World of Hats
One of the trickiest things in writing fantasy, whether it be Urban Fantasy like myself or High Fantasy with magic and wizards, is that eventually you'll need to create other races. Even if you decide to stick to established tropes for your races, you're going to need to figure out which tropes you want to use.
There's been so many versions over the years of every creature you can imagine that pinning one down can be hard. Do you want to have vampires that die in sunlight or sparkle (please say the former.) Elves that are tiny and magical or svelte and agile? And if you create one from scratch (which I highly recommend!) what are you going to do with them?
Here's where the catch comes in. There's a phrase out there called "World of Hats." If I'm not mistaken, it comes from an old Star Trek episodes where everyone was dressed like gangsters. Everyone. The idea here is that you have to be careful that your race, established or original, doesn't have a single defining characteristic. When the starship Enterprise shows up at a brand new world, the entire planet shouldn't be a homogenous culture.
I've complained about this for years. For some reason, in the 24th century Earth still has a tons of different languages and cultures, but every other galactic race is a monoculture. All Vulcans speak the same language and are intensely logical. All Klingons love bloodwine and are prideful warriors. Where are the Klingon engineers?! They have ships, right? Who built them? Where are their doctors and artists?
So when you're making your race, make sure that you don't fall into this trope. Remember that the larger the population, the more varied their opinions and thoughts will be. Sure, you have a race of peaceful, philosopher elves. But someone had to craft all those bows and swords, right? Someone who knows how to use them, right? Understand that your cultures can't exist if everyone has the exact same feelings and opinions on matters. Economies, social structures, and legal systems would fall apart if there weren't people who preferred or were at least willing to do other things.
Oh, and one last thing. Remember what I've said before, as informed by the amazing writers over at Writing Excuses: don't base your culture on an existing one. Cultures don't develop in vacuums. The Romans were the way they were because of their geographical locations and climate. The Egyptians owe a good deal of their culture to where they lived. The Russians. The Germans. The British. We're all products of our climate. Put in the work, figure out your world, then let that inform the culture of your race. Have an idea for a culture that you'd like to implement? Work backward then. Figure out what kind of climate would produce a culture such as yours.
In the end, it's about putting in the work. World of Hats is a trope that was used because the writers needed a new race every week for their show. Unfortunately it set a precedent that's still infecting stories today. Yours doesn't have to be one. Take the time, figure out your race and your culture. Your story will be all the richer for it.
Be Excellent to Each Other
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.