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Friday, September 21, 2012

Cookie Cutter Taverns

I meant to write this post sooner.  I need to finish it now before PAX is too far behind me and I forget what I wanted to write down!

My first night in Seattle, I went out to dinner with friends as they planned to participate in the annual "Triwizard Drinking Tournament."  It is quite the endeavor, as 200 PAX attendees get together, dress up as students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and split up into their respective "houses" to go on a pub crawl to various bars in downtown Seattle.

I do not drink, and I spend very little time in bars.  I was facinated by what my friends would be doing that night, so I decided to tag along "at least for one or two bars" to see what it was all about.  The evening was very fun, as the participants went about their evening doing their thing while also raising a bunch of money for the Child's Play Charity by auctioning off various items throughout the night.

When I arrived home from Seattle and started looking at Ryndaria, I realized that taverns in fantasy realms tend to all be the same.  They are seedy, dirty places where people drink, get in to fights, and find adventuring work.  I noticed that I pretty much envision every tavern any of my characters have ever walked into exactly the same!

This idea does not match up with what I see in bars in the real world.  Bars/pubs/taverns are an expression of culture.  This was extremely evident when I walked into five of them in Seattle.  Every bar had a unique layout, music style, theme, lighting, etc.  There are things about bars that are similar (they all have a "bar" where you get your drinks, they tend to be darkly lit, etc), but they all have something about them that makes them one of a kind.

So why do we tend to make taverns so cookie cutter?  Is it to make it easier?  I believe my world will come alive so much more when the little details are taken care of.  For this reason, I have spent time designing "third spaces" in my worlds.

This doesn't only apply to bars.  If there is a large city, wouldn't it have fancy restaurants?  What about family restaurants in a society where families are able to spend time together?  What about a "Starbucks" or "McDonalds" where people can get food conveniently and inexpensively? 

What would these places look like?  What would be the equivalent of an "Irish Pub" or a "Sports Bar" in my world?  These are the questions I ask myself now as I flesh out the world in which my stories take place.

What do you think?  Do these details matter?  Do they just distract from the narrative?  Any cool examples in your own worlds (or books you have read) you can share?

As always, thank you for reading!