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World Building 101: Considering Culture[s]

Step by Brainstorming Step [Part 2]

So you’ve got the premise and fleshed out the situation and the geopolitical issues, you’ve figured out some facts and events that have shaped your world. Steps 1-4 hopefully helped you to think about some questions. Hopefully my collection of World Building Tips was useful!

What about the peoples in your world?

Hannah Emery takes us through some key concepts and ideas in her post on dankobalt.com:

developing-fantasy-cultures

And here are some other questions you might want to consider to bring your world to life:

Step 5: What about myths? What do ordinary people think?

Right, so every world has its myths, urban legends, folktales, lore. In this case, it’s what happened to their society, how it became the way it is now. The Big Disaster Event has been mythologised, even romanticised, because the generations are far enough removed from it that they no longer recognise the impact of the trauma. They use pre-existing myth and sayings in the Welsh Triads, but make their own and mix them up.

Step 6: Now we know how people think, we can start naming cities, towns and characters.

Why wait? Why don’t we name things first?

Listen, if you have a dystopian post-post apocalyptic scenario where the Welsh win, and you know anything about Welsh history, you cannot have a character called Edward. I mean you can, but that is a ballsy political statement. There’d be consequences.

Using this world as an example, but looking at real world philological research, the following point is relevant:

Remember names are not necessarily markers of ethnicity or identity. English parents could give their child a Welsh name they like because it’s normal. Or in fashion. Or the name of a celebrity. A family could have a mix of English and Welsh names but not necessarily identify as either. They could be from New Old Cornwall and identify as Cornish.

Also, key locations would be named/renamed.

In the tale of Branwen, the giant, king Bran the Blessed is ruler of Britain (which in the Middle Ages meant Wales, or could mean anyone Brythonic-speaking) and was crowned at London. When slain by a poisoned spear in battle against the Irish (rescuing Branwen) his head was cut off and buried under White Hill to warn of danger. Legend says that Arthur dug it up because he wanted to be the only king in Britain. Welsh Arthur is very unlike French Romance Arthur in many ways.

London is therefore known as Bran’s Seat, which in Welsh is Cadair Bran.

I can use Welsh rather than conlanging place-names, but if you’re using a made-up language too, then think about how people think so you know how to name people and places. Culture and society influence language structure and function!

More next time, where we’ll look more closely at the backbone of the culture: Welsh Triads.

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