In a previous “Have You Heard” post, I extolled all the great things Writing With Color provides. But if you want to create a story about a culture other than your own, then you’ll need some hard data. Do you check Wikipedia for factoids? Here’s a better option! You can look at the World Culture Encyclopedia (a.k.a. everyculture.com), which gives great breakdowns on cultures from Afghanistan to Zambia, from French Canadians to Afro-Colombians.
Each entry provides an overview of a country’s geography, language, national identity, diet, industries, class systems, social problems, family units, etiquette, art, and sometimes even more, depending on which nation you research. A well-cited bibliography caps off each section. All this information can be dense, so don’t expect to go though it all in one sitting.
Also, don’t try to put all your findings in one story! When I wrote “I Am A Mountain (y estoy hundiendome),” I began my research with this long entry on Mexican-Americans. Of the notes I wrote down, I used only 10% of the facts I listed. Lucha Corpi seems cool, but I don’t think she needs to get name-dropped in a superhero story. The World Culture Encyclopedia should provide you with a background for your story… not a prong for your thesis.
Whenever I hear someone discuss how Hemingway influenced modern literature, I cringe a little. Why? Well, first off, it means I need to read more Hemingway. I enjoyed The Old Man and the Sea, but I’ve never found time to read his other works amongst the billion other books on my list. Second: most of my feedback-givers compare me negatively to the famous writer. “You need to write a good, clean sentence…” “I can’t follow your train of logic…” I may be in the wrong here, but these statements don’t make me wanna be right.
If you’re a writer aiming to include different cultures in your work (during Black History Month, no less!), then Writing With Color is the website for you! With a helpful, patient, and diverse staff to man— I mean, to woman— I mean, er, to staff the Tumblr page, this resource can provide detailed and personable answers to any racial writing question you might consider. Which is a problem.
So that’s two more submissions in the bag right now: one to Hyperpulp, a genre-busting English and Portuguese magazine, and another to Crazyhorse, a prestigious publication from South Carolina with surprisingly lax restrictions on content. All the better for the weird things I write! It’s also why you won’t see updates for “I Am A Mountain (y estoy hundiendome)” during the next couple of months at least.
I’ve created a new tab at the top of the blog: “Magazines Where I Submit Stories,” which details the markets I’m writing material for. Whether they accept my stories remains up to them— for now, I think most writers should check them out anyways!
I’ve been late in updating my blog this week because I just now finished creating the most important writing tool in my future career. It took hours and hours of work, felt a little boring at times, and will probably give me permanent eyestrain… but it was all worth it. Now I can never complain about not having an idea ever again.
Let’s be real, writers… not everything we put down in ink arrives to us after years of dedicated study, presented in a vision by an angelic, personally symbolic octopus. Sometimes, we write something down just to get to the next sentence, and to get to the symbols and allusions that are actually meaningful to us. Even if we do make a choice for a character name, or a funny animal to describe as “angelic,” the source of inspiration can be as simple as drawing a name out of the Infinite Hat that is the Internet. I have no idea what that last metaphor means, but I’m sure my English teacher does.
Anyways, if you’re looking for randomly generated names, rules, setting description, or basically anything fantasy-related, and you’re not picky, then Seventh Sanctum is the place for you.