A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

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A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

Post by elemtilas » Sun 31 Jul 2016, 01:54

A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

So, you want to flex your artistic pentaceps by delving into the discovery or creation of your own Land of Wonder! Well, kiddoes, you've come to the
wrong place! cos I ain't going to tell you how to do it. Only you can really be the maker of your own worlds. One
thing I can do, however, is act as something of a guide for making an invented culture. As with making an invented language, there is no one single way to
make a whole world or culture either. In this Primer, I'll provide you some thoughts and some resources for making and describing an invented culture. Then
it'll be up to you to make use of this resource to sort out the details on your own.

So, without further ado...

Culture is, in the words of E.B. Tylor, that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits
acquired by Man as a member of society
. It is the way of life, the general customs and beliefs, the story of a particular group of people at a particular time
& place in history. It is the accumulation of all aspects of human learning & practice as it has percolated down through the history of a people as it has been
destilled by a local community and passed from generation to generation and on down to each one of us.

The job of the geopoet parallels that of the glossopoet. It is to replicate this history of growth and change in human knowledge and transfer that
to the realms of an otherworld, to the experience of a race wholly or partly alien to our experience on Earth. It is a journey of discovery, full of wonders and
pitfalls. As with the art of glossopoesy, there really is no such thing as a how-to guide, no step-by-step methodology. If that’s what you think this is, get off the
train now, cos we don’t go down that line! As with devising an invented language, I propose a more organic way, a more natural path to tread.

There are four basic questions I’ll address in the Primer: the question of starting out; the question of planning; the question of making a culture and the
question of resources
.

Where Do I Start!?

The best thing to do is look introspectively. Every human being grows up within some kind of cultural millieu, be it broadly speaking “American” or “Japanese”
or narrowly “South Side Chicago” or “Upper Northwest, DC”. Think about all the traditions that you grew up with in your family, things you did with your friends
--- the games you played, foods you ate, places you went, what you did at school. Think about all the traditions of your neighborhood --- any festivals or
parades or regular events within the community or church or school. These are all part of your cultural upbringing, and will help you in defining the culture of
the otherworld people you are working on.

A good way of making a culture is to look through the eyes of a child and learn about it that way. Children are naturally curious; so what happens if a child
runs up to touch some sacred artifact? How will the priests and the rest of society react to this egregious faux pas? What if there is a penalty of death or
dismemberment for a non-priestly class individual to touch the artifact? How do other children (and adults) who have been ritually maimed get on? How are
they treated by the rest of society?

Now you can see very clearly how easy it is to make an invented culture! All I really did here was think of some mundane event --- a curious child seeking to
explore something new --- and started asking questions about it. Certain assumptions about this culture have already begun to coalesce and the direction of
questions simply follows the threads being woven.

To Plan or Not To Plan, that is the question!

Two basic methods present themselves for describing an invented culture. One is the planned and one is the free-form method. The free-form method is
liberating, but requires concentration and persistence. The planned method is less liberating, but allows one to generate vast amounts of data without having to
think too hard or keep track of where you’ve been.

So, the kid’s hand has been whacked off by the accolyte in charge of punishments, and it has been sealed in hot wax and placed in supplication under the altar
of the sacred artifact in question. (See, there’s more culture already!) Now everyone’s leaving the temple, and life still has to go on. The free-form method just
lets you wander around this new culture and discover it in whatever order you happen to take.

So, where do you go after temple? How will the kids in the neighbourhood treat young One-hand? How will his future be affected by his actions?

The planned method is more elaborate. Right from the start, devise some methodology for your journey of discovery. It could be a calendar; it could be a life-
cycle journey; it could be a travelogue or an encyclopedia. A calendar is a good way to go. Start on the New Year (by asking yourself, when is it?, how is it
celebrated?, what do they eat?, are there parties?) and work your way through the fortnights & seasons of time. You can get a good idea of the cyclical nature
of a people’s lifestyle, celebrations & events this way.

A life-cycle journey gives you a broader perspective, as it centers on the life of an individual within a community. How are children conceived (I don’t mean
biologically –-- I mean, what are the customs, beliefs and practices pertaining to getting a child!) So, if you want a girl, you have to lay on your left side, and if
you want a boy, you have to lay on your right side? But what happens if you were laying on your belly??? What kinds of remedies are there for morning
sickness? What do you mean, if you give birth in water, the kid’ll be born with flippers!? Why are there eagle feathers and wolf tails adorning the birthing chair?
How are children named? How many names do they have? How are children raised? How long until they’re weaned? How are they educated? What do they
play at? How are they clothed? What are the stages of adolescent life? What happens when they reach the end of adolescence?

