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  1. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Need Help Making Your World Less Uniform?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by LastMindToSanity, Dec 30, 2018.

    Okay, @ChickenFreak and myself decided to discuss how we wanted to make our worlds/characters more diverse than they currently are. We thought that we could do it here, sort of a fresh start to break away from the thread we were on. This thread is here so that people can come on and we'll all discuss how we want to make our worlds less uniform. You can be specific, general, anyway is welcome. Just come on in and ask for help, and you'll find someone willing to.
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Cool! So you said that your last region was stumping you?
     
  3. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    So, we're starting with me, then? Alright. So, this world is set around 508 BC, about when democracy first became a thing. I have a snowy, early-democratic culture; I have a dry area where most people only provide for themselves and their families by hunting and fighting other people for their stuff; I have a regular monarchy, with all the normal monarchy things like kings and peasants and the whatnot. The fourth one, however is something I'm coming up short in.

    The area is rather large and lies entirely within the rain shadow of a large mountain range. The people used to live in the same big city as a very small monarchy. They lost a war against the other monarchy a couple of generations ago, and their city was destroyed and their entire royal family was executed by the then-king of the other monarchy. After that, the people scattered and made their own, segregated towns spread throughout the rain shadow. By the time the story takes place, elders of each town are trying to unite them once again to recreate their monarchy.

    The problem is, I don't know what the culture should be like! The towns should all have similar cultures, as it's only been a couple of generations since they all separated from the big city, but I can't come up with a satisfying culture that would unify them. I'm thinking it'd maybe be somewhat reserved and modest, having their habits reflect the modest monarchy they lived in, and probably also very defensive to the other cultures due to their earlier destruction. But that's not really the full lengths of a culture, right? Or, is that all I need for the culture of one area in a story that isn't about that area?
     
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Hmm. Assorted thoughts:

    - How did it come about that two different populations with two different monarchies shared a city? Did one of them arrive later than the other? Were they always there and was there a schism? Do they have different religions? I realize that you may not have decided any of this; I'm asking to spark ideas.

    - Is the city also in the rain shadow, or is the rain shadow where the people fled?

    - Have you decided what sort of agriculture happens in the area? That seems more relevant than usual, given the rain shadow. It might take a lot of land to grow a small amount of food. There might be conflict over water sources.

    - Is the area generally fairly poor, or is there some natural resource that makes up for the agricultural limitations? Precious metals? Or maybe even with the lack of rain the land is special for growing some thing--like grapes that make a premium wine?

    - Maybe they have a culture of wariness and defense all across the area, cooperating in patrolling the land, avoiding conflict with other areas, but now the change is that for some reason they're going to risk conflict?
     
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  5. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    The early-democratic element is something that catches my attention. Maybe just because I'm a roman history buff. There are quite a few interesting questions that come up when dealing with an early democracy. Some of the questions that faced the romans were:
    • Why have a republic/democracy in the first place? -- For the romans, this was due to a profound cultural hatred of monarchs. They had a law that said that if a citizen found out that someone else wanted to be a monarch, it was entirely legal to kill them on the spot. "Tyrant" was the ultimate dirty words in Roman politics. If an official was accused of being a would-be tyrant, that was a riot-starter. And riots often ended with people getting thrown in the Tiber.
    • What tensions exist between the democratic institutions? -- In Rome, there was the Senate, the Assemblies, and the Magistrates. The Senate were pretty much birth right noblemen. The Assembly was a democratic voting system where any pleb who showed up in Rome on voting day could cast a ballot. And the magistrates were elected judges/bureaucrats who enforced the law. The senate and assemblies would sometimes override each other, and the Tribunes had the power to shut everything down. Literally place a seal on the treasury, veto any law, etc. This created a lot of conflict which sometimes came down to blows. One Tribune was causing so much trouble that the head priest himself lead a mob to kill him, then dump his body in the Tiber.
    • How do they keep the voting system fair? -- Roman ballots were originally by voice. Noblemen could force their renters to vote for their issues by listening to the voice votes. Later a secret ballot system was implemented, but then there were issues where one side would mob the voting booths and crowd the area so that no one else could fit through. Then the election officials would call out the votes before everyone could get theirs registered.
    • How does money mess things up? -- The Roman republic ultimately fell because some noblemen were so rich that they could afford to commission their own private armies, win their loyalties, then eventually march them over the Rubicon then through the streets of Rome. Corruption was a huge problem in Rome. The people felt so disaffected that they supported guys like Caesar. He never would have succeeded in destroying the republic if the noblemen in the Senate hadn't been so greedy, and forced everyone to be a renter on their own land.
    There's a lot of tension here, which makes room for exploring the conflicts of having a democracy when no one has done that before.
     
