Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Newbie- Writing Fantasy Involving differnelt cultures (1 Viewer)

Hello Everyone!

I have been working on a Fantasy story based in more of a medieval time period. Although it is fantasy, a lot is pulled from Japanese culture. Not copy and paste but Assassins', Samurai, Visual Settings etc. In no means do I want to offend or appropriate anything, and I have done my fair share of research for about a year and a half now to make sure I am well versed on the topics. I do dabble in film as well so this is something I have been thinking out and wanting to work with Japanese actors.

I guess I would just like some opinions on if this could come off offensive seeing how I am not Japanese, because that is the last thing I want to do.

Thank you for your time!
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Hi there, and welcome to the forum,I have known a number of Japanese people over the years, they are like people everywhere, varied. Having said that, however, I have found that growing up in a country that was occupied and where the school system was very much controlled by the occupying power made a lot of them very open to ideas and influences from other cultures. Of course you may meet some very conservative characters, I don't say they don't exist, but, for example, one of my long term friends who is a musician, on hearing I wrote, immediately asked "Can you write lyrics for me?" I guess there is probably more openness to outside influence among those in the artistic realms, as anywhere.

Do look around the forum and make some posts, when you have ten posts you can put work in the workshop areas and things open up a little more. I would be interested to read you.

Have you read 'The book of five rings' by Musashi? Probably the greatest samurai ever. There are several versions of his life story, also worth a read.
 
Thank you so much for the input and recommendation! I really appreciate it. I will definitely be posting more and asking for more opinions on my story as I write it! :)

The book also seems like something that would be a really great read! I will have to check it out.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Since it's fantasy, I don't think you can go wrong. I think there are a lot of fantasy writers who have incorporated ideas from different cultures into their works and everyone seems cool with it.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
The book of five rings was written when he was an old man and had retired to live as a hermit in the hills. It is a book of strategy, which he emphasises is a constant. As a young man he was a samuri and ronin, in later life led armies as a general, but points out that the strategy used by carpenters to build a house is essentially the same as that of warrior. Like much Japanese work, however, it is not straightforward, there are many words with double meanings in Japanese and this is exploited, so various translations into English can differ greatly.

A couple of my favourite stories of him.

He pioneered the method of fighting using two swords as one, and fought over sixty duels to the death. On one occasion he overslept when due to fight a duel on an island, whilst being rowed out to the island he fashioned a practice sword from a spare oar and on landing rushed up the beach, shouting his challenge and killing his opponent with the wooden sword. He liked it so much he used it in his remaining twenty or so duels, beating opponents armed with real swords to death.

Staying at an hotel in a part of town used by horse traders he was disturbed by their loudness and sent his servant to tell them to quieten down. One of them came back with the servant and became very angry when Musashi ignored him and went on picking black bits from the container his meal had come in with his chopsticks. He thumped on the table and shouted 'Are you listening', Musashi quietly said "And still they come". Looking down he realised that the black bits he was catching in his chopsticks and throwing out of the window were flies from the horses, and his sword lay beside him. A humble exit followed.
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
The more you pull from a culture, the more you need to be accurate. The Jedi of Star Wars are essentially samurai and the main actors had to do Kendo training for their light saber fights. Other than that there isn't much in the way of Japanese culture, thus Lucas could do what he wanted. If he had them practice similar rituals, keep the same social structure or set the story in Japan then he would need to do his research and keep certain aspects proper. We all borrow for somewhere. What makes it special is the unique twist or combination we conceive. If I was writing a samurai or roman centurion story my accuracy to real history would be balanced against the level of fantasy. I wouldn't be writing a documentary.
 

Backstroke_Italics

Senior Member
Representing cultures that are not your own is certainly not a problem in and of itself. Just keep in mind the number one question: why am I doing this? If you're using Asian fusion as a set of stickers to dress up your fantasy world, maybe don't bother. If you feel like you have something to say about the ideas presented through a cultural setting, then by all means. For example, Terry Pratchett borrowed from real-world cultures in the Discworld series, but always for a reason. The pseudo-Earth cultures of Small Gods served as settings for deep commentary on the nature of religion. If you feel you have something worthwhile to say about, say, Bushido or Daoism, then odds are you do. Go for it.

But as you already know, the more you borrow, the more you owe. If you're going to lovingly craft a whole world built from pieces you've found in East Asian literature or history, then you need to show that you understand what you're working with. Show your work. Allude to notions of how these people view their own culture. Provide them with forces of change and dynamism.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
James Clavell, was an Australian novelist and screenwriter, He wrote Shogun set in Japan in the seventeenth century. A bit later period , but would be a good one to read if you haven't already. Likely some of the traditions and values may have carried on. But he proved that you can write about another culture successfully.
 
Top