Writing Exercise: Tailor

via Daily Prompt: Tailor

The pile of work on his table hadn’t moved in weeks. No one had brought anything new. They knew it wouldn’t get done. He couldn’t. Not with her still in there with him. Her fabrics lay stacked on the shelves; the shirt she’d been mending still lay on her work table. He couldn’t bear to look at it.

Worldbuilding, Part 6: Culture

While normally I agree that building a new apartment complex of strip mall simply because there is land isn’t really a great choice, now, driving by the construction for the new farm equipment store or watching Gold Rush grieves me. All those trees uprooted, all those animals and creatures with no home. The bare land speaks volumes to me. This is an extremely Lupa view of land development. It is part of their culture and who they are.

There is a road I drive on often on which the land used to belong to a farm, and has since been sitting, full of grasses and a little woodland. It’s been there since I was a child as other things have sprung up around it. It has recently been under development. Driving by the construction grieves me. All those trees uprooted, all those animals and creatures with no home. It’s the same feeling I often have when my husband watches Gold Rush. The bare land speaks volumes to me. This is an extremely Lupa view of land development. It is part of their culture and who they are.

Some writers enjoy moving from one story to the next, while others work with the same characters or group of people over a series or even multiple series. In the series process, we often move from writers who control stories, to writers who discover stories. There is a point that it becomes part of us. We begin not just to understand who our characters are and where they’re coming from, but when we begin to think like them, and see through their eyes.

Culture is the part of a people from which we derive customs, modes of action, and world view–how we think. Ten years ago, construction never bothered me like it does today. I have incorporated this, and many other, Lupa ideologies into myself. Creating the culture from scratch, however, was long, and sometimes difficult. I had to determine the best way to show their character in all kinds of situations–and what was their character exactly?

In this section, we will discuss cultural elements beyond the basics of food, clothing, and shelter. Here is the time to consider social customs such as greetings and rank, how they treat various arts, how they deal with death. Some cultures focus on particular arts (such as singing and dancing in Tibet), while others adore poetry and plays (ancient Greece). Here is where we determine how people handle all kinds of things in life, from work to leisure, and everything in between.




All societies have customs. If you’re writing in any kind of historical genre, you have the added bonus of people able to research the culture and customs of which you’re writing. This is, of course, still quite a bit of work. If you’re based on an Earth historical period, such as medieval, you can make modifications. Even if you’re starting from scratch, you can start with a basic set based on the people you’re writing about. As the Lupa are very natural and instinctual, I started there. Do make sets of customs for both public and home life.


Public Life

Chose things that make sense for your basics. If your people have a great sense of smell or hearing, it may be very rude to not acknowledge someone’s presence when they come into a room or join a group–in most cases there’s no way you wouldn’t know they’re there. So if you have to acknowledge a new presence, start with the basic greeting. Is “hello” enough? Should there a nod or bow? What about gestures? Some people shake hands, grip forearms, or exchange a kiss of greeting. If there are different types, when is each used? Likewise, there are ways to say goodbye.

You’ll want to determine if there is rank, and if so, how do they interact? Are certain topics forbidden in public conversation? (See Victorian society for examples.) Are there certain things everyone knows about and therefore don’t need explaining? Why?

Not only should you have your basic public etiquette down, but you should delve into very specific things, as well. This is the difference between okay and good writing. Know your subject, and do differentiate. If you’re writing a feast, it’s not just enough to have food on the table. Know how many courses there should be, how many dishes are allowed under sumptuary laws, and what’s included in each one.

And always remember, people want to be thought better of in public. There is a reason that traveling outfits are traditionally better than home wear.

Home Life

Home life is where your characters may be most revealed, so you’ll want to make the most of it. Servants always know the intimacies of their masters and mistresses, and family and close friends reveal both the best and worst of themselves. However, there should be common expectations of what acceptable when one has guests, and what friends can expect when visiting.

For instance, who always uses the front door, and who may use whatever entrance they like? Who is free to move about, and who should stay where invited to sit or dine? In ancient Greek culture, a man may have been killed on the spot for entering the women’s quarters of a villa. Intruding on the king or queen’s chambers without an invitation is always a serious offense. Close agemates in Lupa culture have the right of entering through a bedroom window during daylight hours.