Here, you’re looking at culture from the perspective of the life events of an individual within the culture and the journey he undertakes upon being born into
this culture.

A travelogue allows you to survey many cultures --- perhaps of neighboring peoples --- and consider comparisons & contrasts. So, this people give birth in
chairs, and that one on specially woven mats of a particular kind of grass. That one makes an intoxicating drink out of mango fruit, while this one burns the
leaves of a certain kind of tree. Travelogues are good ways of working on many cultures at once, without getting to a lot of detail. You’re not writing the Rise
and Fall of the Partrurian Imperium
here, you’re just looking at snap-shots of life in a number of different locales.

What Do I Do!?

As you can see above, what I’ve mostly done is ask questions. This is what you’re going to end up doing as well! And in one respect, this is the easy part. Just
like if you were planning a trip or a move to Germany, you’d surely want to know about daily life, customs, modes of address, ways to approach people, how
to navigate in society. It is the same with planning a voyage to your Kingdom of Counterpane. You’ll want to know all the same things. The only difference, of
course, is that you’ll be “inventing” them as you discover them!

The making of an invented culture is all about asking (and answering!) questions. Some questions will be ordinary, like where does one go to the toilet? Others
will be terribly detail-oriented, like how does one lace one’s sandals or where can I get help preening the wing feathers I just can’t reach!? Still others will be
very deep, like where did we come from and who the hell put us here anyway?

For this aspect of inventing a culture, organisational planning is much more important. All the questions you ask and all the answers you discover should be
organised in some way. Questions of mythology, questions of behaviour, questions of tools, questions of daily life, questions of social interaction. While you
really don’t have to ask questions in a systematic way, it really does help to keep your answers in a systematic fashion.

Here is one example of organisational planning, courtesy of the Onondaga Central School System.

Seven Elements of Culture:
Social Organisation
Customs & Traditions
Religion
Language
Arts & Literature
Forms of Government
Economic Systems

Twelve Elements:

Tools - - objects used to improve the performance of a task
Language - -the mental faculty or power of vocal communication
Customs and Traditions - - the things we do
Arts and Recreation - - art, music, dance, drama, and literature, games and sports, use of leisure time
Shelter - - a structure that provides protection from the elements & various dangers
Values - - the moral & ethical systems that we live by
Artifacts - - object made by people, either hand-made or mass-produced
Knowledge - - the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning
Government - - the act of regulating a society’s and an individual’s actions
Religion - - a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that guide or control destiny
Clothing - - decorative or functional coverings of the body
Food - - whatever is eaten or drunk; and, of course, the elimination of same

How Do I Get There!?

How we get from nothing to a pretty good picture of life in an invented culture is mostly one of study, asking questions and recording descriptions of what you
have learned. There are a number of resources available to the geopoet, on line, in print and in the e-book world that can help with questions to ask, aspects
of culture to study or cultural tidbits that may provide inspiration for you on your journey of discovery.

An excellent on-line resource is the Ethnographical Questionnaire. It is a (rather) long list of
questions divided into 19 chapters each focused on some aspect of culture:

I. Questions of Place.
IJ. Questions of Time.
IIJ. Questions of Race and Ethnicity.
IIIJ. Questions of Family.
V. Questions of Customs and Social Life.
VI. Questions of Manners.
VIJ. Questions of Faith.
VIIJ. Questions of Labour.
VIIIJ. Questions of Art.
X. Questions of Marriage.
XI. Questions of Health.
XIJ. Questions of Sex.
XIIJ. Questions of Education.
XIIIJ. Questions of Technology.
XV. Questions of Transportation and Communications.
XVI. Questions of Economics.
XVIJ. Questions of Death and Burial.
XVIIJ. Questions of Government.
XIX. Questions of Warfare.

It is not the kind of document you sit down and answer all in one go! Take a question a day and explore the history, the ramifications, the pros & cons of what
your people actually do. The Questionnaire is designed with two purposes in mind. First, of course, is simply as a way of setting down information about your
invented cultures in a somewhat systematic way. Then, it is designed to serve as a springboard for you to ask, and answer, more detailed questions about your
culture.

