54: Society’s Rules – Bend Them, Break Them (3)

Society’s rules is a part of world building that often does not get enough attention. This is part 3 of a six-part world building series.

Helpful Sources:

77 Caste System Examples (2023) – Helpful Professor

Elumis – What Are Basic Human Rights?

Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic: Worldbuilding Advice for Game Masters

The question of the week is: How have you used society’s rules as an important aspect in your stories?

Get your free copy of the First Chapter Rubric.

Links:

WritingPursuits.com

Instagram: @WritingPursuitsPodcast

Three Story Method Certified Editor

KathreseMcKee.com

Mailerlite (affiliate link)

YourFirstChapter.com

Transcript
Kathrese McKee:

Hey Writing Pursuits Authors. Welcome back

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to the podcast. If you're new around here, my name is Kathrese

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McKee. And I'm glad you're here. Today we're going to continue

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our world building series. This is the third part of a six part

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series on world building. And it is called society's rules: bend

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them, break.them.

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In our world building series, we're considering the ways world

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building can act as a source for thing, plot point. And best of

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all, conflict. This is part three of the series. And I think

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it's the most important piece of world building. When we think of

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world building, we tend to think of the physical aspects of the

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world, you know, the environment, or the technology

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or, like I said, the physical aspects, the buildings, and so

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forth. We don't think of society's rules as much as we

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ought to. But I think this is a treasure trove of conflict

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ideas, and plot points and themes. So of all the pieces, I

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think this is the part you need to think about the very most and

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perhaps first, we have already been through building believable

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worlds and why it matters. We've also covered nature's realm set

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the stage today is society's rules been then break them. And

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then we will follow that up with rules of progress shape, their

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shape your world past and present, where we explore

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history's legacy. And finally, magic myth and man wield the

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supernatural power. I'm looking forward to that one. Today. In

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part three, we will cover these important considerations social

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class, cultural norms, form of government, distribution of

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wealth, prevailing religion, moral codes, rights and

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responsibilities and laws of magic. And if that seems like a

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lot, it is, this is a complex topic, I'm going to try to break

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it down and make it visible to you so that you can kind of go

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back through and find the chapter that you're wanting to

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talk about and delve down into that. So hopefully, that will be

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helpful. The first thing we're going to discuss is social

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class, I will switch back and forth between my mind map I have

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an Obsidian and this Canva presentation. So let's go to

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Obsidian right now. Okay, when you think about social class,

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your main question is how does society measure individual

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worth. And traditionally, we are have these three systems in

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play, sometimes they coexist. And other times they're very

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much dependent on where you're talking about hierarchy, equal

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Attarian societies, egalitarian societies, and a caste system.

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So some examples of hierarchy that are very clear are the

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military business, you have org charts there, there's always

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someone at the top political systems the same and churches,

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almost every religious organization has some form of

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hierarchy. There are a few there are a few examples of pure

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egalitarian societies. But if you're interested in portraying

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something like that, look into the Kung, who live on the

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western edge of the Kalahari in Botswana, the Inuit and

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Aboriginal Australians as good examples of egalitarian

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societies, there are caste systems still in play today, and

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some of these are stronger than others. But caste system is very

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much based on who you are born to which family you are born

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into. Examples are the Varnas in India, Tamil cast din Sri Lanka,

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Somalia Higal, Moorish cast the toric, Inaden in North Africa,

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and Edo Society of Japan. So some of these are historical,

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some of them are current. But that's a good place to start, if

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you're wanting to talk about caste system, I have a little

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bit more information about bat caste systems, just the the

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features that you should be looking for in the caste system,

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you have these very these features, you will only marry

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within your assigned caste you will do the assigned jobs for

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your caste those are expectations in the caste

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system, your social status will be determined by the caste

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you're born into political exclusion of certain caste is a

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feature of the caste system and there is a lot of caste based

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discrimination in play. So this is a great place to bend and

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break society's rules create conflict, to explore themes and

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to develop plot points. So I think that the caste system is a

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great place, perhaps to have in your your story. Just think

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about that as a possibility. Next is cultural norm. Now,

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culture encompasses a customs, art, social institutions and

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achievements of a particular nation of people or other social

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groups. So often you need to know the historical context to

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we'll talk more about that in part five of this series. In

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your book society. There are customers and holidays and

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expectations about dress and roles, arts and achievements

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that are all pieces of The culture so I have three examples

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that I'd like to just go over. They just popped in my head when

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I was thinking about this and they're about cultural norms and

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breaking cultural norms. And ever after the main character is

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Danielle de barbarac, and a cake character based on Cinderella

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for anyone who has not seen the movie. In the movie Danielle

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breaks several of society's rules, she is a commoner.

