Last time, we discussed how location impacts the societies you’re building for your world. This week, on Saturday Setup, we’re going to talk about how culture-unique factors can also affect your world and its societies. Culture has a very obvious impact on society, one that most of us probably understand more readily than we do the idea of location playing a role. So, let’s dive in. This one won’t be as long since we probably all have some basic level of understanding of the subject.
Culture’s Role in Developing Society
Each society has different rules and structures. We all intuitively know that the things we’re able to say or do in the US, say, versus the things we can do and say in Japan without being rude vary a great deal. Why is this? Well, it’s largely due to culture. How we were raised and what our culture says is acceptable, whether right or wrong, has a lot to do with what we do and don’t do.
It can affect a lot of things about a society, such as how people dress, what they eat, and what they can or can’t say. It even can result in changes in how different genders or age groups relate to each other. Some cultures in real life have a society where younger children and women don’t get much say or aren’t to question a man’s authority in public (sometimes even in private). Other cultures are much more open and allow for behavior in women and children that would be seen as horrifying and rebellious in a stricter culture. So what your society’s culture is and what it has been built around greatly affects what will and will not pass in your society.
Culture’s Role in the Legal System
Depending on how diverse your sub-cultures are within a culture and depending on the governmental structure, your legal system could be affected by the culture. Think about the US, for example. Here, we have things like southern culture or inner city culture, and we just know the difference when we see a person from one of those sub-cultures. There’s a difference in beliefs, in appearance (sometimes), and in behavior. What one sub-culture finds acceptable may not be okay in the other. This comes out in how those two sub-cultures vote, deal with legal matters, and make judgment calls on law. If those people are in positions of power, they may have even more ability to sway things in favor of their sub-culture than a normal person would. Again, this depends on the governmental system, which we’ll talk about later on. But for now, understand that what you set up for culture and sub-culture within your society matters. It will affect your government and legal system to some extent, and it pays off to consider this if the government or legal system will factor into your story in any important way.
Culture’s Role in the Home
This is the last one we’ll discuss because it should have a bearing no matter what story you’re telling. Everyone has some sort of family or upbringing, and culture definitely plays heavily on this one. Your culture will make all the difference on how your parents dealt with issues of disobedience, training you, and teaching you right from wrong, among other things. The same goes for a fictional world. Who your characters are as children, parents, and just as adults in their society will be shaped largely by how they grew up, and their culture affects this.
Take some time to consider what your society’s beliefs are. How do those beliefs impact what they think about raising children? About marriage? About the home in general? Your fictional society will also have a set of beliefs that dictates these things. People may go outside of them, follow them, or bend them, but they’re there within the culture. There is some sort of norm that people look to when judging whether or not a family is normal or abnormal. That’s just how humans work. We categorize things, and we constantly want to see if those we’re around and we ourselves fit the mold. This isn’t any different. So consider your world’s culture carefully on this matter. It’s going to change a lot about each society you create.
Hopefully, you can see that culture affects much about daily life for societies. It’s important and shouldn’t be ignored. Many things in world-building can be skimped on or ignored entirely if they’re not needed for the story. But if you want a world that feels authentic, don’t ignore this aspect. It gives each society featured in your story its own, unique flavor, and that’s absolutely vital to creating a believable world where the reader’s suspension of belief isn’t destroyed.
As usual, if you have other ways that you’ve used culture in world-building, feel free to share it in the comments below! I’d love to hear about it. Have a question? Leave those in the comments below too. If you have a suggestion for a future topic you’d like to hear about, I’d love to hear that too. You can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s something I can cover, you may see it sometime in the future on the blog!