Why are clocks circular when we see time in a linear fashion (there was a beginning and there will be an end)? Why are circles 360 degrees? Why does February only have 28 days?
Maybe you've thought about these questions or maybe you haven't. I mean, really, why do you need to think about it? Clocks have always been circles and a circle is 360 degrees and February has always been the shortest month. But if we do think about why, and look to our past we can find that there are actual answers.
Clocks are circular because the Mesopotamians saw the passage of time as a cycle: winter, spring, summer, fall, winter, spring....(you get the idea, I'm sure).
Circles are 360 degrees because the Mesopotamians divided their cycle of time into 360 days. They just picked it, for no real reason, other than their best guess. The circle being 360 degrees is fundamental to our understanding of all geometry and figuring out the values of other shapes.
February being the shortest month takes a little more explanation. Julius Caesar liked the Egyptian calendar so he rearranged time - telling all the romans that their former calender system was no longer valid. In adopting the Egyptian calender, Caesar picked one of the nicer months of the year and named it after himself (July). (Talk about having power, right?) After his unfortunate end, his grand nephew Augustus took over. Augustus didn't want to have less then his great uncle so he picked another month with gorgeous weather to name after himself (August, obviously). The only problem? August was shorter than July. How did he solve the problem? Augustus stole the days from February. Seriously.
The decisions of these ancient civilizations have a profound impact on our society today. So much so that we don't even question any of it. Everything they did was relevant. I could go on and on and on about the sort of innovations ancient civilizations had and how much they changed the course of history. I won't bore you.
My point to this history lesson? When you are writing a novel, history is important.
Your History is shaping and influencing the novel you're working on.
Your characters act the way they do because of their history.
History also serves as the foundation for world-building. Whether you've fabricated your own world or are using an already established location, you need to know the little historical details. The more you know, the richer your setting will be. The more real your world will become.
You don't need to tell the readers why February is the shortest month or why clocks are circles but you do need to recognize that history shapes everything.
My advice? Don't overlook history, in any aspect of your novel.
As an aside, I want to thank all of you wonderful people who participated in my game yesterday! It was so much fun and I loved your contributions even more than I thought I would (meaning: they were more amazing than I thought they could be).