Most cultures make large distinctions on what’s appropriate based on the time of day. Some prioritize organization in the home, and others comfort. Made decisions on what’s most important for your people and characters, and again, write in a fully functioning manner for personal homes, whether it’s a one room hut or a residency wing of a large castle.




One of the prime telling points of a society may be how they approach education. There are many types currently in use in our world, from standard primary, secondary, and university schools, to master to apprentice, to tribal group learning. In science fiction one may find direct download to the brain (the Matrix trilogy) or in fantasy, direct mind to mind.

The lives of both the young and anyone who teaches or mentors significantly depends on how they learn, and the system in use in their community. Alana Treebond lives in the King’s castle to become a knight and is also required to pass general educational school subjects; Wesley Crusher attends Star Fleet Academy in San Francisco for his genius-level education; Balien the blacksmith as apprenticed to the town blackmith to learn his trade.

These all present very different means of learning, and greatly affected the lives of the characters. Most children go somewhere else for school, whether a daily commute or a boarding situation. Alana was put up at the King’s expense as part of his household.

What about people with no formal education system? How do they teach their children? Who does it, and what do they learn?




A secondary but important feature is how people communicate. A high-tech community who doesn’t use voice or video as their prime communication network is very telling–they may be phobic to other people, as in Azimov’s The Naked Sun. Millennials usually prefer texting, while Baby Boomers may prefer email. Romans may have sent messages tattooed on slaves.

For most of history, the letter was the main communication for those who could read, while the town crier or a minstrel may be the main mode for the illiterate. How information and news is disseminated can lay quite a backdrop. Who knows about current events, and who doesn’t. It may make a marked class distinction.

On the other hand, very high-tech societies which rely on video or holo communication where everyone is networked may make a much more even playing field in your people’s culture. Control of information via technology may also be important.

A species of telepaths, like the Betazoids on Star Trek, have an en entirely different understanding of communication than the average species. They commonly communicate telepathically, and  hold very different trials than other species. The Lupa, for whom some members are gifted in this area, often have trouble understanding why Humans hold trials, and why they take so long–a Speaker can settle guilt in moments and recommend appropriate action.


Art and Death


These are two very telling areas when it comes to culture, as how one deals with both art and death reveal much about one’s mindset and point of view. Some cultures will see art as a waste of time and energy, while in others it is the pinnacle upon which existence rests. A culture where death is seen as a doorway to a different existence may place little importance on death, or make it an important ceremony, depending on other aspects of their culture.

If you’re writing in a world in which there is much class structure or societal rules, consider if there are certain types of art that are prized or despised. Why? What are the most common types of art practiced by non-artists? Are there any very strange things that they consider great arts? If you have an artist as an important character, research how art was done in that time period, in that place. If in another world, determine what kinds of paints or drawing implements are used. Be prepared. A culture without eggs, for instance, will not be using tempera paint.

Regarding death, you will want to know the common modes of celebrating or mouring. What happens when a friend dies? A business acquaintance. A family member? If your have telepathic or mentally bonded characters, how does this change their or the people’s understanding of death and grieving? Death can be particularly harsh for these kinds of people, so is there a universal kind of understanding?

These are two important aspects of background culture which can shed luminous light on your story and characters.



Herbal Medicine Vs Chemical Medicine The Alternative Healthy Car

How your people handle medicine also has a lot to do with their world view. Throughout history, there have been a lot of thoughts about medicine that while not true were chief ideas that affected the entire field. During medieval times, for instance, your physician kept your humors in balance and preserved your health on a regular basis, whether or not you were ill.

Deeply spiritual people are more likely to use spiritual paths of healing. Science fiction isn’t just about the scientific ways of healing; it can also show much more metaphysical ones. Whatever your people do, make sure it fits with the rest of their culture. Also figure out if there are different modes of medicine used by different people. Lower classes of people often use more resourceful sources of medicine which can be found in their environment, while the wealthy may import unicorn horns.


Special Powers


The other major area of culture we must discuss, as world building is so heavily used in scifi/fantasy, is the inclusion or reaction of culture to special powers. The X-Men universe delves into war between Mutants and non-Mutants. The people of Betazed expect to communicate telepathically and to have others connect with them mentally. Witches and Wizards of the Harry Potter Wizarding world expect to see people doing magic as a matter of course–it is more unusual not to have magic.

