Author Name: Rebekah Loper
This book is a fantastic tool for writers of fantasy and science fiction who have to build their worlds from nothing. However, I soon realized that this is also useful for those of us whose fiction is set in the present day US, as well. It is a comprehensive guide to setting, including aspects many of us don’t think about until we are in the middle of a story and get lost. Even if we are not creating the world from scratch, we still need to be mindful of how the various aspects of geography, society, and culture affect our characters and their lives.
The book has 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet. The topic is discussed and thought provoking questions are asked. Sources of inspiration are also given. Each chapter concludes with exercises that can be used to flesh out the topic for the reading author’s work. The chapters do not have to be read and practiced in the order written, but the reading author can jump around to what sections are needed easily.
I definitely recommend this book to any fiction author.
X is for XenialConcerning the Hospitality of GuestsThe word ‘xenial’ has to do with hospitality. Specifically, it can pertain to the type of hospitality shown to strangers and guests. Since travel is an integral part of many speculative fiction plots, hospitality is an important thing to consider in your worldbuilding. We will look at both day-to-day hospitality and hospitality shown to guests and travelers.Common CourtesyThere are many different ways people say hello or goodbye, as well as potential cultural reasons why they don’t say either of those things. It can be complicated or simple, and perhaps it ties in with other cultural occurrences. There may also be additional greetings included, such as during a holiday season (Merry Christmas!)Depending on how your society is set up, there may be common mandatory courtesies for those of different rank. Think of whether royalty must be addressed in a certain manner, and if people are required to bow or curtsy. If someone is seen as having descended directly from a divine being, perhaps culture demands that people fully prostrate themselves in their presence.There may be those who are not acknowledged publicly at all – like servants, peasants, or beggars. There are multitudes of reasons a society might see certain people as inferior, sadly.Attitudes and language in general can be more or less formal, and may depend on how well people know each other, the capacity they are interacting in at that moment, societal rank, or gender.When devising protocol and courtesies between ranking individuals and their equals or subjects, keep in mind that many things will be shaped to lessen the fear of the risk of assassination. Words and phrases that are perfectly acceptable in common company may be perceived as threatening when in the presence of ranking individuals.Treatment of GuestsA guest can be a familiar friend, in which case they will not require much formality, but there still may be certain things that are offered because of custom. Casual greetings can be a simple ‘hi’ or even greeting someone by name. But universal hospitality may be inviting someone to sit down and asking if they’d like a drink, regardless of whether they are a close friend or a new acquaintance.Travelers, especially strangers, will receive a different kind of hospitality, and that can vary. If a town has been repeatedly pillaged or taken advantage of, they won’t be very friendly to strangers anymore. But some places might pride themselves on their hospitality, and will go all out to impress a guest.In an agrarian society, or any place that uses livestock as their main form of transportation, it would be more than reasonable for a stranger to be offered feed, water, and a place in the stable for their animal. A drink, meal, and perhaps even a bath (or foot washing) are things that would be offered to nearly everyone, no matter what their rank.However, if a monarch were to suddenly show up at the front door, it may even be an occasion to slaughter an animal for dinner, even if it was being saved for some other occasion. Not every guest is going to receive that kind of hospitality.A family member who just showed up out of the blue, though, may not warrant very much special hospitality. It just depends. Hospitality and common courtesies are elements that can enhance a plot and the interactions between characters, as many different nuances and intentions can be made clear between what is offered, and what is not.Another matter to consider is if and when guests can be turned away. It might be that certain guests may never be turned away – such as a monarch, though it would courteous of a gracious monarch to find lodging or sustenance elsewhere if there has been a death in the home recently.Sickness will almost always be a reason to turn away guests. An illness potentially being contagious is nothing to ever mess around with, especially if medical care is not incredibly advanced.The main thing to consider is whether one can turn away a guest for any reason, without giving a reason, or if they must have a concrete reason to do so.Other InspirationLook up etiquette of different historical eras and different cultures – there’s some unique customs out there that can be great story inspiration. Etiquette will also vary by social and economic status. There are certain customs some might find difficult to part with, even if they have experienced a change in social status. There is also the fact that the rich can afford more niceties.