Last week, we finished talking about my ten basic building blocks of culture. These were the elements I needed to create a realistic fantasy culture for my YA epic urban fantasy series, The Legend of the Lightkeepers. I started with a character first, an Andarian named Velanna Ittai, and I designed the culture around her.
So, using the information I gained from my “conversation” with Velanna alongside my ten building blocks, I built an entire world.
However, I hit a snag.
As I was developing Andaria, I realized that they would engage in trade and commerce with their neighboring countries, but I hadn’t designed or put any thought to what their neighbors were like. I didn’t even know what the neighboring countries were called.
It was at this point that I decided to change some names. Andaria became the entire continent on which all of the cultures lived. Celtica became the culture from which Velanna hailed.
Andaria became the entire continent on which all of the cultures lived. Celtica became the culture from which Velanna hailed.
I had begun the process with Velanna Ittai, my character. Velanna would remain Andarian. However, she would also become a Celtican.
Best example? I am an American, but I live in Kansas. So I am also a Kansan. Same difference.
As a result, all of my documents had to change names, but this change helped me sort out the differences between the countries and borders within Andaria. It also helped me figure out how all the different countries related to each other.
Remember that nothing is set in stone until it’s printed on the page (and maybe not even then). Don’t hesitate to change things up. You have to start somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay where you start.
Building Block 1: Daily Life
Celticans, who are citizens of Andaria the continent, prize logic and reason and see emotion as a sign of weakness or as a character flaw. That isn’t to say they don’t have emotions, but they work very hard at controlling them and making choices based on what they know rather than what they feel.
Celticans live a very long time. Middle age is around 600 years. As a result, they rarely rush through anything. They take their time and do things right, but that doesn’t give them a reason to be lazy. They prize efficiency.
An average day for an average Celtican would include rising early, mostly likely for a workout or morning chores if they are an agricultural family. Adults have jobs. Children have school. Once the family is all back together again at the end of the day, they share stories or read or discuss events during and after the evening meal. Then, they sleep.
Celticans operate on a seven-day week, as they have discovered it is the most efficient use of their physical energy. Five days during the week are spent at pursuits such as work or school. Two days during the week are spent with family.
They are more or less free and independent to provide for their own families without relying on their government for assistance.
Building Block 2: Beliefs & Traditions
Celticans are free to believe as they choose without government interference. As a result, there are several different religious systems in existence among them.
A small percentage hold to an evolutionary point of view, but they are considered the outsiders. Celticans who hold to these principles are seen as more emotional than rational because they refuse the concept of Intelligent Design because they do not accept the existence of a Creator. Instead they prefer to operate on a belief system of random chance and no absolutes.
[I love] finding ways to connect real-world cultures with fantasy cultures.
The larger percentage of the culture embraces the concept of Intelligent Design, although the way they implement it in their lives varies from individual to individual. Belief systems within Celtica range from Radical Deism to Zenhar, which is very like modern Christianity.
Because the vast majority of the culture adheres to the belief in a Creator, the culture as a whole accepts a code of morality and ethics derived from what is known about the Creator.
Building Block 3: Language
One aspect of worldbuilding that I love is finding ways to connect real-world cultures with fantasy cultures. I look for commonalities or similar histories between what I’m creating for my fantasy world and cultures that already exist in reality. For me that’s where the real fun starts.
After a a few months of thought, I decided I wanted my Celtican culture to be like Hindi culture with some Arabic influence. It’s not a culture that gets a lot of attention, and it’s very old. So in my fictional world, they could have been connected to the Celticans. Once I decided to take this route, making decisions on clothing, language, food, etc. became easy.
The language the Celticans speak is very similar to Hindi, with small amounts of Farsi scattered throughout. The Celtican language, which takes its vocabulary from Hindi, is quite old and is spoken across the entire continent. It’s a very common language, considered the language of commerce.
The original language the Celticana spoke was called Jankaida, which is a derivative of Farsi or Persian. Very few speak Jankaida anymore. It is only used in ceremonial events and usually only in fragments. Only students of Andaiku recognize it, and only the very old speak it fluently.
Building Block 4: Social Structure
As a society of (mostly) ethical and truly rational individuals, Celtica is clean, orderly, and lawful. A traditional patriarchal society, husbands are the heads of families. Generally it is the father who works outside the home, and the mother maintains the home and raises the children.
Women, though encouraged and expected to remain in the home, are allowed to work outside the home. Early in Celtican’s history, women were not allowed to study Andaiku, but as time progressed, that changed.
Some families have more wealth than others, but they are not treated any differently in society. Those who are wealthy are the greatest supporters and sources of help for those who are poor. There is a prevailing standard that those who have more than enough should help those who are in need. This is not an initiative encouraged by the government. Rather it is everyday citizens helping their own neighbors.
There are no caste systems among the Celticans, and even if there are different classes, they interact with each other on generally equal terms. It would be common for the head of the government to shop in the same market as someone who barely can support their family. Those who have reached the level of Andai warrior or Andai Sage are revered very highly among the people, but they are still considered ordinary citizens.
Building Block 5: Technology
Celticans are the most technologically advanced culture on the continent. They have discovered ways to grow more crops, to enhance livestock production, to manufacture devices that produce energy. They pioneered flight and space flight. They discovered the interdimensional barrier and were the first to breech it. They were the first to send travelers to other dimensions and bring them back safely.
They see themselves as the Wise Ones of the world and want to share their knowledge with their neighbors.
Celticans could easily take over the world, but global conquest isn’t something they are interested in. They see themselves as the Wise Ones of the world and want to share their knowledge with their neighbors, although some of what they know they keep to themselves, knowing that many of their emotional neighbors are not ready for certain advancements (like weapons technology).
As a result of such advanced technology and their moral, rational approach to living, Celticans are healthy, well educated, connected, and extremely knowledgeable.
And here’s where we’re going to stop today.
This is a lot of information to process. But can you see how it works? I know certain things about Velanna Ittai, so I can use her to design a world as long as I know the building blocks of culture.
Next week we’ll continue with how I designed Celtican culture using the other five building blocks.