I’ve been thinking about this and it’s more complex than we realise. Every setting in a ‘real’ place has its own culture. I mean local customs and language idioms and expectations for behaviour and that’s even within one country or larger area. Then if we write historical fiction of any kind, the past is also a different culture, because simply, they did things differently back then, and believed in different things, and worked in different ways. I see the USA ‘South’ has having a different culture to other parts of the US. Where I grew up had different slang and mannerisms to where I went to university – so much so that some thought I was from a different country. Yet, there are enough similarities between groups that remind us that culture is overlaid across human experience. It enables us to imagine aliens of different species or to anthropomorphise animals. It’s because imagination is inherent to humanity (and who knows perhaps all life).
If you want a novel to come alive, you don’t want a generic group of people. You want some culture. Culture is an important part of life, and different cultures are often shown in novels, whether real cultures or fictional ones like in fantasy. But how do authors handle cultures?
I don’t. I like to know what I’m writing about, so if I was to include another culture in my fiction, I would demand extensive research of myself. Research takes a lot of time, and time isn’t something I have a lot of… so… I haven’t, really, had any cultures in my writing that aren’t my own.
Great question. Doing this is tough. You have to be judicious and clever as you share aspects of different cultures, especially if you created them (such…
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