The Devil’s in the Details
Why considering all factors of a culture is important
World building is complicated; all the factors that make cultures what they are today took hundreds, if not thousands of years to develop. Religion, food, music, language, economic systems, hierarchies and all of that are all really really complicated. Today, I’m just going to focus on two of these factors, so sit down, pour a cup of some tea and enjoy watching me stumble through this essay I used to have drafted out!
Let me start with this: religion as a subject is multi-faceted and confusing. Like, really confusing. You have your polytheistic religions, monotheistic religions, different branches of the same religion with different rules depending on where, when and how they were worshipped. Dionysus has a ton of origin myths about him, from he just showed up as a force of chaos one day, to that he was one of Zeus’ many many children, that he was Persephone’s son, that he was one of the gods of Death. It all depended on the era and people who were worshipping him.
The other, probably more obvious example would be Christianity. One of the world’s most widespread religions, it is also the most divided, faceting into multiple branches, each with its own systems and practices. It’s been involved in Western World history for a while, mucking things up, starting wars and other lovely things. Remember the Papal Wars? Those were fun and confusing.
When building your world’s religions, you have to consider a lot of things: Do they have an influence in government, or are they more withdrawn? Is it poly or monotheistic? If it is polytheistic, are certain gods more revered than others? Are there fringe cults that pop up and vanish? Is there an afterlife and are there requirements to go to said afterlife? Are they ritualistic murderers, are there sacrifices to appease them? Were there things like the crusades and are there missionaries? Is church land owned by the hierarchy of the church, or is it owned by the government?
Religion is born of a need, either for a community, an explanation for something that isn’t always easy to. Lightening, love, death are big ones that pop up in early religions. So what need does your religion fill in your world, how does it do so?
I think if your religion fulfills that question, that’s an alright start.
For those of you who have not seen Venom yet, I apologize, it is a solid film and I’m about to spoil a bit.
One of the main reasons the symbiotes are hanging out on Earth is that there are resources, namely humans for them to consume. Food is important, like really important. It can make or break most civilizations and most can’t start building beyond simplicity without a steady, constant food source. Food surplusses allow people to begin specializing in other professions, like tailoring, forging, being a soldier.
Livestock is also a part of this equation. We’re a really unique species in that we can drink milk long past our earliest stages and that it doesn’t have to come from another member of our species. We can drink cow, camel, yak, goat and I think three other kinds of animal milk? We also eat meat, use beasts of burden and even keep smaller predators as pets.
Another factor in humanity’s prevailing weirdness is we eat a lot of food that would be poisonous and that developed to be poisonous to stop people from eating it. (Peppers, coffee, chocolate, pufferfish) We will try to eat it if it looks remotely edible.
So, the questions when you are writing become: Where does the food come from? Who harvests it? What about beasts? Are there local dishes?
Anyways, I hope this helps and happy writing!