I have been thinking about culture. I’m defining culture here as that unspoken ‘knowledge’ that a group of people share. The things that we never question because we are sure that everyone understands, accepts, and experiences the same. Every family has a culture–a way of doing things and thinking that every family member assumes is universal (but often isn’t).
And isn’t that one of the challenges of the first little while of a marriage? Two people who love each other come face to face with another family culture and live with a person who has never seen life done differently or considered that there might be another way? Maybe even a better way. In most successful relationships, both people have to open their minds to other possibilities. Most create a new family culture, melded from the two that they came from.
Most books have a culture too. All writers, in one way or another, create a world.
I met this challenge this week in my writing group. One friend read my piece for the first time. (We can’t all of us read all of the writing. We choose a few pieces, and it mostly works out that every author has a few people reviewing and giving feedback). This friend isn’t a romance reader. He writes fantasy/science fiction, so he tends to choose those pieces that are closer to his wheelhouse, so to speak. But this week he read my piece. While giving feedback, he said something like, “And what is keeping these two apart. She’s just making a big deal about nothing, IMO.”
It isn’t fantasy, but Regency England is an unfamiliar world that I try to build/reveal in my novels. It has a very different culture that made no sense to this 21st century man and writer of fantasy worlds. This is a world where a girl can’t dance more than twice with the same man in an evening without endangering her reputation. If a single man and woman are discovered alone, perhaps in the garden outside the hot ballroom, he is honor bound to offer marriage. Name, position, history, and reputation–and money of course, determine a person’s future. And if the reputation of one person in the family is ruined, all suffer the consequence. (Think Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice after Lydia runs away with Wickham).
So, I’ve been thinking about culture. Have you ever been forced to question the way your family, your community, your culture does things? What caused the questions? What happened?
And what worlds, what cultures have you most enjoyed in your reading? Why?