Geekdom Come, World Building 101

World Building 101- Races and Cultures

Ogres. Ogres who need ogres. Are the luckiest Ogres in the world. At least I’m fairly sure that’s how the song goes. Hello there and welcome back to another edition of World Building 101. This week we’re going to be talking about Races and Cultures. Before we get started this is my cursory reminder that differing levels of melatonin do not a completely different race make. On this blog when we talk about race we’re talking about Elves, Ogres, Trolls, Orcs, Dwarfs, Martians, Vulcans, so on and so forth.
I think the biggest mistake made by authors of genre fiction when creating different races to populate their worlds is making each individual member of the race interchangeable with every other. Not all dwarves have to be grumpy. Not all orcs have to be blood-thirsty. If you give your character a name give them a separate, distinct personality trait to go with it. Now that’s not to say that your characters from the same race cant have similar attributes or over-arching characteristics that are common to the species. If your race lives in the trees, odds are most or all of them are going to be comfortable with heights and pretty good acrobats. Or if they are a race that lives in isolation they may all be distrustful of outsiders. That kind of stuff is fine but you still need to establish variations within your population. Otherwise, you’ll lose your audience and limit your storytelling options.
Okay now that we’ve talked about my one big pet peeve let me give you a few thoughts to ponder as you populate your planet with some custom races. First is basic biology. What do they breathe, drink, and/or eat? How do they reproduce? What makes them different from run of the mill humans? When you’ve answered these questions you can use them as a basis to build of off. Essentially for each race you introduce you should put them through the process we use here at World Building 101, which is to establish their history, politics, religion, language, and culture. Which is what we’re going to talk about next.
So what is culture? Well, culture is kind of a hodgepodge of all the things a society picks up along the way. Food, music, fashion, holidays, traditions, etc. Again its important to note that culture is not limited to one race nor is one race limited to a single cultural heritage. A society’s culture is a living breathing thing, constantly evolving. Port cities and trading hubs tend to have their own distinct flavor as they are the points of intercept for many different cultural traditions.

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