For example, if the question “What happens to orphans?” is answered, “Well, they become property of the State and are housed in large communities.” You
might then come up with more detailed questions: how are they so housed? Are there differences in housing or treatment by age or sex? How are they
educated? Or are they educated? Are some sold as slaves? Are some sent to military training? Of those destined for careers as civil sex slaves, how are they
chosen for the duty? Can the state sell off surplus child slaves? How are their future trades determined?

These kinds of second & third tier questions can lead to all kinds of interesting lines of inquiry into the history and culture of a place. “Civil sex slaves”!?!?
What the heck is that all about? You mean, there is a whole class of publically owned, government controlled slaves in this society? How does that work, and
how did it come about?

A Note on Information Storage

As you can see, answering all these questions about your invented cultures will yield for you tenfold and hundredfold in information learned. You will very
quickly find that you need some kind of information storage plan; and I’m just telling you now, at the very beginning, you should plan for this even before you
start work on your world or culture itself!

At the very least, you should consider copy-n-pasting the above Questionnaire into a word processing file (one Questionnaire per culture) and simply answer
whatever questions you wish to answer right there. You can also create a page for your culture here at CBB or Frathwiki or someplace like that and do the
same thing.

A good alternative to consider, especially as you gather more and more detailed information, is to look into some kind of private wiki. Several have been
discussed here before: Notebook, Tiddlywiki, even starting a wiki at Frath. Wikis have an advantage over word processing files: the ability to create many
small articles that can be crosslinked with one another. You could have an article on cookery that crosslinks to agriculture, herbology, folklore, language,
marriage customs, restaurants, laws & legal systems, etc. On the other hand, word processing files also have their advantages: if you are writing long-form
articles, language grammars, dictionaries or that sort of thing, the wiki is less useful and the word processing file can be nicely formatted. Also, as those
long-format articles shape up into a book, you’re a step away from making it into a print-ready PDF.

Not everything will fit easily into a document file or a wiki. Paper notes, pictures, large maps and so forth also need to be stored. Standard or legal file folders,
properly labelled, are a great help here. Also available are 12x18 tabloid sized file folders, which I’ve found are very handy for oversized work (i.e. 11x17
paper).

What to do on the go? I have tried many ways of keeping track of of world building information while on the go. Most cell phones have a memo function that
you can use to jot down ideas. But the best solutions I’ve used thus far are simply pocket-sized notebooks. I happen to prefer the little ones distributed by
Laurence King (http://www.laurenceking.com); though Moleskine also makes nice ones (http://www.moleskine.com), though they’re more expensive. Lined
notebooks are great if your hand is shaky or wobbly; plain are great if you want to draw pictures or maps and perhaps scan them without lines being in the
way.

If you’re more technically savvy, I strongly recommend the Sharp WG-N20. It’s a rechargeable, stylus driven notebook. You can create, edit, delete & export
files. Great for taking notes or making sketches on the go that you can easily edit later. Mind you, helps if you can read Japanese, cos there’s no English
language version. But hey! That’s what Youtube is for! Short of a full tablet computer, there really is nothing else quite like it on the market.

Resources
When it comes to inventing worlds and cultures, there really is no substitution for reading about your own and other cultures and in all periods of history. So
lastly, we’ll take a look at some books that can serve as inspiration for the geopoet. I’ve divided these resources up into several basic domains: Reference,
Sawyery, The Natural World; The Human World --- Ancient World, Middle World and Early Modern World. The rationale here is that most world builders seem to
be interested in eras that are similar in shape to the the early to pre-modern world. Information on Modern and Future Worlds are readily available online; but
some things about earlier ages simply can not be found with quick perusal of Wikipedia or Google.

This library in no way constitutes an exhaustive list of resources you could use. In fact, it is simply a somewhat random selection of books in my own library
that I’ve read and have used when working on various cultures within The World. There are very many more general and specialised books I could list, but I
think these provide some pretty good foundation stones.

Of those other books I could list, but didn’t, I’d only say that good quality books on mythology, world religions, folklore and so forth should round out the
geopoet’s library.

