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A worldbuilding believability issue

Forums Fiction Research and Worldbuilding A worldbuilding believability issue

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  • #136972
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    Hi everyone!

    After thinking myself silly on the topic, I finally come to humbly request someone with some measure of logic to examine the issue.

    To put it shortly, I have a fantasy worldbuilding element that might be too illogical to make work.

    Those of you who know Liorah, or have read segments of my WIP, may have encountered the concept of a kolye or a birrin. 

    Both are methods of identification used to differentiate between members of different tribes. A kolye is a golden chain or piece of jewelry worn on the forehead by women and girls over the age of twelve, while a birrin is a stripe of a particular color woven into the border of an outer cloak or garment, worn by men and boys over the age of thirteen.

    These indicate whether the person is royal, noble, or commoner, whether they are single, married, or widowed, and of which tribe they are. (There’s a system but it’ll get tedious to explain the entire thing.)

    Now, my issue is that I did not think this through when I thought of it. I had just started writing and had no clue what I was doing, so I just established that it was like that and moved on.

    During revisions, I’ve realized exactly how illogical it is.

    1. Why was it established in the first place? There might have been frequent cases of mistaken identity or something of the like, but how could it possibly be enough to make an entire law and start enforcing it?
    2. Speaking of law, who enforces this? Is there a punishment? It seems a rather petty thing to enforce. (In the words of a wise meme, ‘ain’t nobody got time for that.’)
    3. What practical use does it have? At the start of the novel, the tribes are mostly at peace with each other. There’s friction, but not enough to make it that important.
    4. Who thought this was a good idea in the first place? (Me, apparently, but I mean in story.)
    5. Does it have any cultural significance? I couldn’t think of anything.

    The problems are so plentiful that I’ve considered entirely cutting the system out of the manuscript. It’s possible, it doesn’t play a huge part. I could work around it.

    But on the other hand, it’s just plain aesthetically cool. I like it, I’d be sorry to lose it since it makes place for quite a bit of symbolism as well. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in fantasy. (Now I’ve examined how much worldbuilding it would need to suspend disbelief, I can see why.)

    I probably won’t mention all of these things in the actual book, but I want to know, just for myself.

    I might be overthinking this, but I’m really stuck. Would readers suspend disbelief based on the ‘rule of cool’, or is it just too illogical?

    Does anyone know of any similar things that happened in history so I can research that? Should I just cut the entire concept?

    Tagging some people:


    @obrian-of-the-surface-world


    @this-is-not-an-alien


    @joelle-stone

    @anyone?

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #136973
    Brian Stansell
    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    @rose-colored-fancy

    Hi Rose,

    I think your idea is cool too.
    Often times my reference points come from Scripture, especially those that arise out of the historic Jewish culture and their traditions.  I think there must’ve been some external way to identify the 12 tribes of Israel so that one could identify their kindred among the many in the Exodus account, once they grew to have so much larger numbers.  They even camped in separate ranks and files in their desert journey under the way God told them to organize themselves.  So to your question:

    Why was it established in the first place? There might have been frequent cases of mistaken identity or something of the like, but how could it possibly be enough to make an entire law and start enforcing it?

    I know in the medieval English times as well as the early Italian histories there were traditions called an armorial or heraldic “achievement” which were later termed a “coat of arms”.  These were more military affectations but could be attributed to identifications for families and lineages as well.  This shift from military to family identifiers occurred roughly in the 17th to 19th century, but it hearkened back to the earlier traditions but failed to give that armorist practice credit.  Arms came to be ornamental pieces that were crafted as crests for organizations, churches, and fraternal orders, as well as emblems for schools and universities, and now even some modern corporations employ them.  I think pageantry tends to be something we can all relate to in the human race, for there is an internal need to display our significance and associations.  Keep in mind the way a tradition starts, does not necessarily mean it will stay true to the purposes of its original intentions.

    Considering that any larger group much have some uniform code of behavior to co-exist among extended family and in a land occupied by enemies, these age distinctions and may have arisen due to a need for morality.  Underage children then as now would need to be protected by law and societal enforcement from immoral predators.  One should not “marry” a child. This should be verboten and there would need to be some custom or practice to distinguish who is or who is not permitted to be classified as adult or pre-adult.  Jewish tradition has their bar mitzvahs for males.  Spanish tradition has is quinceaneras for girls.  Why not include a tradition of associated pageantry too?  Let there be severe consequences for anyone accosting a child for nefarious purposes.  Give some way of a signet for the peoples to identify their age range visually and therefore whatever privileges and consequences are related to those coronet or signet symbols.

