Questions to Ask When Creating Fictional Ethnicities

     Something I love to learn about, both in real life and in my story-worlds, are different cultures to my own. It's fascinating! I could rant for days on how complex cultures are, and what 'culture' even entails, but that's not what we're here for! 

    Today I'm hoping to help you out by asking you some questions about a people group, or ethnicity, in your world. It's so important to have a mix of people groups in your story-world, as it makes it realistic, and intriguing for the reader. But where do you start? How do you know what to focus on? Here are some questions I hope will get you started, and inspire you!



1) What region/land did this ethnicity originally belong to? Are they still living in a similar geographical location, or have they been forced to leave their land, or did they migrate? Why?

2) Above all, what values does this ethnicity hold above all others? For example, is physical strength valued above everything else, or love, or family, or personal success? Where did these key values originate from?

3) What physical features set them apart from other ethnicities? Do they have a certain hair colour exclusive to them? A certain skin tone, or face shape, or birthmark, or something else?

4) What colours are associated with them, and what ways of dress? Do the women wear bright wrap-around skirts, do all wear golden hoops in their ears, or something else? Do they have different garments to mark status within their community?

5) Who is of the highest authority within their people group? Is there a leader for each tribe, each town, or each city? Or do they all follow one central government/leader? How is the person in authority chosen; are they the oldest, the heir, or elected by the people?

6) What is considered to be their traditional meal? Is their food famous throughout other lands, or is it considered undesirable? (Quick note: remember that their food will be affected by the ingredients they have! Where they live will determine what is available. For example, if they live far inland, the likelihood of seafood is practically impossible without modern transport!)


7) What kind of housing do they live in? Do they live in easy-to-dissemble structures if they're nomads, thatched cottages, tents, brick/stone homes, townhouses, or something else? What does this choice of style of home say about them?

8) What name are they known by, from within their community? What do other ethnicities call them; something different, an insulting slur, or the same name?

9) What are their thoughts on war? Do they see it as a way to advance their values on other people groups, necessary for resources, or a part of what defines them? Are they more likely to attack or defend?

10) What is their reputation among other ethnicities? Are they considered respectable, scoundrels, or something else? What does this say about them, and what does this say about the other people groups?

11) What is the main occupation of the members of their community? How does this affect their status in comparison to other ethnicities, and how does this influence what they import/export?

12) Which form of transport is the most popular among them? Horses, wagons, carriages, oxen, camels, donkeys, by foot, or by something else? 


13) Do they have any celebrations unique to them? Why do they celebrate it, and not other people groups?

14) What religion do most members of the ethnicity follow? Or do they not follow any religion at all, or do they have a specific way of life? Do some members say they are a part of the religion, but are secretly part of another, or don't believe in its teachings?

15) Do they have their own language? If they share a language with other ethnicities, what slang or words are unique to them?

16) What would a 'regular' family group look like? Does marriage exist, or another form of commitment? Are couples expected to have children straight away, or wait? Do generations live in the same house together?

17) How would they describe themselves in one word? How would other ethnicities describe them in one word?

18) What kind of music and art is common among them? Do they have a unique instrument, style of dance/drawing/painting/pottery? What patterns and colours are associated with them?


19) How proud are members of their ethnicity? Are they ashamed and try to hide it, do they brag about it, or something else?

20) Are members known for a particular skill, or talent, such as pottery, the arts, or creating technology? Do they have magic? 



More in the Questions to Ask When... series!

Cities      History      Celebrations      Magic
Characters (Backstory, and Interview)
Schools      Monarchies      Religions


Tell me about your story's world! What ethnicities are in it? Where in your world would you want to visit, and where in it would you like to live?
Best of luck with your writing, and have a lovely day! <3

Comments

  1. You did amazing with this in Golden Revenge! Great advice!

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  2. Once again, your timing is impeccable, Melissa! I'm working on creating my own ethnicities for The White Rose, because there is a huge tournament with all sorts of foreign sovereigns, lords, and then some. I've been mostly basing it off of real ethnicities (Vikings, Native Americans, Africans, etc.) but these questions will certainly help in creating my own unique ones!!!!

    Thank you!!!

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad I can be of help again!!! :) That sounds like a very fun scene to work with; play around with creating your own cultures, or try mixing them with real ones! I hope the questions inspire you. :D

      You're very welcome, and thank you! <3

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  3. Love this post! I'm always looking for extra tips on worldbuilding and creating authentic characters and places, and this was very thorough and EASY to understand (sometimes I feel like some lists get a little TOO detailed and I start to panic). Thank you very much for sharing! :)

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    1. Thank you! I'm very glad that my questions will be able to help you with your worldbuilding; that's the aim of all these posts! :) You're very welcome, and thank you for commenting!

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  4. Dude. DUDE. Duuuuuuude. How do you come up with such thought-provoking questions???!!! THESE ARE SO AMAZING AND HELPFUL.

    Lila @ The Red-Hooded Writer

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    1. Awwww you're too kind Lila! I'm glad they're helpful. <3 Honestly, I just sit down and think about every little detail about cultures and how societies operate in general, and then write them in the form of questions. :)

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  5. This is really cool and helpful! Thank you for such a great post!

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    1. Thanks Emily! I'm glad you found it helpful! <3

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  6. Love these questions! I've actually answered a lot of them for my Isriki race but you have even more for me to consider. ^ ^

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you Victoria, I'm glad! :) That's wonderful; I'm glad you've developed your ethnicity, but that I was also able to come with some to help you flesh them out! xD

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  7. aaaahhh I love this post <3 I never spend much time on worldbuilding, especially writing it down, as it's all in my head...but then it's hard to remember things and such XD This post will definitely be helpful for me!

    Btw, I tagged you for the Liebster award, if you're interested! http://audreycaylin.com/2018/02/the-liebster-award/

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    1. Thanks so much Audrey!!! <33 I feel you there -- I often have a lot of ideas in my head, but I have to push myself to sit and write them down. I find once I do that, I get even more ideas, though! :) I'm glad it will help you out!

      And thank you again for nominating me! <3

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  8. You should publish these as a book.


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    1. Thanks for the suggestion, and your support of the series! I am considering publishing them as a book, and will keep you updated.

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