Invented Culture Library: Indispensible Print & Online Resources for the Geopoet

NB: For books in print, I use a scheme of denoting key features contained within the work. The letters MICBGI stand for MAP, ILLUSTRATIONS, TABLE
OF CONTENTS, BIBLIOGRAPHY, GLOSSARY, and INDEX. Dashes represent features the book lacks, for example: -IC--I means that the book is illustrated, as a
table of contents and index but lacks maps, bibliography and glossary of terms.


Reference:
  • Burmah, People and Natural Productions; or Notes on the Nations, Fauna, Flora and Minerals of Tenasserim, Pegu and Burmah; F. Mason --- apart from the
    awesome prose, a good resource on things for the world builder to consider as regards the natural world and people's place in it
  • Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language; D. Crystal
  • Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages; R.D. Woodard
  • The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine; Century Co.
  • Chambers's Journal; W. Chambers
  • Codex Seraphinus; L. Serafini
  • Companion to Narnia; P. Ford
  • Complete Guide to Middle Earth; R. Foster
  • Costume and Fashion; H. Norris --- a detailed and copiously illustrated chronological guide to clothing and jewellery through the ages
  • Dictionary of Imaginary Places; Manguel & Guadalupi
  • Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principle Indo-European Languages; C.D. Buck
  • Dictionary of Symbols; J.E. Cirlot
  • The Domesday Book; H.M. William I
  • Dr. Chase's Recipes: or Information for Everybody; A.W. Chase
  • Elizabeth Rogers her Virginal Book; E. Rogers
  • Encyclopedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information; B. Burroughs
  • Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were; Page & Ingpen
  • The FitzWilliam Virginal Book; R. FitzWilliam
  • Henley's Formulas for Home and Workshop; G.D. Hiscon
  • History of Costume; C. Koehler
  • Historic Costume in Pictures; Braun & Schneider; pictures of clothing styles from the ancient Near East all the way up to 19th century Asia
  • Historical Anthology of Music; Davison & Apel
  • The Indians' Book; N. Curtis Ed.
  • International Stenographer's & Correspondent's Handbook; Intl. Correspondence Schools
  • Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes; Kelly's Directories Ltd.
  • Limits of Language; M. Parkvall
  • Masks of God; J. Campbell
  • Measure for Measure; Young & Glover; how many Haitian feet in a metre? or Ethiopian okia in a gramme?
  • Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue; 1895 ed.
  • Musical Instruments of the World; R. Midgley Ed.
  • Notes and Queries; Oxford
  • Nuggets of Knowledge; George W. Stimpson; all sorts of interesting questions & answers on a wide variety of historical, cultural and social topics
  • Pocket Ref; Thos. Glover; compact general reference
  • Private Anthropological Cabinet; R. Meadows
  • Sears & Roebuck Catalogue; var. reprint editions
  • Sign, Symbol and Script; H. Jensen
  • World Almanac: Commemorative Edition


Sawyery:
  • Annotated Mother Goose; Baring-Gould & Baring-Gould
  • Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night; J. Payne Trans.; in 3 volumes
  • Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable; J. Ayto
  • British Edda; L.A. Waddell
  • Canadian Wonder Tales; C. Macmillan
  • Complete Fairy Tales; Grimm
  • Dictionary of Mythology: an A to Z of Themes, Legends and Heroes; J.A. Coleman
  • English Fairy Tales; J. Jacobs
  • Exaltation of Larks; J. Lipton
  • Fairy Books of Many Colours; A. Lang; in 12 volumes (he edited about twice as many story books, but these twelve are fairy stories)
  • Folklore of Discworld; Pratchett & Simpson
  • Index to Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends; M.H. Eastman; an index of motifs
  • The Irish Fairy Book; A.P. Graves
  • Parallel Myths; J.F. Bierlein
  • The Victorian Fairy Tale Book; M.P. Hearne


Natural World:
  • After Man: a Zoology of the Future; D. Dixon
  • Ancient Atlas; Mitchell
  • Antique Maps of the World; Sterling Publ.
  • Atlas of World History; Hammond
  • Atlas of World History; J. Hayward
  • Cabinet of Natural Curiosities; A. Seba; pictures of a squillion different kinds of plants & animals
  • Cosmography (Maps!); C. Ptolemy
  • Natural History; Pliny
  • New Geographical Grammar; Mr. Salmon
  • Star Names: their Lore and Meaning; R.H. Allen
  • Voynich Manuscript
  • The Mythical Archive (Not functional as of 12.FEB.2017.)
  • Mythical Creatures and Beasts


