Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Culture Creation: Creating Rebellions

This post is closely related to Culture Creation: Creating Governments. So, you might like to check that one out, too!

Once I have my government laid out, and have decided how the culture and government interact, I turn my attention to the other politically important groups in the culture. These might be revolutionary, counter-revolutionary, religious, or spring from other influential, powerful or rich groups like importers, guilds or unions. What these groups will be is decided by the culture and what they feel is important enough to join them together in a common cause. Self preservation or protection always makes a good cause.

But others might disagree with the government for religious reasons, or because of a difference in politics, or because they feel (and perhaps are) unfairly treated, or that others are unfairly treated.

Whatever the government is like, they're bound to have gathered detractors, there's always someone who is dissatisfied, rightly or wrongly. Groups like these will often participate in opposition which is in line with their philosophies, which will in turn be influenced by their status, the level of danger they perceive, and the resources available to them.

Not all opposition will use violence. In fact, most opposition will not. For every violent group there are likely to be several peaceful ones. It largely depends on the amount of pressure put on these oppositions and how little they can accomplish (and can *feel* they are accomplishing) inside the law. Once that option is removed, violence--to differing degrees--becomes more likely.

Remember that these people, your characters, feel about their world the way that you feel about yours. It's more than likely that you're unhappy with things in your world, but how far are you willing to go to change them? How far do you think it's moral to go?

There has to be a catalyst, a reason why rational people will oppose their government to whatever degree that they do, and it has to be a bigger reason in order to get a bigger reaction. If I read a story about a rebellion which was willing to kill other people, I would expect the reason to be big. *However* the type of people you're writing about changes things. Not all "people" are "humans" when it comes to science fiction and fantasy. Species and history will also be reflected here.

Still, if you're going to write about a race of insects who rise up to overthrow their hive-minded hierarchy (great!! :-D) they're still going to need a reason *I* can relate to.

If they're treated fairly by this hive-minded government, if they're free and not in danger of injury, and they can live the way they want... Well, then I'm going to wonder why they want to overthrow something that allows them to live that way. Maybe the hive-mind enslaves a third group of insects in order to provide those things, maybe they do it by brainwashing them. Whatever, but they need a reason that is in line with the strength of their reaction.

Abstract ideas or philosophical differences *can* be enough of a reason, but because it is an abstraction you have to show me what it means to them. You have spend some of your story time defining what it means (hopefully in non-info-dumpy ways) and *showing* me how they feel those ideas and differences effect them. Otherwise, it's just an excuse for conflict in a story. Conflict is great, and very necessary in a story, but it shouldn't be motiveless.

By the same token, governments exist on a larger scale than individuals. Each individual is going to feel differently about that government based on who they are. And each group of individuals (whether they're categorized by gender, race, orientation, species, age, social class, religion, etc., etc., etc.) will feel differently about that government. However, even within broad groups like this, there will be a range of opinions. No one woman can speak for the experience of every woman living in America, let alone the world. There are levels of experience. Some generalities can be made about the "human condition" but that doesn't tell anybody what it's like to be me, or you, or her, or him, or anyone else.


CherylAnne Ham said...

I can relate to everything you're saying here. In my WIP I really had to think about all these things as it deeply effected how everyone lives and what motivates them all, from leaders to rebels, on many levels. Great post!

Marion Sipe said...

Thanks! I'm a sucker for a good rebellion, and I love to see all those complicated issues rolling around in the character's heads! :-D