“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey
“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.” Guy Fieri, host of the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” – Billy Joel
“Culture is the intersection of people and life itself. It’s how we deal with life, love, death, birth, disappointment… all of that is expressed in culture.” – Wendell Pierce
A good thing to remember is that a lot of your cultures will depend on the location of that culture and the resources available to them. You may need to go back to the physical world you built to help you here, or you may need to make some changes to it, as you discover what works best for the culture you want.
There is a lot to consider when putting a culture together. You won’t do it in a week and some of these articles are long so don’t force yourself to get through everything if time doesn’t allow. But do what you can now and bookmark articles you want to go back to later.
1.) Why Your Story World Needs Flaws – by Kaitlin Hillerich
2.) Creating Cultures in Fiction: 15 Things to Consider – by Clara Ryanne Heart (This is a good overview of creating a culture. Some of the questions listed here will be covered in other articles below in greater detail.)
3.) Creating Rites of Passage – by Chris Winkle
4.) Creating Religions & Belief Systems – Chris Winkle (Note: Creating Gods and Goddesses is covered more in the last section called “Aliens, Creatures & Other Beings”, but you’ll probably want to know some of your religion/beliefs first.)
5.) Costuming Your Characters – by Lillian Ripley
1.) World Building: Government – by Elumish
2.) Worldbuilding: 36 Types of Government (Part 1) – Matthew Allan Olson
History, Legends, Folktales, and Myths
1.) Historical Worldbuilding: A Conversation with Kameron Hurley and Ken Liu – by Kameron Hurley & Ken Liu for Tor.com
2.) Using History as Inspiration for Fantasy – by Alice Lieper
3.) Legends and Folktales in Fantasy – by Colleen Halverson
4.) Physical and Historical Features – by Patricia C. Wrede (Scroll down to the section on world history. Use the first few sections to help you answer the history questions if you don’t already know your geography and whatnot.)
5.) Worldbuilding: Timelines – by Joe
1.) Name three rites of passage that typically take place in your culture(s) and detail at least one of them. List things like what happens at this rite. Is it something to celebrate? Something to fear? Or just a simple part of growing up? How long does it take? Who is a spectator and who is directly involved? Are there special foods only eaten at this event? Special clothes?
2.) You should know something about your culture’s history. How did they come to be where they are? Have they fought in wars? What happened and why? And remember, most history books are written by the winners, not the losers. How has this history turned into legends and myths? You don’t have to write out the stories as full narratives unless you want to, but at least sketch out a basic outline for any myths and legends your culture might have.
3.) What type of government do you have? Give a basic ranking list of nobility. How do the commoners feel about their government? The rich? And why do they feel this way? Who has special privileges and why? Start with these basic questions, but if you have the time, answer a few more from the article “World Building: Government” above.