Sometimes only certain people have powers, while other in other worlds it is much more common. Especially where it is common, what natural accommodations made? How is this power built into the foundations of society?

Lupa, for instance, have trouble understanding our justice system. Those with astral abilities are expected to help others in various ways, including determining whether someone is guilty. An experienced Speaker knows their pack members well, and can rightly determine this. To them, the time and “what ifs” of a trial are debilitatingly slow and unnecessary. But then, the guilty aren’t punished the same way, either. There are punishments when needed. However, part of the Speaker’s duty is to work with the person psychologically to correct any underlying causes, and likewise alert other pack members as to how they can help.

Take care and think through this aspect of the culture. It is very important. Even with only a percentage of the population (1-3 Lupa in every 30-50 have astral abilities), the cultural reflection can have a large imprint.

Writing Exercise: Hike

Miara climbed out of the wreckage of the transport vehicle, half obscured in smoke. Several hundred yards away, their pilot was coming closer to see if she needed help, while Daniel and Gritha were running from much further away. Once she was down on the sand, she waved to signal she was alright.

I’m okay, she told Daniel. How about you?

I’m fine, Mi-na. What are we going to do?

We’ll have to see, said, setting out toward them. Once they all met, she put down the bags, stuffed with whatever she’d been able to grab.

“Why don’t we see what we have,” Gritha said. “How close were we to the nearest city?” he asked the pilot, shielding his eyes with a hand as he looked back the way they’d come.

“Quite a ways, by foot,” he said. “At least we have the water bag.”

“Too bad we weren’t carrying much food,” Daniel said. “How many snacks are left?”

“Meat jerky and a handful of nuts,” she said.

The pilot, meanwhile, had picked up a small device from what she’d stuffed in the one empty sack they’d had, walking in a circle around them as it gathered information. Without much more talk, Miara and Gritha repacked all the bags with equal weight and food, and Daniel sat, conserving energy.

Finally, the pilot came back to the group. “We’ve definitely much closer to Nirveth, at least. It should take 2–3 days on foot, though if we’ll last that long…”

“You’re native, and we’re Lupa,” Miara said. “We can make it. Do we even know if the mayday got out?”

“I don’t know. The communication line went down so quickly after the explosion I can’t be sure. And this device doesn’t have any communication built in, it’s just for mapping.

“Then between it and our astral mapping, we won’t have to worry about getting lost.”

“Quite true,” Gritha said, handing out the bags. “Hopefully someone will come pick us up.”

Miara and Daniel changed to fur, bags slung over their backs, before starting out in front of the other two. If not, it’ll be quite a hike.

Writing Exercise: Stylish

Aura turned this way and that in the mirror, looking at herself shrewdly. A few fashion magazines lay on her bunk, opened to pages any adult would consider to mature to her. Not that she cared what they thought. Her faded lettings and the tiger shirt she was wearing were what she’d been given–she’d hardly ever been able to pick her own clothes. And now something needed to be done about it. She was seven, not three!

The last lady she had seen donating clothes had literally said to the social worker, “I know they’re not great clothes, my kids won’t wear them, but I know the kids here are just grateful to have something new. Besides, those without don’t have much of a choice.” She may as well have said “beggars can’t be choosers.”

But there were other problems now. She didn’t want another day when the older bullies picked on her, or the old man at the park leered at her, or made comments about the young kids when the adults couldn’t hear. Well, she’d show them a thing or two. But she needed to look older first.

The woman in the magazine was White, and thin, and blonde. She couldn’t be those things, but she could get makeup, and a miniskirt, and whatever kind of top that was, with all the straps. She just had to figure out where, somewhere no one would miss them.

Writing Exercise: Silence

Les wondered if they were even able to talk about what was going on. They barely knew each other. She’d never asked about his problems, despite how obvious they’d been. It was his house, and he could have demanded she tell him everything or be kicked out, but the thought of doing so was so fleeting it barely registered. He glanced at the strange truck across the street with the two men in it, and decided to ignore it, burying is head back in his book.

Later in the afternoon, there was still no sign of her. He went down the hallway to her door, but had no idea how long she’d been in there. It could be she was just quiet, or had been out while he was busy. What if she was hiding? Or dead?–don’t be ridiculous, he told himself. He raised his hand, but couldn’t bring himself to knock.