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  6. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    In response to @ChickenFreak

    Gah, I did it again! I failed to explain everything properly the first time.

    1: I didn't properly explain the city. Both monarchies weren't within the city, it was just the destroyed one, with the bigger monarchy going in from their own land from across the mountain range.

    1.2: In terms of religion, there are a couple of different ones, but this specific area was largely agnostic.

    Screenshot (2).png (This is an image of the area for reference.)

    2: The city is, in fact, within the rain shadow.

    3: I actually haven't thought about those things. The snowy area's main export would be the more 'advanced goods.' The grassy area's main thing is soldiers (The area has a history of sending their soldiers as mercenaries to other areas of the world.). The island's area doesn't interact with the wider world. I think that the rain shadow area's (It's name is Arama, so I'll be calling it that from now on) could be weapons or armor or something. I have a large, rocky area towards the bottom that isn't doing much, it could be a massive metal mine.

    4: Unless I go with the 'massive metal mine' idea, I don't think I have an answer for this one.

    5: Over the course of the story, there are a couple of main characters that have a hand in recruiting people from this area to help fight in a war against that grassy kingdom. So they were never going to stay down like that. I didn't think about the cooperation thing, and I think that could be cool. Especially considering that I've already said that the towns are supposed to be trying to reform the monarchy.
     
  7. Foxxx

    Foxxx Knight of Resignation Contributor

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    Just as a suggestion, it's possible that these towns could be unified by something other than a common culture.

    But if that won't do, my best advice would be to explore what "culture" is. Besides politics (which @Matt E did a good job of covering democracy, at least in the context of the Romans), you have philosophy, ethics, morals, customs, principles, codes of conduct... And you were talking about "modesty" and being "reserved" which is a good start from an anthropology standpoint.

    It sounds like a lot but if you take just two or three of those things and integrate a couple examples of each throughout your story, my guess is that the reader would have a good idea of who these people are / aren't. And then it's a matter of comparing and contrasting them with the other groups in your story.
     
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  8. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    Did you use RPGMaker (MV/VX) to make that map? Looks nice. This makes me want to use that to mock up the layout of my world a bit.
     
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  9. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Okay, I actually do know a bit about this culture, so I can effectively answer all of these.

    1: This area was created because the creator, someone who helped instate one of the ancient kings of the grassy kingdom (Overthrowing the previous royal family), believed that a kingdom would eventually fall by the people's hand, but something that gave the people power would last for far longer and have less issues with discontent and possible assassination. This area (Magisen) was originally a part of the grassy kingdom (Sun Kingdom) and the earlier mentioned instated king ceded that area to the creator. The creator brought along a couple hundred people with him, they decided on their first representatives, and things went from there.

    2: Within this area, there are three main parts that keep it running (Actually, the things I'm about to say may disqualify it from democracy-status, so I guess we're all about to find out whether or not this is actually democratic).
    There's the Politicians, a group of (Undefined number. Probably between ten or thirty.) people that are elected by votes via the People. They make the laws, and are heavily influenced by the People, lest they make 'bad' laws and get voted out.
    There's the Military, which is entirely funded by the People. This was a decision made sometime between the creation of Magisen and the 'present,' in an effort to make the Military loyal to the people so that there's less of a chance that they'll be used against the People. They enforce rules and keep the peace.
    Finally, there's the People. They hold a lot of power within the system. They have the ability to remove politicians if they are found lacking, and force them to return to the level of the rest of them. They hold sway over the Military, considering they're the ones who pay them. They don't have any direct ways to veto laws, but their opinions are highly regarded by most politicians who understand the threat of removal.
    With regards to tensions, the Politicians work in constant fear that the public will turn on them at any moment and remove them come next election period. A lot of people feel the power of being able to remove politicians and try to flex that whenever they can, which only heightens the fear of removal. The Military as a whole holds no negative opinions towards the Politicians, but they'll always be more loyal to the People, the paycheck-signers.

    3: The voting has been abused in the past, so they've developed a new system to help with that. What they do is have each voters show up to one of many voting sites and cast their vote secretly in person. They then give that person a big, red mark on the entirety of their forehead, showing that they've already voted. This has been abused, though, as there have been people who are attacked and marked before they've voted, essentially silencing them. There have also been people who cover up their marks with makeup and other means, but there are ways to combat this.

    4: The earlier-mentioned "marking gangs" can often be hired by politicians, as well as politicians bribing the guards at the voting areas (Which are Military). There will also always be the threat of people just using the Military to revolt by hiking their pay.