Ancient World:

  • 501 Tidbits of Roman Antiquity; Albert E. Warsley, LittD; short articles on a wide variety of everyday topics from history & education to customs, from craft
    & industry to anecdotes & celebrity.
  • Ancient Egypt on 5 Deben a Day; Donald P. Ryan; getting there, what to see, what to do, where to stay, practical life
  • The Ancient Engineers; L.S. Decamp
  • Ancient Inventions; James & Thorpe
  • The Classic of Mountains and Seas; inter alia, Liu Hsin, possibly; a fantastic look at ancient Chinese mythic & geographic landscapes
  • A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome; Alberto Angela; getting there, what to see, what to do, where to stay, practical life
  • Forgotten Science of the Ancient World: Lost Discoveries; C. Ronan
  • The Greeks: Life & Customs; E. Guhl & W. Koner; details look at all aspects of life in the ancient Grecco-Roman world
  • The Histories; Herodotus; probably will want to pay more attention to the chapters on the histories and customs of various peoples
  • Life in Ancient Egypt; A. Erman
  • The Romans: Life & Customs; E. Guhl & W. Koner; details look at all aspects of life in the ancient Grecco-Roman world


Middle World:
  • Barangay: 16th Century Philippine Culture & Society; W.H. Scott
  • Discoverie of the Large, Rich & Beautiful Empyre of Guiana; Sir Walter Raleigh, Knight
  • Handbook of Medieval Geography & History; Wilhelm Pütz; a much more in depth look at the history, customs and doings of especially the Germanic peoples
    from the early migratory period up to about 1500.
  • Inquisition/Inquisición; R. Hold
  • Leo Africanus; A. Maalouf
  • Medieval Combat; H. Talhoffer
  • Mediaeval Lore; Robert Steele; articles on science, manners, medicine, geography & natural history of the period
  • A Portrait of Britain Before 1066; Donald Lindsay & Mary Price; a good school introduction to Britain from the bronze age to the coming of William the
    Conqueror (1066)
  • Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe; J. Boswell
  • The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England; Ian Mortimer; getting there, what to see, what to do, where to stay, practical life
  • Travels; M. Polo


