you construct fake cultures. It took Frank Herbert six years of study and writing to finish Dune. I think that is why the Fremen culture is so well done.

    The more knowledge you have on the subject the better fictional cultures you can create.

    Desert dwellers are going to have a culture centered around water. They dress in many layers of clothes to retain water and stay cool. The inner layer gets wet with sweat, and acts as a type of interal air conditioner. You will actually be cooler once the inner layer is wet, then if you were naked. At night lots of that sweat can be reaborbed through your skin. Look at how the Muslims see water as a spiritual cleaning source. Same with Indians. There is a reason for it, and the reasons for each culture are different.

    People that live on coast lines are most likely going to be fishermen. Fish will probably be part of their staple diet, unless of course they have a modern society.

    Hindus used to be meat eaters before Buddha and Janism. Buddha had a major influence on the Hindu diet. That is why so many Hindus are veggetarians. Adding info like this will add realism I think. You could use that for one of your cultures.
     

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