    Speaking of law, who enforces this? Is there a punishment? It seems a rather petty thing to enforce. (In the words of a wise meme, ‘ain’t nobody got time for that.’)

    There could be a joint tribal council that has representatives from each family that could decree what consequences come from abusing the agreed-upon symbols and crests mutually protect their children and attributes guilt to family lines which are guilty of the specific abuse, so that each tribe self-polices it own, to avoid being shut out of the general counsel’s privileges and decision-making.  If one person is caught wearing the symbol identifiers of another tribe to cast suspicion and guilt for a crime on another family, for instance, if apprehended that person and his tribe could get consequences and censor.

    What practical use does it have? At the start of the novel, the tribes are mostly at peace with each other. There’s friction, but not enough to make it that important.

    I think the answers provided above may serve for this question.

    Who thought this was a good idea in the first place? (Me, apparently, but I mean in story.)

    Cite or allude to an origin incident that could have given a very good reason for the tradition.  Say one of the chieftain’s underage daughters was the victim of a sexual predator.  The collective council’s answer to “how do we protect our children” could be this tradition.

    Does it have any cultural significance? I couldn’t think of anything.

    Pageantry doesn’t have to just serve one purpose.  It can become a rite of passage or a desired emblem of achievement, beyond what it originally started for.  Girls and boys could compete for particular tiaras or badges of distinction within their own tribes.

    Does that help?

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

    #136976
    Joelle Stone
    @joelle-stone

    WHAT NO HOW DARE YOU THINK OF CUTTING THAT THAT’S ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS OF YOUR STORY NOOOO!!

    *calms down*

    Firstly, yeahhhh, those are some big issues. But even if you didn’t fix all of the problems, I’m one of those people who will suspend disbelief on the basis of that was just cool.

    Or, another option is actually not knowing. Seriously. Just have your characters think about one or two of the issues mentioned and have them not know why it’s done. This could add a layer of mystery and some more 3Dness to your world, if the idea went back far enough for that to happen. BUUUUT it could also be seen as a shortcut, soooo…

    Does it have any cultural significance?

    Yeah yeah, I’m getting to this one out of order, but what if you had getting a kolye or birrin being like a coming of age thing? What if kids had to pass a test or two to prove that they were worthy of getting one? That could get really complex, but it’s an idea. *shrugs*

    Why was it established in the first place? There might have been frequent cases of mistaken identity or something of the like, but how could it possibly be enough to make an entire law and start enforcing it?

    I think you’ve already answered this. It was established as a way of… what’s the word?? Erm, classification? Just seeing which tribe a person is from, their rank, marriage status, etc. As for the law, maybe the various tribes started enforcing it in their own tribe for the sake of their leaders’ brain cells, then over time there were so many tribes doing this that they decided to make it a law? I’m just throwing random ideas out here – they may or may not work for your world. XD

    Speaking of law, who enforces this? Is there a punishment? It seems a rather petty thing to enforce. (In the words of a wise meme, ‘ain’t nobody got time for that.’)

    Firstly, memes are always wise. XDDD

    Secondly, that’s a good question! But I happen to know that there are some ridiculous laws out there (i.e. you’re not allowed to drive a black car on Sundays in Denver, Colorado. You’re also not allowed to peel an orange in the bathtub or fish backwards off your horse XDD). So maybe have something happen like a disgruntled person pursued a case in court over it and the court just made it a law to wear one to keep such a ridiculous case from ever happening again.

    Buuut you have some problems with that, too. I doubt people don’t drive their car on Sunday in Denver just ’cause a law says to, and I SERIOIUSLY doubt the police enforce that one. Soo… *shrugs* Not sure why it’d be enforced.

    What practical use does it have? At the start of the novel, the tribes are mostly at peace with each other. There’s friction, but not enough to make it that important.

    What if you had a place where the tribes congregated? So kolyes and birrins started out as something you wore just during that one week of the year or whatever so peeps could tell what tribe you’re from, but then they got so popular or something that people started wearing them in everyday life?

