Worldbuilding Questions: Post #8 – People and Customs, Part Two
Continuing from last week’s post, I would like to continue delving into worldbuilding on a societal scale and focus on a few areas of customs today: meeting and greeting, gestures, visits, and language. I’m keeping it light today because this Saturday, we’re going to be focusing on two of the most controversial topics in general: ethics and religion. Buckle up, everybody!
PSA: As always, another link!
Greeting and Meeting
Greeting fellow citizens can be as influential or as mundane as you would like it to be. Will a handshake suffice for the common man as well as the wealthy? Do nobles require a bow or some sort of elaborate movement? Or do you throw tradition to the wind and reverse the two types of greeting and make greeting common folk elaborate and noblemen simple? That’s actually a pretty interesting idea; I may have to use that in a different story…. Hmm…
Now, of course, there can be various customs surrounding greeting someone you have never met before. When your people are introduced to someone for the first time, who introduces them? Is it general or specific? Is there an order that people should be introduced in based on age or sex or status if it is a larger group? If it is a grand introduction, like perhaps at a ceremony, is there a way their name is said to give it more emphasis or stature? What about the differences between your given name and perhaps a “true name”, as some fantasy books like to include? How many people know a person’s “true name”? How many are allowed to know? Don’t forget to note how family members or significant others may greet each other as it could be different!
This category really gets into semantics. Think about the way the average person moves in our world. Everyone has their own body language. Some people move their hands when they speak. Some tend to shift from side to side. Others still have habitual movement that comes up when they’re sitting or standing still. Take notice of that in other people that you interact with every day, and apply the same concept to your society.
What gestures are meant as insults? What’s the equivalent of the middle finger in your fantasy world? What gestures are taken kindly, like the “V” for peace? What gestures are signs of respect, like a salute or a bow? These details can add a little spice to your characters.
What topics should be avoided when you have guests over, particularly family? Politics? Religion? Family affairs? Can you imagine a scene where someone does bring up one of these topics?
How seriously does your world take the responsibilities of host and guest? Is it considered polite to offer food or drink or a place to stay for the night? Do these apply to everyday situations or only to special guests or circumstances? On the flip side, are guests obligated to accept any and all offers regardless of their personal preference? Or are they given the option to choose?
One should exercise caution when deciding what to do about language in your world. Many wonderful fantasy books communicate solely in English with no interesting new words added to the mix. However, a select few manage to create a whole new engaging language to slip in throughout their plot. It takes a lot of creativity to come up with one. Make sure you’re up for the challenge!
Languages can come in all shapes and forms. Some societies have a trade language that helps to facilitate trade between groups or countries that don’t speak the same language. Are there languages only known by a certain group of people such as priests or wizards? Building slang can also be a fun way to incorporate a new language into a story. Slang phrases can really portray a character’s voice and style of speaking. You can also create an entirely new language for magic for the communication of spells and incantations.
Hope you all enjoyed today’s post! See you on Saturday!