Note: A little piece reflecting part of Mally’s story.



World Building, Part 5: Shelter

This is the final world building section on necessities: Shelter. Where your characters live and the upkeep they expect are important and tone-setting background information for readers.



While many things about a society’s homes and buildings have to do with protection, materials, and environment, this is also a category where you’ll find yourself making arbitrary decisions about things like building shapes and sometimes materials. However, here I’ll be giving some guideline for thought and issues involved with buildings. There are many Lupa examples, as I can explain why they do particular things.


What kind of structures do they use for shelter?

home -outside-2

If you have already done your seasons, weather, and environment, getting started with shelter should not be difficult–they will inform your basics. Choose appropriate shelter for deserts, high mountains, or lush valleys. If caves are readily available, perhaps they live there. Do not choose types of structures that do not make sense for the world or environment.

A modern Western style house will not work on an electricity-free planet unless you come up with substitutes for modern plumbing, lighting, and appliances. Lupa, for instance, can build Western style, houses, but pair it with wooden piping, candles, and an open fire cooking area. Cabins are more common in wooded areas; desert people may live in tents or caves. Some live in the ground like Hobbits.

Do some people in your world live in castles? Space stations or ships? Do they prefer certain types of land? If you’re dealing with different worlds or planets, where and how people live is a good way to make differences. Make sure to do some research, especially if you’re getting into castle or enclosed space vessels of any sort: these are very large and complicated communities and may not function the way you think.


How do they build, and who does it?


Some cultures live entirely in tents or outside in rougher huts or lean-tos. Other have a guild of stone masons or wood workers. Do communities come together to help as the Amish do? What are their methods for building?

Lupa, for instance, have building teams that travel in their sector once or twice a year to make major repairs, additions, and new buildings. Most teams specialize in the types of shelters used in their area, such as wood in the woodlands or stone in cave settings. They rely more on people, strength, and ingenuity to fell trees and transport materials when needed rather than machines, and aren’t afraid to ask residents to help.

When building a residence, they will plan out the plumbing so that the least amount of piping is necessary; the same sets of pipes will deliver water to both the bathroom and kitchen. The same set of pipes will take all waste out to compost. The fire pit will be carefully situated in the kitchen end of the store room to keep air from affecting the fire. The other significant feature in Lupa residences is that any structure higher than one level will have a half-way roof, allowing residents to exit and enter their private rooms directly.

With anything very important to your people, consider how it will be incorporated into their homes. Household gods need somewhere to be honored; people who work in the land need somewhere to clean off so as not to track dirt and grime into the home.


How much shelter do they need? Does it vary throughout the year?


Some elements of residential structures will be determined by the types of shelter needed. People who don’t necessarily use much shelter may only build extremely strong emergency structures. In the Dragonriders of Pern books, the Pernese build primarily out of stone to prevent a substance which can get through other materials from reaching them. While metal also stops it, their low technology level doesn’t lend itself to using metal in that fashion, thus the reliance on stone. The dragons and their riders live in extinct volcanoes in caverns hollowed out of rock, quite a unique setting

Most of the Xcheamo year it temperate, so Lupa spend a great deal of time outside and don’t need much protection from the elements. Winter and summer, however, require a great deal of protection. Windows and doorways generally don’t have any pane at all, just an open space. They use these to get in and out easily, and for the most part use cloth hangings over doorways.

However, they make use of heavy-duty wood “fillers,” significantly secured, during both of the extreme seasons, as well as extreme bad weather. They are designed to be jammed in place when needed. Different hangings are also used in winter and summer, to let in less heat or cold. Wood panels may also be used to stop incursions of insects or animals into the home.


How do they decorate? How much customization is there?


The final element in homes is, of course, decoration. If you’re working with a people group, determine how people with their inclinations may decorate. If it’s particular characters, take clues from all that you know about them. If they love a particular color, it will be reflected in their home. If your native tribe finds great expression in intricate geometrical patterns, it may show up in rugs or pottery. When creating a species, you’ll get into some territory of really trying to “listen” to what they like to surround themselves with in some cases, such as any favored patterns or ideas repeated in their architecture or decor. You may go back and change things as you get deeper into it. This is okay.

