1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    A setting for the sake of it

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by OurJud, Aug 12, 2015.

    I hope I can manage to explain myself properly here, but is giving your novel a particular setting, purely for the sake of it, acceptable?

    If a person wanted to write a fantasy novel, complete with jabberwockies, goblins, and all the other elements associated with the genre, a medieval setting would be justified, in the same way that Philip K Dick's 'Precrime' concept from his short story Minority Report, justifies a futuristic setting.

    But what if the plot doesn't justify the setting?

    Let's take a futuristic setting, for instance. What if the futuristic 'indicators' are there only to tell the reader the novel is set in the future?

    Example (stupidly simplified):

    A: England, present day.

    Mary took a deep breath and tried to hold back the tears. "I'm leaving you, John." As she turned to leave she paused and without looking back, added, "Who knows, maybe one day you'll win me back." She climbed behind the wheel of her car and drove away.

    B: America, 2076.

    Zina took a deep breath and tried to hold back the tears. "I'm leaving you, Trent." As she turned to leave she paused and without looking back, added, "Who knows, maybe one day you'll win me back." She hopped up onto the hovership and shot up into the sky.

    Okay, so let's imagine that is the entire story. There's no more. Is the futuristic setting here acceptable, given the plot offers no justification?
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could just as easily write:

    France, 1315

    Yvette took a deep breath and tried to hold back the tears. "I'm leaving you, Jean." As she turned to leave she paused and without looking back, added, "Who knows, maybe one day you'll win me back." She clambered astride her unicorn, and rode away.


    And why not?

    Although, if that is all there is, why?
     
  3. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Yes it is ok to do the setting as you have done it. You are telling a story. The story contains a setting, but the setting is ancillary and should not be the focus, nor distract from the story.

    But that is giving you a fish. I'd prefer to show you how to catch your own fish, and offer this as one method:

    Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analysis_paralysis


    Just let go. And write. No more second guessing. :agreed:
     
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  4. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly!

    But what's the answer? You suggest it's acceptable by asking 'And why not?', but then contradict this by asking why you would do such a thing.

    Let me ask another way.

    If the plot of the novel doesn't utilise or require the various elements associated with the setting, but you have chosen that setting simply because it's a setting you like, is it acceptable?
     
  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know, I know. I could strangle myself sometimes. I just have this vision of someone reading my novel, and stopping halfway through to ask themselves, "Why the hell is this set in the future??"

    Mind you, I'll count myself lucky that this someone is even bothering :D
     
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  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I would say no. If you're not utilizing setting then what's the point in having it? But it's not like you have to world build like Frank Herbert just to make your setting believable. Take Harlequin novels all that's required for a Hawaii setting is a beach, some leis and a roast pig at the resort. And their books sell like hot-cakes.

    Think of your genre and audience. The reason most people are reading historicals or certain settings is that they want a glimpse of social customs. They want to see what life was like back then or now and 'watch' people blacksmith or churn butter, or whatever. I would think the same would be for a futuristic novel - they want to see the authors vision of the future.

    But nothing is written in stone - maybe just try a first draft and see how if works.
     
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  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It depends. Some, like me would like to see how the setting has an impact on the characters. They want to feel like they're there. Let's say in 2076 America, there's a fierce debate on whether or not the US should join the Galactic Union of Earth Countries. Zina's family is in the 'Don't Join!' camp while Trent's family is in the 'Join it!' camp. You could take that concept and play around with their feelings for each other versus their loyalties for their family and their country joining or not joining the Galactic Union of Earth Countries.

    The story is about the relationship between these two characters (now referring to all of them), but the setting...the society that they grew up in helps define their motivations, their beliefs be it 1315 France, modern-day England, or 2076 America.
     
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  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    As I suspected, I don't think I'm explaining myself very well.

    Many of the things I'm hoping to happen, would raise questions if the novel was set in present day, but what I'm trying to say, is that those things could very easily be substituted so that they didn't raise questions (in other words didn't need a futuristic setting). For example, swapping a hover car for a normal car.

    I like to go for subtlety with my themes, and I don't like to blatantly title the year the story is set. This means I have to paint a futuristic landscape with my words and include elements that, while not integral to the plot, give the reader an indication that the novel is set in the future.

    It is the 'not integral to the plot' which worries me.

    Is this any clearer?
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I suppose it could work without raising too many questions. Might depend on the genre though.
     
