My husband and I started watching Mad Men on DVD, which we hadn't seen before. All I knew abut the show was that a lot of people praised it highly, but we like to find old shows we've missed (no matter when they aired) and go back and try them.
Turns out Mad Men is about a group of Madison Avenue Advertising guys in the 50s. It's also a fantastic study of world building and point of view.
The world really was different back then, and this show is genius for inserting all the little details of life in the 50s. If you catch them, great, if not, you aren't hindered in the story. But the more you notice, the richer the world is and the more you shake your head at what life used to be like.
Imagine today if you...
- Slapped your friend's kid for knocking over a glass, and your friend was okay with this.
- Saw your 6 year old with a plastic dry cleaning bag over her head playing spaceman, and gave her a stern warning that she'd better not have messed up the dry cleaning that came in the bag, then sent her on her way.
- Were fine when all the men in the office made regular sexual advances on all the women, and that this was expected.
- And then treated the new divorcee in the neighborhood like she was there to steal all your husbands.
Another woman gets upset about the sexist treatment when it works against her, but she's all for it when it works in her favor. A man who has no trouble cheating on his wife (and girlfriend) is the one who spends the most time trying to figure out what women actually want. And another man says, "who cares?" and "I can't wait til my daughter is another man's problem."
None of these people see the world as we see it. And their acceptance of things we know are wrong makes it all the more interesting. Because this is the way it was, we don't judge them as harshly either. Since it's so obvious, the creator can make points without ever saying a word. You watch and think, "boy, have we come a long way." And in some cases, "yikes, we haven't come that far at all."
When you create your worlds and the people in them, no matter if they're here at home or in a fantasy world, remember that the people who live there take that world for granted and see it as it is, and has always has been. They won't have modern day views on how it works (unless of course it's set in the modern day, then they'll have their views on how it works).
Even if they're trying to change the world, chances are they won't be trying to make it what we think the world should be. They'll try to change the part that they disagree with based on what they've experienced. (This holds true for modern day stories set here as well) If slavery is acceptable, they won't think about the poor slaves. One might treat them like furniture, another may treat them like favored pets and think they're being kind. If backstabbing and ruthless business practices are the norm, no one with think twice about betraying a friend to get ahead. Or if they do, they won't think of themselves as being bad people, just hate the fact that this is what they have to do to do their job. Let your characters see and react to their worlds as someone living in that world would see and react to it. Keep your personal views out of it, and let the personal views of the characters fill it.
That means lots of small details that show the world in action. A variety of views on the social and cultural ideals and rules. Conflicting views, even within the same person. And yes, no matter what the world, this still applies. Someone who lives in LA has different views than someone who lives in Pocahontas, Arkansas. And both have different views than the gal in Finland.
No world is all anything. Take advantage of that, and your story world will be richer.
Are the rules of your world the same or different from ours? Do different characters have different views on things? Are there any "wrong" aspects or views that are seen as normal and right? Any "right" views seen as wrong?