Worldbuilding: Florida Observations

Before I start, there is a new piece of fan art on the Fan Art page.

It’s raining here, but the overhang protects people from the rain while they walk from one room to another. In Montana, this place would fill with snow drifts in the winter.

Since I’m from Montana, going to the Florida was a pretty big shift in culture.

Observations on the people: Florida is much more diverse than my part of Montana. (My hometown is over 95% white.) At the airport in Orlando, it’s not uncommon to overhear someone speaking another language. It also seems like there are neighborhoods that are mostly African American. In Universal Studios, a large percentage of the park-goers were foreign. Before coming home, we bought fruit from a Latino man at a roadside stand.
What to keep in mind while writing: If you’re dealing with multiple cultures, races, or species, location matters. Port cities or areas people travel to will tend to have a ton of diversity. Farming communities and areas off the beaten path, depending on the region and history, may have much less diversity.
In Montana, the bigger towns tend to have more diversity than the country towns. My grandparents employed Mexicans to weed their sugar beets, so another thing to remember is that there may be foreign workers coming into farming communities. Even now, Mexicans are one of the more common non-native races in Montana since they often come here to work with livestock. (Most Americans, being city born, have little experience with livestock.) Looking at history will show that some farms used to import slaves, so that’s another way diversity can be added to a story.  Foreigners may bring produce from their own region to sell to the locals, or foreigners from another city.
I think the bottom line with diversity is remember to world build it. If you put five distinct races in a small town, and traveling is difficult, there should be a little bit of explanation.

Observations on the land: Florida soil is very sandy and doesn’t seem to hold water like Montana dirt. In this picture, you can see that someone used shells along the sidewalk. Shells are common on the west coast. In Montana, it would cost way too much to import shells. Here, we’d use rock or grass. Grass grows well if there’s enough water and it’s above freezing, both of which can be common problems. On our ranch, the well water is bad for plants so we often have to sacrifice some plants.

What to keep in mind while writing: People may not have yards or plants. If they live in a dry climate, or have little soil, they may spend their time growing crops and never try ornamental plants. Instead, they might use shells or rock for decoration.

Vehicles: In Florida, there are very few semi-trucks and even pickups are rare. In our part of Montana, quite a few ranchers own semi trucks. Pickups are more common than cars since people like to be able to haul stuff. We have bad roads and cars don’t do well on those.
What to keep in mind while writing: Vehicles will vary depending on the area and how much money people have. City people will most likely have small efficient vehicles while those who have something to haul will probably have larger vehicles, and those might be old ones held together by wire and tape. If the terrain is rough, or there’s bad infrastructure, aircraft might be much more popular.

Buildings: In Florida, a lot of the buildings are concrete. I’m used to buildings made from wood, but I guess humidity and termites probably make this a no-go in Florida. (Another friend of mine thinks it might have something to do with hurricanes.)
At the Writers’ Conference, one must got outside to get to some of the rooms, even though they’re in the same building. Of course, there’s a sidewalk under an overhand so you don’t get rained on. In Montana, this building structure would be a bad idea. Not only do we have temperatures lower than -30, we have winds. If it rained during wind, which is common, the wind could mean a person gets soaked, even if they’re under the overhand.
What to keep in mind: Buildings are based off the weather. If it’s a warm climate, people might not spend much time indoors. Locals are likely to use material that lasts and is common to the region, so in some areas, buildings can be stone, while other places might use wood.

Boarders: It felt weird driving in rural areas and not seeing barbed wire fence. There was nothing between the road and the land due to so few people raising livestock. Where I come from, there was livestock on almost every bit of land at one time or another. This means there are normally the remnants of fences around crop land. Without fences, it felt like trespassing would be so much easier. I also remember going to town as a kid and wandering into the neighbors’ yard. I assumed my great grandparents owned that land since there was no fence dividing it. (Sidewalks didn’t look like boarders to me.)
What to keep in mind: Does your society need fences for livestock or are they raising something else? Did they put up fences at one time? How do they figure out who owns what land without fences?

Umbrellas. In Montana, I rarely see those. In Florida, they’re needed due to lots of rain during warm weather. (Up here, if we have to go out in the rain, it’s cold enough to wear a jacket or rain coat.)

Weather: I don’t think people in Florida care much about the weather, at least in winter. It generally stays within a survivable range. My family plans our whole lives around the weather, what days we work outside, when we move cows, or if we go to town. Of course, Montana has cold winters, so we also make sure we have enough clothes to survive if our vehicle quits. Some days are so cold we won’t risk going to town. There aren’t many people around so we need to be able to take care of ourselves.


About Jessi L. Roberts

I live and work on my family’s cattle ranch in eastern Montana. I have a flock of chickens, a hyper golden retriever, some cows, and a few horses. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction and my head is full of wild sci-fi story ideas, some involving apocalypses and others involving aliens. I have been published twice in Havok Magazine, an imprint of Splickity.
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4 Responses to Worldbuilding: Florida Observations

  1. Wow, this was so interesting and informative! Awesome post!



  2. Caiti Marie says:

    Great observations! I’ve never really traveled, so all the world building I do has to come from what I read… Comparisons like this are great. 🙂 It’s got me thinking about how Montana is different than where I live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to get you thinking about it. I remember thinking it was funny when one of your sisters asked what we do about hoses in the winter. (I’d never realized most people use hoses for watering livestock.)


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