Remember that some decor requires meticulous work if there isn’t electricity or a machine to make it. Also remember that there is great difference even among the same people. Melinda may love anything with flowers on it, while Vera will only decorate in solid colors. Practical people will have more simple homes and furnishings than those who have a great love of aesthetics, art, or fashion.

The common threads in determining decoration come from environment and general attitudes. Lupa are nature people, and while they may decorate in all kinds of colors or patterns, they love nature and being surrounded by it. Their products will be made from natural sources. Metal is not so common in their culture, and so you won’t find much metal in their decor or furniture. They feel very at home around nature paintings, wood pieces, real fur blankets, and wide open windows. You’ll never find a lumpy pillow, mattress, or couch in a Lupa home, as they highly value comfort.

Customization may depend very much on the availability of homes, and how many residences are built to order. Historical structures may not be allowed to be changed, as in Philadelphia. Societies with free or easily attainable builders may often make additions or modifications. Many societies will have much more customization in their furniture and decor than their structures.


World Building, Part 4: Clothing

This post will deal with the second necessity, clothing. Both cultural and character clothing are addressed here, and hopefully will be a good guide for anyone trying to build both.





Every culture has some kind of common cloth used in their clothing, such as cotton, linen, or perhaps microfiber. Choose the base material use for most things, and then extrapolate the most common grades of cloth, from high to low. Cotton can be used in very course or fine fabrics. Do higher classes of society wear different kinds of material, such as silk? What about velvet? If you’re in sci-fi territory, you can use all kinds of constructed or synthetic fabrics. Invent a plant if you have to, but make sure you’re able to talk about clothing, including fabrics.

The Lupa make all of their cloth from the same plant, wissa, which can made into very course fabric for bags or tarps, thick sheets for towels or curtains, and two or three fine versions for clothing. The finest clothes will also have other plant-based substances which help make the threads very fine. They don’t use any other main source material for fabric, but have learned to manipulate wissa to make many types of cloth from it.




Construction is probably one of the most important elements of clothing for your world–yes, even more than fashion. How we construct our clothes determines fashion and the look of a culture. Japanese clothing is distinctive in the use of robes and tie-and-belt closures rather than buttons or snaps. Elizabethan silhouettes are known for the doublet, panniers, and wigs, while many Native Americans preferred simpler attire adorned with bone, beads, or feathers.

Again, do some research if you have to, and get a sense of your culture’s clothing basics. Lupa often shift between forms, so one of their primary clothing choices is a shift-like garment, with two wide shoulder straps and a long body and can be seen here. They also have basic pants, which are a bit more like capris with a draw string waist, and both t-shirts and tank tops. Most clothing is designed for comfort and ease of movement, and usually anything fitted comes in a wrap style to accommodate body types and sizes. They like practical and multi-functional clothing, as well. Formal dresses are always wrap style. Lupa are people whose clothing is almost always in line with their attitudes.



Fashion is where class distinctions can be made and where characters make their mark with clothing. You can determine who people are, where they come from, how they like their clothes to function, and what’s important to them.

While Lupa don’t have classes, the immortals tend to receive gifts, which sometimes include beautiful fabrics or clothing. Babies are usually kept naked or in shifts due to their extremely active lives. Someone who likes clothing will have many more tailored pieces compared to general use pieces.

Lord of the Rings is a prime example of how clothing can set characters: the difference between Elves, Men, Dwarves, and Hobbits can be easily seen in their attire. Star Trek also uses various costuming to show different cultures and species. Klingons wear a lot of armor on a daily basis, while natives of Risa, a temperate pleasure planet, are usually found in summery, beach-like clothing.

If your setting does has very established classes, you’ll want to look at how fashion becomes more refined as you go up the social ladder. You don’t need to literally have sackcloth or cloth of gold, but whatever your people have should reflect those class statuses. Generally, simple course clothing goes to the bottom, while fine fabrics with impractical styles are at the top. If you’re writing historical fiction, research what was worn at the time carefully, as well.

As for individual characters, yes there are something that are required–archers must have bows and arrows, but also arm guards. A knight will never wears his sword on the right (one mounts a horse from the left), but his sword may show their flair or simple elegance. But try not to stray over into cliche too much unless your character is that emo kid wearing all black and skulls–these kinds of characters specifically want to project certain images. I always recommend building wardrobes (the internet is great for catalogues and dress-up dolls).

