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Characters are one of my absolute favourite parts of any book. And they’re also one of my absolute favourite parts of writing a book too! Needless to say, I love people. I love people watching, making up stories about people’s lives, figuring out what motivates them. Really, I can’t get enough of it and by the end of this maybe you’ll feel the same way.

Now there are so many different aspects to creating a society. That is, in terms of what they’re comprised of, what make them feel real, what makes them come alive. The most relevant aspects of creating a society include:

  • History
  • Religion
  • Culture
  • Language
  • Location

If you want to find out more, just keep reading.



History

Our history, is one of the single most important part of us. Don’t roll your eyes in disbelief. Didn’t you have to take history for years on end? Doesn’t the fact that people keep talking about the past, make you think about things? Our history can define us, and it is as simple and profound as that.

Let me illustrate. Say you have a character, called Pim. Pim comes from a people who have always been enslaved. How does that affect them? Are they downtrodden? Weary? Obedient? Passive? Say you’re writing about Pim’s descendant Kira. Her people are no longer slaves. They rose up, fought for their freedom, and won. What are her people like now? Can you say they’re still the same docile set of people? Possibly.  Possibly the largest set of society has retained those characters and there are a few who are dominant and can easily lead the rest because they desire to follow. Or her people can be lively, fierce, aggressive even. They’re not afraid to stand up for themselves of voice their opinions because in their belief, it was their ancestors’ inability to stand up for themselves that made them slaves.

History shapes societies. Rather, shared history shapes societies. In a melting pot society, where there are many people of different historical backgrounds, each history affects each person and thus affects how they interact with someone else. Have you watched or read The Help? History shaped those people, it resulted in the way they related to each other, the way they acted. Have you ever heard the statement: ‘”Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it?” Have you characters learned? Or do they merely think they’ve learned? Just think about it.

Religion

Religion is one of those BIG topics. It’s something some people dislike having to discuss, and it’s also something some people like to discuss way too much. No matter what your personal views, remember this: Religion is important. Why you ask? I’ll tell you. It’s an excellent characterisation pool. Religions usually outline how people live, how they should act, what they should do, what they should hold dear, etc. Say, that Kira’s people believe in the twin deities, Azra (the Sun God) and Nari (The Moon Goddess). These are the deities of her people, all the way back into Pim’s time. Watch this.

Pim’s people believed that Azra valued hard work. The Sun God would beat down upon them as they laboured, because He was testing His people. Only the ones who would endure the pain, the heat, the torment, to do what they were supposed to would ever reach the glorious afterlife. Then at night, Nari would rise and would bring cool winds to lessen their pain, to numb the soreness from their limbs, to sting their skin with cold so they did not completely forget that pain could exist. And would continue to exist, day after day after day until they died. But Nari was so caring, she could not stand to see her people suffer so endlessly so she took it away and gave a reminder, because she cared for them. Quite clearly we see that Pim’s people would not have thought of fighting against their lot. Azra demanded that they suffer. Without the pain, there would be no paradise later. And Nari was always there, caring Nari, loving Nari. She would never abandon her people to a life of complete harshness. If life were to get too bad, she would always come to the rescue and as she never rescued them from slavery, then it couldn’t be all that bad, could it?

Kira’s people still believe in pain and hard work as valued by Azra. But their views are different. Slavery is not necessary or expected. Their pain comes training their bodies. Hard work is found as they constantly work to better their city. Their idea of Nari has been completely warped. To them, she was an enabler, a sly deceiver. Every night she would come to take away most of the pain of their ancestors so that they could toil again. She did not come in love or kindness, she came so that Pim’s people would keep working until their broken bodies could work no more. She is the traitor. The goddess of secret and lies and no feeling.

See how religion has made hard work, one of the most important aspects of their society alone?


Now this post is getting crazy long, so I’ll break it here. Part 2b is soon to follow!

What do you think of history and religion in terms of shaping a society?

K, the Popinjay.

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