    I think that answered everything. I hope it did.
     
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  10. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, I can't art for crap, so I did that with a demo version and took a screenshot.
     
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  11. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Could their desire to reform the monarchy work? Or should I look for something more?
     
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  12. Foxxx

    Foxxx Knight of Resignation Contributor

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    As far as I can tell it could work, although you'd need to give 2-3 solid reasons for why they want to reform the monarchy.
     
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  13. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    On that note, @ChickenFreak , seeing as this whole thing started from you, I feel kind of bad that I was the one to start. How did you want to make your story more diverse?
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    No, no, don't feel bad--I pinged you to start! I've been "Meh, trying to discuss this is a waste of time," for so long that I don't yet have coherent questions. :) I might tomorrow.
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm still wondering about food source. Food source might be a good way to drive your culture. The book Much Depends on Dinner has a chapter called "Rice--The Tyrant with a Soul" that makes the case that growing rice molds culture. It's highly productive, it feeds a large population, but it forces that population to do a whole lot of very cooperative, very painstaking work. I believe that part of the premise is that once you start growing rice, you are stuck growing rice, because you now have to feed that population.

    I'm not suggesting rice--I'm just suggesting that food is likely to affect culture. Does the population make use of those large dry lands by raising cattle? Do they get most of their food through trade, thus making them very vulnerable if relations with other countries turn ugly? Do they hunt? Do they farm, but with dryfarming techniques? Dryfarming requires that you manage your water and your land carefully--if you plant too closely, your whole crop is likely to die for lack of sufficient water, and you're likely to be regarded with contempt by your less greedy fellow farmers.

    Maybe the events that caused the war between the cities were in part caused by an agricultural disruption?

    The Irish potato famine--and people correct me if I've got this wrong--was a result of farmers having very little land, thus becoming very dependent on a potatoes (a high-yielding crop) and then being incredibly vulnerable when disease hit those potatoes.

    The Little Ice Age in Europe caused a drastic and permanent change in farming patterns--after causing widespread starvation and war and disease and the Black Death. Europe went from mostly grain-based agriculture to a much more diverse set of practices and crops.

    Anyway. Food. Food and culture are often closely tied.
     
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  16. Foxxx

    Foxxx Knight of Resignation Contributor

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    Just to piggy-back off the above post, you could also look into the Dust Bowl, or how the Native Americans had to save the asses of the pilgrims by teaching them how to farm in their new climate.

    Spices could be an alternative (but still food-related) route to explore. Sugar as well, or even salt being a food preservative.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2018
  17. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I'm transferring my posts from the Diversity thread to this one, because this one seems more focused on 'how' rather than 'whether.' Which, for me, is a lot more helpful when it comes to writing mechanics.


    I only have a problem with diversity in my stories when I find I'm avoiding writing about it, because I'm not sure of my ground.

    For example, is it 'okay' to write a story set in Montana in 1886 without including named characters from the various ethic groups that lived there at the time? Blackfeet, Salish, Crow, Chinese, ex-slaves and their families from the southern states, plus various ethnic groups that were migrating in from Europe at the time? This is when I feel I need to know more, to experience more, and to get more feedback from members whose histories I am writing.

    The diverse groups sometimes didn't intermingle back then—so presenting them as one big happy family would not be historically accurate. And some of these groups had widely different goals for what they wanted from life in the Territory. And many of these goals were incompatible with one another. There WERE winners and losers. The winners were the ones who had the most power, not necessarily the ones who had 'right' on their side. Some groups tended to be prejudiced against certain other groups. Some actually hated other groups, either for legitimate reasons—personal or otherwise— or from sheer bigotry and/or self-interest.

    I don't want my story to get hijacked by these issues, because this isn't what my story is about. It's a character-driven story, not a socially-driven one. However, I also don't want to write as if these issues didn't exist. I'm not comfortable writing bigoted characters, although I've had to include a couple in my story. They are not the characters I want the reader to identify with, though.

    It's a bit of a tightwire act—trying to get the tone right without making a big deal of it. 

I’ve dealt with the issue in my first novel by having characters discuss diversity issues from time to time. And I have one minor character who works hard to make life easier for some of the groups who are struggling. Because of her position in the community, she manages to get some support for her activites, although some of the support is grudging.

    I plan a couple of sequels set in the same place, with the same characters at a slightly later date, and I'm going to broaden my scope a bit. There will be more diverse characters introduced to the main part of the story. One has actually already been introduced by name, and she's going to come back. :)
     
  18. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Who owns the food, or means of producing it, is also a factor. A big one.
     