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Danielle is not allowed to attend royal events such as the

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masquerade ball, she sneaks into the ball breaking the rules of

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social class and etiquette. Danielle's stepmother, who is

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part of the aristocracy forbids her from pursuing and education

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as she believes it's not appropriate for a woman. But

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Danielle secretly studies books from her father's library. To

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learn all she can Danielle step mother forces her to work as a

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servant in her own home and treats her cruelly. Despite her

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lowly status, Danielle stands up to her step mother, breaking the

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societal societal expectations for a commoner and overall

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Danielle is a strong willed and independent character who defies

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the limitations placed on her by society, her actions, trance

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challenge, the traditional gender roles and social

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hierarchies of the time. So that's one example. Another

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example is the colons from the Twilight series. The colons are

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a family of vampires and their way of life goes against the

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rules of vampire society. So you don't even have to have a real

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society to have social rules that are going to get broken.

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They choose to abstain from drinking human blood and instead

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hunt the animals. Well, you know, the koalas do not form a

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coven, but they live as a family group. They don't use their

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powers to hunt humans, so they seem strange to vampire society.

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And then they form alliances with humans, and even protect

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them a portrayal to other vampire so the colons live in a

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small isolated town, the majority of other vampires live

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close to urban environments where there's easy hunting,

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right. And then overall, basically, the colons break

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traditional rules of vampire society to live a more moral and

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ethical lifestyle than other vampires and their choices,

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bring them into conflict with other vampires who see their

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betrayal as either behavior as a betrayal or a threat to the

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established order of things. That was one example. Another

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example that I love is Star Trek from the 1960s fictional world

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of Star Trek, The Federation is an interstellar political entity

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comprised of lots of races and species United like by common

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set of values and beliefs, so their cultural values. Number

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one is a prime directive, right, which prohibits interference

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with the internal affairs of other civilizations and cultures

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that they run into, while they're out exploring space

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equality among all individuals, regardless of race, gender, or

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species cooperation among its members as they work for the

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common good of all. So these are their values of scientific

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progress. That's what they're all about, right? It's a pursuit

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of scientific progress, pursue knowledge and understanding of

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the universe and a supposedly peaceful resolution of conflict

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where diplomacy comes first. And then you get up against, well,

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it always seems like somebody gets killed in every episode.

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And they usually have a red shirt. But regardless, they use

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the rules of this society, to drive conflict within the

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series, and storylines and themes, so good on them.

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So the next topic that we're going to cover is form of

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government form of government. And we'll go back over to

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obsidian because I think a chart is easier to understand than

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just a collection of pictures going over to obsidian now. So

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the form of government, it's about who makes decisions and

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how they make it. So we're all familiar with monarchies. We

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grew up with those that are fairytales and they used to be a

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reality around especially around Europe and Asia. And so those

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grew into limited monarchies, where you have more advisors and

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legislative bodies that formed to kind of take over power from

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the monarchy and give more people more power to the people,

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or at least to the aristocracy, anyway, then you have

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autocracies, that, obviously like Putin in in Russia and

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leader of North Korea, and there's several that we could

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just name off, then you have theocracies where the dominant

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religion, religious leaders lead the country. Elected democracy

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is another form that we have in the world appointed. Sometimes

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leaders and governments are appointed in some form or

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fashion. And then you think, have to think about the presence

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of bureaucracy. Because often power is in the hands of people

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who are in the bureaucracy. This kind of exploded onto the scene

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after the French rebel Lucien, there was a an explosion of

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bureaucracy in that country. And it was intentional to decide

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everything from weights and measures to the postal system.