    Who thought this was a good idea in the first place? (Me, apparently, but I mean in story.)

    A random dude named Jaden Kalhun.

    XD Ok, maybe not, but still. You could go back to the “I don’t know” thing already mentioned, or you could make up a random person who was head of his tribe and saw how good the kolyes/birrins were at the tribal gathering thingamabob and decided to make his tribe wear them on a regular basis? XDDD Not sure here.

    Does it have any cultural significance? I couldn’t think of anything.

    Other than aforementioned answer to this question, you could also say tradition. It’s kinda lame but it’ll work. 🙂

    I really really really hope you don’t decide to get rid of it (although if you do, let me know so I can steal the idea XDDDD)!! (Also, is there any chance I get to read your WIP? *puppy eyes*)

    "For love is strong as death." -God

    #136992
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @obrian-of-the-surface-world


    @joelle-stone

    WHAT NO HOW DARE YOU THINK OF CUTTING THAT THAT’S ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS OF YOUR STORY NOOOO!!

    Just for you, I’ll make every effort to make it work XD

    Thank you both so much for your replies! Both helped a lot!

    You both mentioned something very interesting I hadn’t considered:

    As for the law, maybe the various tribes started enforcing it in their own tribe for the sake of their leaders’ brain cells, then over time there were so many tribes doing this that they decided to make it a law?

    There could be a joint tribal council that has representatives from each family that could decree what consequences come from abusing the agreed-upon symbols and crests mutually protect their children and attributes guilt to family lines which are guilty of the specific abuse, so that each tribe self-polices it own, to avoid being shut out of the general counsel’s privileges and decision-making.  If one person is caught wearing the symbol identifiers of another tribe to cast suspicion and guilt for a crime on another family, for instance, if apprehended that person and his tribe could get consequences and censor.

    I’ve previously established that each tribe is entirely independent in its legal system, and they generally don’t like each other.

    There’s at least one scene where one of the leaders asks for help from the others concerning a threat, and their reply basically comes down to “Not our problem, sort it out.” So it’s established that they’re all independent and don’t interfere whenever possible.

    So, I imagine it must save tremendous work, effort, administration, and trouble if you could visually identify any of the tribes, in case of an attack, a crime, or even something as petty as taxes. (Probably. Taxes are involved in most decisions. XD)

    It’s a law that would save the leaders a lot of work, so that gives the tradition a very solid reason for existing. I imagine it was a lot of hassle when it was established in the first place, but I can just state that it happened long ago and by now it’s just a thing that nobody even thinks about.

    Also, you both mentioned something else that I’d thought about, but not expanded upon:

    Yeah yeah, I’m getting to this one out of order, but what if you had getting a kolye or birrin being like a coming of age thing? What if kids had to pass a test or two to prove that they were worthy of getting one? That could get really complex, but it’s an idea. *shrugs*

    Pageantry doesn’t have to just serve one purpose.  It can become a rite of passage or a desired emblem of achievement, beyond what it originally started for.  Girls and boys could compete for particular tiaras or badges of distinction within their own tribes.

    This is an excellent idea! I’d briefly thought about it and decided that there was probably something and then immediately forgot about it because it isn’t important to plot XD I do think it would probably be different for each tribe as they have different cultures and value different things.

    Brian, you also mentioned something about it being more of an achievement than a permanent fixture of rank. I’ve actually thought about that part. Some tribes have way more social mobility than others, and in those, you can ‘earn’ higher ranks. Some people will even switch tribes because otherwise they’d be stuck in their own low rank forever.

    Changing tribes is technically allowed but it’s frowned upon in most tribes and requires a lot of administrative nightmares.

    Or, another option is actually not knowing. Seriously. Just have your characters think about one or two of the issues mentioned and have them not know why it’s done. This could add a layer of mystery and some more 3Dness to your world, if the idea went back far enough for that to happen. BUUUUT it could also be seen as a shortcut, soooo…

    That is an entirely valid way to solve a worldbuilding problem XD I must admit, I use it once or twice, but I do like to know for myself. Also, some of my characters have fairly extensive knowledge of history and politics (Gav and Liorah, specifically. I do not have words to describe how much Liorah hated learning about things like that.) so they have above-average knowledge of these things and would probably vaguely know stuff like that. But I think most of my other characters would just say “Eh, who knows and who cares?” XD

    I think pageantry tends to be something we can all relate to in the human race, for there is an internal need to display our significance and associations.  Keep in mind the way a tradition starts, does not necessarily mean it will stay true to the purposes of its original intentions.