Early Modern World:
  • Ask the Fellows who Cut the Hay; George Ewart Evans; 1965.
    A wonderful examination of pre-machine, turn-of-the-20th-century country life in Blaxhall, Suffolk (UK). Anecdotes taken from interviews of people who
    remember life as it was before the machines came to dominate rural agricultural life in the UK. Many aspects of every-day life presented. MICB-I.
  • Chinese Creeds and Customs; V.R. Burkhardt; ca.1940s.
    A detailed exposition of China before the Communist take over and Cultural Destruction that followed. -ICB-I.
  • An English Village; Richard Jeffries; 1903.
    A look at late 19th century rural England. -IC---.
  • Fragments of Two Centuries; Alfred Kingston; 1893.
    “Glimpses of country life when George III was King” - fantastic look at late 18th & early 19th century English country life: locomotion, travel, social & public
    life, poor laws, domestic life, taxes, body snatchers, law & penalties, manners & customs, trade, agriculture, markets, sports, pastimes, memorable events,
    special emphasis on Royston, Herts; highly anecdotal. -IC--I.
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Harriet Jacobs; 1861.
    Apart from being an autobiography of a slave getting herself & her family out of the South, there are loads of anecdotes and tidbits of life in the antebellum
    South. --C---.
  • Ladies’ Indispenaible Assistant; E. Hutchinson; 1852.
    A mid-19th century look at the domestic arts: cookery, doctoring, thread & cloth work, etiquette & manners (very interesting chapter!), ladies’ toilette table.
    --C---.
  • London Labour and the London Poor; Henry Mayhew; 1861.
    An amazingly detailed look at mid-19th century life among the otherwise unhistoried classes of the Metropolis. Reads like a character source book for a
    Dickens novel but is novel in being the true narratives of the 'muckier' classes of London life. -IC--I.
  • Museum of Early American Tools; Eric Sloane; 1964.
    Ever seen an old tool in a barn or antique shop that you had no clue what it is for? This book about early, hand crafted tools is the place to look! This book
    has loads of pictures, names and descriptions of nearly every kind of common tool in use in the 18th & 19th centuries. A great resource on ordinary household
    and farm tools, plus many specialty and craftsman tools. -IC-GI.
  • The Quacks of Old London; C.J.S. Thompson; 1929/1971.
    A good look at life in early modern England, focusing on the quack medicine and its charlatans. -IC--I.
  • The Story of Lucky Strike; Roy Flannagan; 1938.
    Propaganda aside, a good look at tobacco culture from planting to harvest, from curing houses to auction block to manufactory. -I----.
  • Titles & Forms of Address; Adam & Chas. Black; 1966.
    A concise yet comprehensive guide to the correct forms of address to those holding (British) titles & other marks of honour. Not just princes and duchesses;
    this work includes all the nobility, knights, chiefs of Scottish clans, Irish chieftains, ecclesiastic titles, military titles, legal titles, academic and government
    service titles, decorations and honours. Abbreviations, pronunciations of names, titles with examples. --C-GI.
  • Williamsburg Art of Cookery; Hellen Bullock; 1960.
    Hospitality & cookery in colonial America; mostly recipes. -ICB-I.
  • A Wander in London & More Wanderings in London; E.V. Lucas; 1916.
    A look at life, and especially at London, during the Edwardian & WWI eras. -IC--I.
  • The World and its Inhabitabitants; Peter Parley; 1848.
    A mid-19th century look at Earth & its place in the universe, its geology, geography, climate, life forms and man’s place in it; nations of Man, political
    institutions, religions, superstitions, warfare, intoxicants, state of the world. --C---.
  • Schott’s Original Miscellany; Ben Schott; 2002.
    A useful book full of all kinds of tidbits of this and that, trivia and ephemera of all sorts. Loads of interesting data for the worldbuilder. -I---I.
  • The Sears & Roebuck Catalogue; 1897.
    Journey down memory lane, when you could by a house through mail order and have all the bits and pieces delivered by rail!; pictures & prices of
    thousands of everyday articles, tools, clothing, baubles and treasures. -IC--I.
  • Montgomery Ward’s Catalogue; 1895.
    Journey down memory lane, when you could by a house through mail order and have all the bits and pieces delivered by rail!; pictures & prices of
    thousands of everyday articles, tools, clothing, baubles and treasures. -IC--I.


And if I may be so bold...
  • The Chorography; Wulf-Xrestas Ruodbrêce (aka Chris Brown); 2015.
    A look at the geography, mythology, history, customs, lore, cosmography & eschatology of The World. MICB-I.


This last book I added, in part because it ìs a window into matters of culture (just not any cultures of our primary world), but also perhaps as a way of inspiring
you to dig deep into the loam of Culture, all the way down to the bedrock and examine all the interesting things you can find and connect them all together.

This book isn’t just a list of questions and two sentence answers from the Questionnaire. Every single page of it, from the title page to the advertisements at
the back is in a sense a work of art in its own right. A synthesis of matters from all domains of culture, mythology, cosmography, geology, geologic history, all
the layers of the planet, the peoples that live upon it, the Creator, his aides, the ages of the world, the continents and their countries, histories, stories, myths,
legends, folk tales, clothing, foods, languages, the ultimate fate of the world. It is not a detailed encyclopedia, but a survey of all kinds of interesting things. It
is both a work about an otherworld and, truly, a work òf that otherworld.

Inspiration:
I have found many and varied resources to be deep well of inspiration. Not only for writing in general, but also for inventing languages and discovering aspects
of a world or culture. These are some places where you can get your recommended daily allowance of vitamin I:
Travel guides --- never leave home without one! Even if a travel guide proves to be useless where you ended up, at least you were able to spend some
entertaining moments reading about some òther place!

I also like travelogues which are kind of like travel guides, but more narrative. Inspiration from these works can easily come from the strangest and most
wonderful of ordinary places.

I've found much inspiration in old recipe books --- old style recipe books that were more like complete practical home encyclopaedias of the 19th century; old
literary journals; almanacs; encyclopaedias; old nostalgic books about 'the good old days'. It's one thing to read about the late 18th century from the perspective
of an early 21st century historian, but it's quite another to read about it from the perspective of a late 19th century scholar!

