1. TyrannusRex
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    TyrannusRex Member

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    Regarding the Creation of Culture

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by TyrannusRex, Jun 28, 2016.

    Whenever I'm trying to establish a fictional culture (especially fantastical), I always come across stumbling blocks. Mostly because, I never sit down and brainstorm one portion of the culture at once, I come up with isolated pieces for different portions. A coming-of-age ceremony here, burial practice there, and sitting over there in the corner is a bit of everyday fashion.
    How do you classify different "pieces" of a culture?
    I'm sure that things regarding religion, traditions, ceremonies and such would be one, the law and the courts would be another, practices in warfare would be yet another, and don't even get me started on the conlang I'm making to accompany this culture. (Actually, helping me get started would be much appreciated as I've been putting most of it off.)
     
  2. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I do it with categories and subcategories. So:

    National
    Regional
    Settlement base

    Religion
    Sect A
    Sect B

    Organisation based
    Organisation A

    In terms of getting started, just try writing out three or four sentences or even words that summarise what you want to make.
     
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  3. TyrannusRex
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    TyrannusRex Member

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    Hmm...
    This is an alternate-earth scenario involving nonhumans, so I'm essentially creating a way of life for an entire species (or at least one represented by a population in the Cradle of Civilization).
    So, I'm trying to go rather in-depth, as though I were an explorer, observing a foreign culture and taking notes on everything.
    Their language is a separate endeavor that I'd need a linguist's advice for. :write:
     
  4. Nidhogg
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    Nidhogg Member

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    First, I look at the biology of the population I'm working with, as it may shed light on some things that their cultures will be dependent on, focused on, or against. For example, if I'm working with a race that has a very short lifespan, then its values on self-preservation, war, mortality, and what they should focus their lives on are going to be quite different from that of a race with a much longer lifespan. I also take into consideration things such as the gender ratio/reproductive strategies (which will affect gender roles), diet (which will affect farming and potentially if they are nomadic or not), and unusual aspects of their behaviour.

    Next I look at their environment, as this will also shape their culture. For example, the race is in an area with long droughts, then their lifestyles and culture will focus on water preservation. I try to consider natural resources, resources that are lacking, local wildlife, and significant land formations. I also try to consider how many populations are within that area, so as to determine if multiple subcultures exist, or just one culture.

    Then I will look into bits of culture that are universal in all cultures- how they deal with death, how they deal with birth, what they do with their young, how they treat the opposite/same sex, and how they explain the world around them. From this, you can deduce their family relationships, gender roles (if any), and religion.

    Then I'll start jotting down ideas I have for other cultural aspects. These tend to branch off after that, because you'll have a strong framework to use from there onwards. If you want ideas of categories to use, look at Wikipedia articles on different cultures and nationalities, and use the headings on them for sections to develop.
     
  5. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, I mean that you fill out all the ones that the country as a whole has, then move onto each region (e.g duchy) and then fill out the traditions for that, then down into each subregion (county) and their traditions, then down again (any settlements that are particularly interesting).
     
  6. TyrannusRex
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    TyrannusRex Member

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    Well, the context I've put this "population" into is that of several small villages (basically nomads settling down) around a small city, which is really the first major power in the area. The little villages farm, and send some of their crop to the city, which, in turn, provides military protection from potential threats. There really isn't much of a military, though, and there really aren't many threats, considering that in their world civilization is just becoming a thing. Think early Sumer and Akkad.*
    (Well, Akkad conquered Sumer, but this is one group in the corresponding place in history.)
    Given all this, they don't really know anyone outside their neighbors or nomadic tribes, as they haven't begun interacting with other cultures.
     
  7. Boger
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    Boger Contributing Member

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    Culture is a set of behaviors that exists due to social conventions under shared factors of necessity and survival. You can trigger some of this behavior by introducing foreign concepts, like someone or something from another tribe, continent, planet, era, universe. This exercise might only make some evident conclusion about primordial emotions such as fear and shock, and how it limits the imagination, but it does more than that. To skip this, you can instead try to be them for a while, and if this is too difficult try to imagine how it would be to live with them as yourself or a stranger to learn their ways. Or the other way around. That's what the exercise does, it makes you define their set of nurtured values which they've taken from living in the world they do, and through these eyes you can see their world, and live their lives and blend in with their definition of culture.
     
  8. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily, have you heard of the cheese rolling?
     
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  9. Boger
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    Boger Contributing Member

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    Haha, it is a phenomena of sociological conditioning indeed. Traditions are in fact a pure side effect of what happens when people bundle together. Like Brits do..
     
  10. bonijean2
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    bonijean2 Senior Member Supporter

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    I took a course in Social Psychology once and it was very revealing in regards to why people tend to do what they do and how they form social groups that ultimately develop into specific cultures. I think it is all relative -
     
  11. pyroglyphian
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    I liked how Ursula Le Guin did something similar in The Left Hand Of Darkness. The inhabitants she invented lived on a cold planet where it snowed a lot, so their language had evolved countless words for all the different kinds of snow. They were also of no fixed gender, only developing into one gender or the other at certain times; this biological nature had a significant impact on how their culture developed. The thing I liked about it was that it was very well thought out, and all of the different facets of the culture were interlinked and kind of reinforced each other.

    So, perhaps I would start by seeing what kind of behaviours the mixture of biology and environment might give rise to.
     
  12. TyrannusRex
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    TyrannusRex Member

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    I perhaps could also see what similar creatures living today do to survive in this (desert) habitat, because these beings are still early enough along where they can't change much in their environment to overcome biological challenges, etc.
     

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