    That is also a very valid point. People like showing off their allegiances, so it would exist for the same reason that flags do.

    And this would go double for the upper classes. People jump at any chance to show off superiority XD And it also functions as a pass into places that would ordinarily be inaccessible. I have at least one scene where my main character gets into places solely because people recognize her rank. (Also makes it tempting to impersonate a royal XD)

    If one person is caught wearing the symbol identifiers of another tribe to cast suspicion and guilt for a crime on another family, for instance, if apprehended that person and his tribe could get consequences and censor.

    I would imagine that if you didn’t wear any markers at all (to keep your identity a secret) you could get off with a slight fine or something of the like. I think that deliberately misusing it would get you a far worse punishment than if you were just wearing it for some personal reason without ill intent. (Do my characters ever wear the identifiers of other tribes to do stuff? NoO, of course no, my characters are law abiding citizens. *cough cough*) I’m just kinda thinking ‘out loud’. I think I can work this out a bit more.

    Soo, coming back to the questions with the real answers!

    Why was it established in the first place? There might have been frequent cases of mistaken identity or something of the like, but how could it possibly be enough to make an entire law and start enforcing it?

    It was established to easily identify members of a tribe to make administration less of a headache and make it easier sort out what is whose responsibility when it comes to justice.

    I think this law would have been established, or at least reinforced, after the tribes started living in closer proximity and trading more. (This would probably be about 70-something years before the actual book. I have a whole historical rigmarole but I’m not going to list all that here XD)

    Speaking of law, who enforces this? Is there a punishment? It seems a rather petty thing to enforce.

    I think the leaders would take the trouble to enforce it because it makes their work a lot easier. I imagine there are some light punishments, but I don’t think cases like that are frequent.

    What practical use does it have? At the start of the novel, the tribes are mostly at peace with each other. There’s friction, but not enough to make it that important.

    For the tribal element, aforementioned administration issues, for the rank element, people dearly love showing off and proving that they’re better than everyone else, for the marital status, well, we wear wedding rings, this is essentially a replacement of that. Many cultures throughout history had something similar.

    Who thought this was a good idea in the first place? (Me, apparently, but I mean in story.)

    As Liorah would describe it “Some idiot who is definitely dead by this time.” I think his name was probably lost to time. Some leader who thought it was clever. His actual identity is pretty much irrelevant.

    Does it have any cultural significance? I couldn’t think of anything.

    Probably some coming-of-age thing, and other than that, tradition.

     

    Ehh, close enough! It’s enough information for my purposes!

     

    I really really really hope you don’t decide to get rid of it (although if you do, let me know so I can steal the idea XDDDD)!! (Also, is there any chance I get to read your WIP? *puppy eyes*)

    Ahaha! It’s staying! Success!

    *Gives you a big hug* Of course! I’d love for you to read it! I still have some revisions to get through because it’s not readable in its current state.

    I’m nearly nearly almost done with the first draft of the second book. (Like, SO close!)

    And then I’m going to go back to rewriting book 1 entirely (The Big Revision where about 50% of the book is getting changed). So it might be a while yet *Sheepishly hides manuscript that’s entirely covered in scribbles of red ink with such cheerful notes as ‘UGH!’ and ‘MelODRama!’ and ‘Delete all of this’ and ‘Boo! Pick a plotline!’*

    Then I want to go through it again and fix some scenes, then I’d love for you to read it!

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #137050
    Joelle Stone
    @joelle-stone

    @rose-colored-fancy,

    YESS I SUCCEEDED IT’S STAYING!!!

    Awesome!! (And XD, I have so many of those notes on mine…) Is there any way you could convert it to a PDF or something so I wouldn’t have to share my email address?

    "For love is strong as death." -God

    #137051
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @joelle-stone

    I’m pretty sure I could put the first chapter in a restricted OneDrive file and allow you access to it and I think then you’d have my email? Anyway, we’ll work something out nearer the time! I’ll ask my parents to help find a way if needed 😉 Thank you so much! <3

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

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