Character Examples:3 very different women, and 1 man


Zaira almost never wears skirts, but grew up traveling on Earth, so there is a lot more Western culture Earth clothing in her wardrobe than most Lupa. She tends toward very simple clothing, solid colors, and dark green. Hoodies help her hide, and she also likes a warm wrap sweater, especially later in life. She prefers silver jewelry, specially if there are stars or moons on it, but usually doesn’t wear such decorations. Part of her becoming a different, happier person included a wardrobe expansion in to clothing that is part of a more settled, open life, such as some skirts or patterns, lighter colors, and less hoodies. She learned to use clothes to hide or blend in.

Eiry is a high-end florist with many business contacts and much of her out-of-the-house wardrobe is suitable for business–casual for working in the flowershop, or an elegant skirt suit in cream with matching heels for business functions. She also has some upscale, pretty dresses to wear to events where the florist is needed on site. Almost all of this clothing is in very light colors or patterns with flowers. At home, however, she tends to wear extremely casual clothes, many of which are shapeless: oversize T-shirts, baggy maxi-dresses, and yoga or lounge pants. Some of these are leftover clothing from a dead friend. She uses clothes to appear appropriately in various settings when out, and at home really doesn’t care.

Miara, on the other hand, loves clothes and having a million things to wear. She has both Lupa and Terran clothes from her many travels, and has many Lupa tailored pieces. Her color choices include everything except solid black or white; it sometimes looks like a rainbow exploded in her room. Some of her favorite Terran styles include off-shoulder tops layered with tank tops, corsets, and fun skirts, while she feels quite elegant in a Lupa-style wrap dress. She also wears a lot of shifts for working out. Whatever she wears, she does with confidence and commitment. She treats clothing as an extension of personality and dresses according to how she feels.

Jax has never lived on Earth, and he has a very xcheamo mode of dress, which is mostly just pants in various colors, with very few patterns, if any. If necessary he’ll also put on a very basic shirt. If he has to wear shoes he’ll go with a boot. He’s rather a minimalist, most of the time.

What do you discern from these characters based on their wardrobes? Hopefully some of their personality and character. Do let me know in the comments :).

Writing exersize: Sky

On their way back from seeing the probe that had crashed, Miara’s mind raced with the possibilities it promised. Was it remnants from an old space-faring civilization, or perhaps very far away? What if there was no outside response? Her hopes would be crushed–at least for the time being. Oh, how she wanted to meet new people, to go new places. Please, let there be a ship up there, she thought hard, peering up into the night sky for any new lights. If there was an answer, it would be in the sky, and she hoped to find it–as soon as possible!




Note: A small, personal glimpse of a pivotal moment in Lupa history.

Writing exercise: Sing

Eiry was busy washing dishes on a bright Saturday morning, humming a tune as spring sunlight streamed promisingly through the windows into the kitchen. Alta’s little bowl still had drippings yolk in it from their poached eggs, though all the bacon and rice was gone.

“What are we doing today, ana?” the child asked from the doorway. She’d changed her clothes again into a shift-like dress with a watercolor flower pattern on it.

“Well, once we’re finished packing, we’re going to go to the Inn.”

“To play?”

“Yes, and we’re going to help in the gardens a bit.”

“Are they pretty now?”

“Yes, they are. Do you know where your bag is?”

“On the chair.”

“Why don’t you go pack it, sweetie.”


Eiry finished up the last of the dishes, leaving them in the rack to dry and cleaning up the counter. Then she went to pack up some of Alta’s toys, books, and diaper bag before checking on her. She could hear her, though, singing the song she’d been humming earlier. She hadn’t realized she knew the words.

“Do I think the words when I hum, apa?”

“Mhm! Every time,” she said with  a smile. “It’s pretty. Is this okay?” She held open the bag, in which she’d put her favorite best dress and about five shifts.

“Yes, but if you wear the dress you can’t play rough.”

“Ok. Do we need to pack for daddy?”

“No, he has his things.”

“Okay…so we can go?”

“I think so.”

Once they had everything and Eiry had locked the door. Alta reached for her hand as they headed toward the elevator. “Can we sing it together?”


Alta launched right into it, her voice soft and light. Eiry’d stopped wondering by now where that voice had come from, and sang so as not to overpower it. Guyver’d always said they sounded very pretty together, and that mattered far more.