World Building—Creating a Culture (Part 4: Climate and Clothes)

I’m continuing my series on world building. Come check out Part One, Part Two: Stereotyping, and Part Three: Building a Religion.


Climate and Clothes

When building your world, especially if it extends beyond your character’s main place of residence, a map is extremely helpful. I have a rough sketch of a map that I drew for The Heir’s world. I hope to include it in future books. In the second volume, my character is out beyond the borders of Legerdemain, so I needed a general idea of what the world looked like and what other cities and countries and oceans there might be there.

Many epic fantasies have maps, so as the character travels on his or her quest, the reader can follow along on the map and get an idea of the scope of the world. Think Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time or any number of others, where you might not know anything about the world the first time you glance at the map, but as the character approaches a certain city from the west, you can see where he’s come from and what his journey was like.

That’s what I’m going for with my map. I want to give my reader a general idea of the countries and climates that my character will encounter along the way.

So, since I have this general idea of what my continent looks like, I refer back to it often as I’m describing where the characters are going and what they’re doing and what the weather is like.

Knowing the climate is very important for making your world believable. Some readers may not notice the lack of depth if you don’t have a deeply-plotted geographical location, but they will definitely notice the richness of your world if you do.

Once you have your world sketched out, what kind of area is your character from? Is it to the north or the south or centrally located? This will determine whether it tends to be hot or cold. Is it a port city or is it inland? A port city will tend to be more humid, whereas inland tends to be more arid. Is it more rainforest or more desert? Farmland or mountains?

As you outline these elements, you can start to add details that will enhance the feel of your world. Salty air, the smell of fish from the docks, sun burning through the humidity making your character sweat—these suggest a port city in a more central climate. Tall trees swaying in a gentle breeze, rocky paths, animals scurrying through the underbrush all suggest a rural, mountainous area. Hot, dry air can be indicative of a desert or warm farmland. What plants are growing will help flesh out which it is. Cold, with minimal plants, suggests a region that is either close to one of the poles or high in elevation.

The climate will determine what types of industries are prominent in your area. A port city will thrive primarily on imports and exports. Traders will come with exotic spices and cloths and jewels from overseas and trade for grain and wool from inland.

An area with a lot of farmland will thrive on crops and livestock. A forest will have a timber exporting. A mountainous region will have mining and quarries. And so on.

After you have developed some of the details of your climate, you can use that to flesh out your character. Where they live impacts what they wear and what they do.

Consider some cultural stereotypes regarding clothing, and use those to shape the types of clothes that fit your locale. For example, if you see a character covered from head to toe in furs, with a furry, hooded hat, driving a dog sled team, you’re probably going to assume they’re from Alaska or a similar climate, so if that climate is similar to your character’s, dress him appropriately.

If your character is from an island or more tropical location, you might have her wearing a grass skirt and a coconut bikini.

Think about the climate as well as the regional industries as you’re plotting your character’s clothes.

If he is in an area where the primary source of income is crops and livestock, then it is likely he is a farmer or shepherd. He will wear clothes made from local sources, like cotton or linen, and perhaps wool if the weather gets colder. If he’s in the forest or the mountains, he will likely wear a lot of furs.

These details may seem small, but when they’re all added together, they will add a whole new level of depth to your world and your characters.


About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

2 comments on “World Building—Creating a Culture (Part 4: Climate and Clothes)

  1. […] I’m continuing my series on world building. Come check out Part One, Part Two: Stereotyping, Part Three: Building a Religion, and Part Four: Climate and Clothes […]

  2. […] joining me, come check out Part One, Part Two: Stereotyping, Part Three: Building a Religion, and Part Four: Climate and Clothes, and Part 5: History and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: