Art and entertainment within your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Art is an expression of who we are as people at any given time. It is how we communicate with others, through song, brushstroke, or poetic prose. There’s a huge variety of what can be used for the purpose of entertainment. So what will that look like in your world?
All art isn’t just paintings from old dead men hanging up in museums. Sure, you’ll have that, and you’ll need to know what styles they're painted in, the kinds of colors are typically used, and other mediums art can be made in, like plays, operas, television, and movies.
Your physical arts are going to be your paintings, sculptures, monuments, etc. Essentially, anything that is made by physically doing. What is this going to look like in your world?
Let’s talk about paintings first. Some colors are extremely rare or dangerous to make, so what will your artists do in those situations? Will they have patrons to provide for them, or will it be added to the cost that they charge their clients for their work? We’ve had many different periods and styles of art throughout history, my favorite of which is during the Baroque period when Caravaggio uses Chiaroscuro. So, in your world, will you have art from bygone eras that your artists will strive to be like, or will everyone paint how they want, when they want?
Next, let’s talk about sculpture. It’s equally as old, if not older, than paintings. There are two kinds, though: additive and subtractive. Subtractive will be your carvings in wood and stone. Totem poles are one example, beautiful works of art that tell the history of people. Your additive sculptures will be works made out of clay, where layer upon layer is added, or parts of the sculpture are attached or enforced with metal.
But with either of these mediums, how are they going to be taught? Will artists only be true and respected if they’re members of a prestigious art society that abides by certain rules of creativity and style? Does it matter how one learns as long as they’re good at what they do?
You might argue that visual media isn’t art, but it’s an art form in and of itself. Creating a scene in a TV show or a movie that evokes feelings is a powerful thing. In your world, will you have people who specialize in this? Trained actors who entertain the masses? Cinematographers who study for years in order to achieve the perfect shot?
Another thing you’ll want to think about if you do have actors and filmmakers is how they’ll interact with the general population. Will paparazzo hunt down actors to show pictures of their everyday life just because someone wants to see it? Will they just be everyday people whom everyone appreciates for their skill but doesn’t harass?
These are going to be your plays, musicals, and operas, all of which need a lot of skill to present. So how will your performers learn? Are there drama and performing arts schools? Music guilds to teach the ways of song making? Are composers taught what they know, or do only prodigies create music for your world?
Also, who can see these types of performances? Are operas only for the rich, or can every social class enjoy them? Do opera singers come regularly to perform at great houses or palaces? Do the poor have their own troupes that tour the country and make a social commentary about what’s happening in the political sphere so the common people can understand what’s going on through comedy? If you do have these troupes, does the government allow them to make social commentary at the politicians’ and/or monarch’s expense without fear of reprisal, or do they have to bring news to the people at their own risk?
Other forms of entertainment
There are other forms of entertainment that aren’t happening en masse as the above arts. These are going to be things like reading, playing chess, cards games, etc.
Clearly, this is going to be an important topic for you. You’re here because you’re writing a book and want to know a little bit more about worldbuilding. But is reading popular in your world? Are your books going to be mostly histories written by scholars? Are you going to have fictional works in your world? Long-form fiction hasn't always been prevalent as it is today because of the sheer expense of owning a book. Before the advent of the printing press, books were made by hand. Depending on the setting of your story, only very few will have the finances and privilege of owning a book of any sort.
Games help us pass the time, and, depending on the game, hone our minds. Sometimes, the games will even be pertinent to the plot and how it works, much like in Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series. Karigan eventually has to win a game of Intrigue in order to save her own life and the lives of others.
These types of games will feature more in your sci-fi or sci-fi fantasy works that are set in a time period where video games are viable forms of entertainment. These can either be used to unwind or be professions as they are in today’s world. There are many who professionally play video games and even get sponsorships the same way you would in the world of skiing and other single-player sports.
How many people have we heard of who have gambling problems? Well...probably not a lot, but books, TV shows, and movies do have characters who are down on their luck because of a gambling problem. Now, you don’t have to have an unsuccessful, down-on-their-luck gambler in your world, but it is definitely a historied form of entertainment. These will include everything from card games and dice to betting on which team wins in whatever game someone is watching.
So, what kind of games, if any, do you plan on having in your world? Something entirely new that you’ve made up? Familiar card games like Go Fish, or strategy games like chess? Who will play them, and will they be period specific?
Bread and Circuses
This is a slightly different beast but deserves mentioning nonetheless. Bread and circuses, according to Merriam-Webster, is a palliative offered especially to avert potential discontent. In other words, an appeasement by the government in giving food and entertainment to avoid any violence and uprising. These would be things like gladiator games where the poor were given bread so they had something to eat and keep them entertained or free public jousting tourneys where food and beer were plentiful.
Oh, look, the person hit the ball thing and people are cheering! How, uh, sporting?
Normally, this would go under games, but it really does tie into the idea of bread and circuses very well. Sports, such as football or the ancient Mayan game of Pitz, bring the masses together in a camaraderie unlike anything else. They provide structured and controlled outlets for natural urges toward violence and tribalism. Older sports were also used to keep warriors in peak mental and physical form since they usually involved martial skill and strategy.
What also ties into the bread and circuses is all the food that’s sold or made at these sporting events. These are things quintessential to some sports. Take baseball for example—you can’t go to a baseball game without getting a hotdog to enjoy while watching your favorite team play. And at football games, tailgating is almost a sport in itself to see who can make the best ribs or have the most fun at their pre-game bash.
Join me next week for my final post in this worldbuilding series when I talk about clothing.
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