Let me start by saying I don’t come from a distinct cultural background. As far as I know, my families on both sides came from European immigrants (that’s really a best guess). So I don’t have much to work with when it comes to traditions or heritage that I use to identify with. What’s interesting though is I have a continuing growing interest in different cultures.
Writing fantasy is the perfect outlet for me to be creative and create new cultures and peoples, coming up with languages, cuisine, fashion, traditions, holidays, religions, etc. All of these require some foundation of how cultures develop and evolve over generations. Some are forgotten while others are passed on from generation to generation with little change occurring. For example, language in the United States is constantly evolving through pop culture and technology. A hard drive back in 1940 is not necessarily the same thing as it is now. However, in Iceland and other countries, language has remained mostly unchanged (see https://theculturetrip.co
My interest in cultures (both fictional and real) has been bumped by Pixar and Disney’s recent push to explore times and places otherwise not touched in their expansive catalog. We have Brave and Coco (Pixar) and Frozen and Moana (Disney). I’m going to be honest here. I really enjoy all of these films (most of all Moana, which my wife likes to tease me about). Why do I like them? Because you can tell the filmmakers truly wanted to explore the cultures of these peoples and introduce them in a celebratory way. I can’t help but be drawn to this aspect of storytelling.
In my own writing and those of fantasy books I enjoy, I love how cultures (mind you made up ones) add a layer of reality to the story that pulls me in and keeps me engaged in the story. There’s beauty and intrigue to be shown. As we often see in the Pixar and Disney examples, it’s heritage and tradition that drive the protagonist to see their goal completed. A theme I often explore is identity and there’s a great focus of pride in identity when it comes to these characters and where they come from.
For a guy (myself) that feels left out when it comes to heritage and culture, I love to immerse myself in these places and peoples who have vibrant traditions founded by their ancestors. I love seeing these stories celebrated and shared with greater audiences because the diversity of the world is worth noticing.
Call to Action: It should still be in theaters, so I encourage everyone to go see Coco. It’s a great film about family and the importance of remembering those who came before us. You can’t go wrong.