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So in some ways, it's good thing in some ways, it's not so great,

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we all hope for a meritocracy where people are promoted based

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on their knowledge and their wisdom and their skills and

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their talents. We all hope for that. But you know, we all have

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the what is it, the Peter Principle in play, where you

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rise to the level of your incompetence, anyway. And

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finally, we have plutocracy which we wish wasn't true. But

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it's probably more true than the not where people with the wealth

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have the power, they make the decisions behind the scenes, so

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plutocracy, that's what that means. So think about that, in

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the context of your story, what exists in your universe, and you

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might have two things working against each other to create

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conflict, or people trying to improve the system that exists

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to make it better against people that want the status quo. So

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this is a great area to explore for society's rules. The next

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topic is distribution of wealth, who can have wealth, and who

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cannot, this is something to really explore in your fiction.

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So distribution of wealth is about who can increase their

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wealth, and who cannot the haves and have nots, generally under

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the haves, you have the aristocracy, the merchant class

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celebrities, those who are gifted master criminals, these

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kind of the celebrities and gifted kind of buck the system,

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if you will, they managed to by hook or crook, they'll help

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develop some sort of celebrity that people think is worthy of

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wealth, the gifted, same thing, Master criminals, like pirate,

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drug lords, so forth, they just take what they want. So they're

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among the haves, whether we like it or not. And then under the

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have nots, generally, it's about ownership of land to begin with,

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that leads to all kinds of generational wealth. So we have

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the uneducated who are under the have nots, the disadvantaged in

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some way who've been discriminated against enslaved

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folk, believe it or not, even in contemporary fiction, you should

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be aware that there are more people who are enslaved today

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than at any point in history. So that's worthy of being explored,

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exploited people and renters who might also be exploited people,

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right? But renters are among the have nots, they don't own the

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space they live in. Now, they may be able to accumulate wealth

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in another way. And that's fine. You can choose to be a renter.

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I'm not nothing against renters, but I'm just saying in general

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renters are among the have nots. So there we go, that trying to

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sip on any toes. This is a great place to think about bending

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rules, breaking rules. Hey, if you're finding any value in this

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discussion, please subscribe. Hit the like button, ring the

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bell to get notified of future episodes, and we'll get back to

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the show now. The next topic is prevailing religion or religions

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in your world, the prevailing religion or religions in your

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world building offer a rich source of conflict for your

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story. Most conflicts over the course of human history, have

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had some overtone of religious tension biases and

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misunderstandings. Religion is a great place to delve into themes

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and conflict between characters. Humans often use religion as an

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excuse for violence and hatred. Consider the prevailing

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religions in your fictional world and see if you can mind

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their differences for plot point, themes and sources of

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conflict. And just to be clear, let's go over a few things you

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can think about few types of religion you could think about

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maybe when I mentioned prevailing religion, you thought

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of polytheistic, or a monotheistic form of religion,

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but there are others. So in polytheistic, we have a many

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Gods system as in the Romans and the Greeks, their mythology,

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with Zeus and so forth, monotheistic, theistic one god

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atheistic, no gods nothing is divine pantheistic and I put

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that (atheistic) under religious because it's hard not to,

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because you're talking about the existence of God are not.

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Pantheistic God is everything and everything is God,

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everything is divine, and Panentheistic is all in God. So

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think about differing religious systems, prevailing religions in

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your story to have a source of conflict and thought provoking

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ideas. The next area to consider are moral codes. moral codes

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seem like an extension of religious beliefs, and sometimes

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they are, but don't equate the two moral codes apply even to

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your religious folks. So let's explore how we can use this

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portion of society's rules. How can we bend moral codes or break

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them to good effect in our stories? So when we think about

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moral codes, we're talking about how do we decide between right

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and wrong and how do we promote Cooperation, good and bad

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behavior. So there are four areas of morality. There's

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religious morality, which is the one you think of first human

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relationship with their supernatural beings but God,

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morality and nature, how we treat nature around us whether

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we think it's worthy of respect or not individual morality,

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humans enter Honor Code, which can often be broken within a

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story. Somebody goes against their internal honor code, or

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they learn a new Honor Code, social morality, human to human

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relations. So under Basic morality, examples, honesty,

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respect, responsibility, kindness, caring, cooperation,

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fairness, etc. Examples of social morality might be help

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your family, help your group return favors, be brave, defer

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to superiors, divide resources, thoroughly respect others

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property. So these are all ways that are examples of social

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morality and whether or not people believe these things. So