Don't neglect ordinary story books, music and pictures of bygone eras and far distant places. Just looking at images of people and places far removed from us
can engender a great flow of ideas.

Oh, and catalogs. Great windows in to past worlds that were before the one we live in now! Old newspaper archives --- just revel in the late 19th and early
20th century style of journalistic writing!

Inspiration is, quite literally, everywhere. We just have to reach out and scoop up the goodness!

Post Script:

If you’ve read this whole Primer and my way is just not for you and you stìll want someone to hold your hand throughout the journey, I can at the very least
point you in the direction of a step-by-step guide that will practically invent a culture for you!

I can recommend the Create a Culture Clinic (H. Lisle). She addresses many topics I’ve addressed, from planning to organisation; to aspects of culture
and questions to ask while inventing; asks many of the same questions I ask. It's just a matter of which road do you want to take?
Last edited by elemtilas on Mon 07 Aug 2017, 23:03, edited 12 times in total.
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If we stuff the whole chicken back into the egg, will all our problems go away? --- Wandalf of Angera
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Re: A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

Post by gestaltist » Mon 01 Aug 2016, 15:15

A great writeup, elemtilas. I am experiencing a creative drought at the moment, and I found this post inspiring.
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Re: A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

Post by elemtilas » Mon 01 Aug 2016, 19:34

gestaltist wrote:A great writeup, elemtilas. I am experiencing a creative drought at the moment, and I found this post inspiring.
Greetings & thank you! Haven't heard much from you in a while, though certainly hope to hear more!
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Re: A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 01 Aug 2016, 20:49

This approach is very similar to how I've come up with the details of my primary conworld, the one with the dalar where they speak Tirina and Azen.

For me, the whole thing really began with some characters; after awhile, I figured out I wanted them to be living on an alternate version of modern-day Earth, and everything grew from there. Where do they live? How can this group of people live on Earth without humans noticing them? What sort of a culture would that be like, that lives alongside but not directly interacting with human cultures? To borrow a phrase from Shamus Young complaining about poor worldbuilding, what do they eat?

Another technique I've used, both for that conworld and in others, is to write little vignettes starting from a premise. What it's like to watch a warp point be created, what it's like to get ready for bed, etc.? It's similar to answering questions, but it's more intimate, I think, than just putting down a few lines of bare facts. It's one thing to say that the wizards of Ademir can create warp points from one place to another; it's another to describe it from the perspective of an inhabitant of a town where they do this, complete with doubt as to the practicality of such a thing, curiosity about how they're doing it, and awe at unfamiliar magic.

Sort of an expanded form of that, I guess, is that I habitually participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Because NaNoWriMo is about getting a lot of words down on paper quickly, there's no time to fuss about whether this aspect of the culture is working just quite right, you just make it up as you go along. At the end of the month, I sometimes have to ditch things I've come up with because they don't fit, but usually I've come up with all sorts of interesting things just by accident that I otherwise wouldn't have been driven to "discover".
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Re: A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

Post by gestaltist » Mon 01 Aug 2016, 21:12

elemtilas wrote:
gestaltist wrote:A great writeup, elemtilas. I am experiencing a creative drought at the moment, and I found this post inspiring.
Greetings & thank you! Haven't heard much from you in a while, though certainly hope to hear more!
The only thing I'm trying to tackle at the moment is finalizing the climate of Scosya - so nothing this forum would be interested in. Other than that, I can't bring myself to create much of anything.
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Re: A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

Post by elemtilas » Tue 02 Aug 2016, 19:53

gestaltist wrote:
elemtilas wrote:
gestaltist wrote:A great writeup, elemtilas. I am experiencing a creative drought at the moment, and I found this post inspiring.
Greetings & thank you! Haven't heard much from you in a while, though certainly hope to hear more!
The only thing I'm trying to tackle at the moment is finalizing the climate of Scosya - so nothing this forum would be interested in. Other than that, I can't bring myself to create much of anything.
Well, I hop you get out of this slump! I've always enjoyed reading about your worlds, both WotS & Golempunk World.
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Re: A Short Primer of the Making of Invented Cultures

Post by elemtilas » Thu 24 Nov 2016, 23:15

Added a slew of books to the lists and, perhaps more importantly, alphabetised the list of resource books! [>_<] [O.O]
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If we stuff the whole chicken back into the egg, will all our problems go away? --- Wandalf of Angera
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