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  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think it depends fairly heavily on how "tight" the cast of characters is. If your story ranges over many locations and many people and groups of people, and gives the impression of affecting an entire town/city/county/state, then excluding those groups may be unrealistic.

    If your story is mostly inside one limited group of people, then it seems like much less of an issue.

    So I guess that would be my question--how big is the cast and how big is the setting?
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that was my take as well.

    My story takes place in a very tight setting. In fact, an isolated one. There is a small (fictitious) town my characters visit on two occasions, but only to meet up with particular friends, and only for a short time. All other scenes take place on two separate ranches. And mostly only at one of them.

    I felt that if I tried to 'diversify' within this setting, it would just seem artificial. Other ethnic groups do get mentioned, but this was a time when even Montana's Indian population had more or less been banished to the newly-created reservations, so they weren't in evidence very much, where these people lived. The Indians and the Chinese do get mentioned, as do the Mexican people whom the main character's family used to interact with down in Texas (prior to the start of the story) but I've tried not to make a big issue of these. For the purposes of this story and these characters at this time, it wasn't an issue. However, I did make a point of ensuring that my principal characters are anything but bigoted, and gave a notion that in the wider world these issues did exist.

    I do, however, plan to examine this issue more closely in a later story, however. I've already been making notes.
     
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  21. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    In terms of food, I'm thinking that, since they've all set themselves up near a big river or the coastline, they would primarily eat fish and other water-based foodstuff. I think the idea of the food source changing is neat, and it'd make sense if the old monarchy had organized ranches and fishing teams, and maybe they had to abandon the ranches due to being spread out thinly. I think that the towns would need to rely on hunting the wild animals in the area, as well as fishing in the water they've set up against, if that's the case. I'm gonna explore that more.

    They don't really have any kind of organized group that could talk with the other areas yet, given that it's been a very short period of time since they've separated from each other, so trading isn't really an option for them right now. Right now, the plan is that, by the end of the story, this area will have that group set up, and will be on their way to reforming their monarchy.

    The cast is fairly tight, focused on four people, none of whom are from this area, but one of them does spend several years in this area, so I think I would explore it in more depth than usual. The setting is basically that picture I had in a previous post.

    What kind of spices could grow in this area? I'm thinking that there could be plans to use those for trading in their future.
     
  22. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    I've been wondering, what roles do your characters play in your story? If it's a historical novel taking place at a pretty controversial time, are they going to join a minority rights movement? Or is that for a later book, as you mentioned that they get more involved in this sort of thing later?
     
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  23. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    Different characters could have...

    1. Several different backstories.

    2. Several different bases for personal motivations.

    3. Several different motivations.

    4. Differences between inner and outer motivations.

    5. Large variation among personal intellectual, artistic, practical... skills.

    6. Several different cultural identities and backgrounds.

    7. Different kinds of character archs.

    8. Different temperaments.

    9. Different flaws, weaknesses, biases...

    10. Political differencies.

    11. Differencies in values. (Ethics, morale, agendas...)

    11. Differencies in age, sex, habitus, social status, education....

    12. They like different foods.

    13. Someone can be neurologically atypical, disabled, sick...

    14. You can balance boring characters with interesting characters.

    15. You can use archetypes.

    16. A Finn in a bin is always good. (Someone with roots in Finland and a huge problem with alcohol.)

    17. Misinterpretations can make a uniform community very diverse.

    18. Passion can make anything diverse.

    19. Insatiable person, subgroup or trait can shred any group or society.

    20. Use chaos.

    That's 20 tips that rises first in my mind.
     
  24. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    No, they're just ranchers, getting on with their lives. The kinds of things that concern them most are the weather (which is strange that year, and will take a big turn for the worst at the end of it) and the fact that there are too many cattle on the open ranges, and the price of beef is consequently down. Something has got to give. And they have other personal issues, and are assimilating a new person who has a mysterious background into their lives—who comes with his own set of problems and potentially dangerous baggage.
     
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  25. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    @jannert , I hope you’re good with my moving out conversation over here. I meant to do so a couple of posts ago and flaked.

    The discrimination isn’t primarily what we’d call ‘racial’—instead, it’s national/cultural/kinda-religious. I’ve been meaning to research 19th/early-20th discrimination against the Irish to get more insight into what that sort of discrimination looks like.

    The empire builders discriminate against the people of the lands that they’ve conquered or once conquered, and those people, in return, despise the empire builders. The conflict also comes out in conflicting cultural and kinda-religious practices, but that’s secondary—both sides are somewhat accepting of the cultural practices of other cultures, cultures that they don’t have that past conquerer/conquered relationship with.
     
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