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great area to think about when you're thinking about society's

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rules. The next area we're going to talk about is rights and

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responsibilities are about to cover a set of high in the sky

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by and by human rights, they obviously don't exist in this

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form everywhere in the world. Sometimes they exist for a

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while, and then they go away. It's a constant struggle among

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humans to have human rights. They are idealistic, I did not

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write them. Instead, I found them on the Elumis website,

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which is included in the shownotes. If you want to delve

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into that. The reason I'm going over these ideals is because

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they're terrific source for themes for your story. So under

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rights and responsibilities, comes this first idea that

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humans are born free and equal. That's a birthright another

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idealistic, right is there are no distinctions of Rights and

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Freedoms based on things like race, sex, language, religion,

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origin, property, birth, or other status. So in any one of

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these areas, you could explore a theme based on like

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discrimination based on any one of these things. The next ideal

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was everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of

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perfect person. In other words, personal safety. Another one is

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no one should be held in slavery or servitude. Well, obviously,

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we haven't achieved this one because like I said before, this

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is a an era of great enslavement, horrible

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enslavement. So it's obviously an opportunity to explore this

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area. No one should be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman

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or degrading treatment, or punishment. Again, obviously, we

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haven't achieved achieve this ideal. And this is a great place

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to explore no matter what kind of genre of fiction you're

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talking about, all are equal before the law and entitled to

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equal protection. So those are the ideals I wanted to just

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flash them by you. You can come back to this chapter to

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reinvestigate the last part of social society's rules are the

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laws of magic. Today we're going to skim lightly over the topic

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of laws of magic because we're going to explore this area more

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fully in the last episode. In this world building series.

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However, let's cover the basics to help you jumpstart ways to

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exploit magic systems in your book for plot points and

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conflict and to support your theme. So when you're thinking

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about the laws of magic is your magic benevolent malevolence?

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Usually there's both good and bad. There's almost always a

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dichotomy. Good and bad magic. You also have to think is magic,

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legal or illegal in your world building who has magic and how

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does it work? This is a big thing to decide. And I'm just

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gonna start you off with something I borrowed from a

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brandon sanderson. The link to the article that contained this

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is in the show notes, water Sandersons three laws of magic.

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So let's begin with a summary. The three laws are an author's

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ability to solve conflict with magic in a satisfying way is

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directly proportional to how well the reader understands said

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magic. So make your magic system crystal clear to your readers.

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They need to know kind of how it works or not all at front, but

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be able to discover it and understand it. The costs

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limitations and flaws described in your story are about are what

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make your magic interest. Interesting. So not all magic is

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going to be perfect. It's going to be an imperfect solution.

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Hopefully there's limitations to it. Also, I think there needs to

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be cost associated with using magic because that in itself

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make things more interesting. Before adding something new to

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your system. First expand on what you have have. That's

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that's by a master storyteller. Brandon Sanderson has been

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fighting long time. And I think this is great advice before you

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add anything new, expand on what you already have. All right. So

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in conclusion, leveraging the rules of society in world

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building is a powerful tool for creating a more compelling and

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engaging story, you can create conflict tension and drama. With

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characters who have conflicting beliefs or values based on their

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social status, their culture or background, you can shape

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character motivation, a character who's trying to break

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free from a restrictive society may be motivated by a desire for

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freedom and self expression. You can establish stake a character

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who breaks a major societal rule faces severe consequences and

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even possible death. So that's a great way to establish stakes in

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your story build setting, an author can create a unique and

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interesting setting. By developing a society with its

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own set of rules and customs. This will in turn influence the

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physical setting. So think about that when you're when you're

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creating your society's rules. explore themes, I'm sure

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society's rules are useful to explore themes such as

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oppression, rebellion, conformity, and so on. So that

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rounds up this episode about society's rules in world

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building. Today in Part Three, we have discuss social class

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form of government, to cultural norms, distribution of wealth,

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prevailing religion, moral codes, rights and

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responsibilities and the laws of magic. My question for you is

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which one of these areas speaks to you, and how have you used

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society's rules as important as important aspect and in your

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story? I'll leave your answers in the comments below. If you

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want to name drop a book title. That's okay too. That's all I

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have for today. Until next time, keep writing my friend. Keep

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