  10. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    The genre would be Spec' Fiction, I suppose. Isn't this the generic term for any future-set novel that doesn't come under the sci-fi banner?
     
  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I have no idea, I've lost track of how many genres are out there. Have you read any Spec novels or novels that use your technique? Sounds like the genre could give your readers a heads up but I'm not sure if they would expect something more from your story.
     
  12. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    There's many ways to "hint" at the setting. My novel, for example, is set half a century after a nuclear war, and although that part is known to the reader and it does affect the world and the plot, it's still a past event that isn't quite at the "forefront". I'll have a scene at some point in which my characters enter a previously-abandoned part of a city and discover a skeleton, donning a gas mask, lying underneath a car with the mask's hose duct taped around the car's exhaust pipe. This gives me an opportunity for my characters to remark that he must have committed suicide because "the poor bastard just couldn't wait for the radiation [sickness] to kill him."

    The skeleton and the man's suicide have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, it's just something that the characters find along their journey and briefly comment on, to paint a picture of what this world was like not very long ago. If you want to illustrate setting, this is one way to do it: simply throw in something small and inconsequential for your characters to remark about, as long as it's not something that should be obvious and familiar to them. For a hovercar, for example, maybe it's fairly new technology that's just recently come on the market, and the characters have a brief conversation in which they speculate about how it might work, or what new traffic laws might have to be made, etc.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2015
  13. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, JadeX, but my problem isn't with painting a futuristic landscape. I can do that easy enough.

    I'm simply trying to ascertain if my plot offers sufficient justification for its future setting.

    To be fair to others, that's a tough one to answer unless I'm willing to discuss my plot, which I'm not. I tried to offer some examples and discover the answer through them, but it's clear I'd have to outline my plot in order for people to give a clear answer.

    I'll say thank you to all that answered, and unofficially close the subject.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2015
  14. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Anything, and perhaps everything, can be made integral to the plot. When I started writing my book, I knew what it was going to be about, but not how to get it there. I just wrote a sequence of events as it seemed they would naturally unfold, and to my surprise, the first chapter ended with my main character getting (wrongfully) arrested. "Oh shit, my main character's in prison, what do I do now?" I asked myself. I was stuck for several days, I thought I'd written myself into a corner. Then I figured it out. Ideas just connected later on, and those ideas connected with even more ideas, and pretty soon all these cool ideas I had when I came up with the overall premise were now just falling into place and connecting seemingly by themselves. As a result, that event has ironically become the most pivotal point of the plot thus far. And I didn't even know why I wrote it, or what to do about it once I had. I just wrote it, and thought about it later. And it worked.

    So, if you want your story to have a futuristic setting, just start writing it as such. Eventually you'll find a way that the setting can be woven in with the plot. And it doesn't even need to be obvious, or a prime feature. It can even be the final twist at the very end - as if to say, "You were wondering why this story was set in the future? [insert twisty surprise ending here] Here's why. Here's why that's all important. The end."

    Your justification for the setting doesn't need to be immediately apparent; it can be introduced at almost any point in the plot.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2015
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  15. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks. That's given me a little more encouragement.

    I'm at a very early stage yet, and while the outline I have doesn't seem to offer up any obvious justifications for the future setting, I'm sure, as you say, I can weave them in :)
     
  16. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Oh yeah, then you'll have plenty of opportunity to come up with an idea! Outlines are great for just generally trying to figure out what the main events are and what happens to who, but you'll be surprised just how much more detail can go into those points when you actually get to writing those parts. Chances are you'll encounter some fine details along the way that may spark an idea in your mind about how the setting affects things, and how you can then use the setting to drive the plot, instead of just the plot trying to prop up the setting. Just keep it in the back of your mind whenever you write, and I can just about bet you'll find some way to do it.
     
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  17. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Brilliant. Thanks.
     
  18. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why would I set it in 1315 France? Or in 2076 USA? Maybe I just love the fashions...or what I'd like the fashions to be.

    It sounds as if you're actually going to incorporate some elements of a possible future into your story, so that's a stronger reason than just the fashions. It doesn't have to be central, but if you need SOMETHING to be different from how it is now, or how it ever was, you've got to go - no matter how slightly - down the SF route.

    I've actually seen a performance of Macbeth set, not in 11th century Scotland, but in modern-day Glasgow; not in dynastic strife between rivals for the crown of Scotland, but in dynastic strife between rivals for supremacy over all the criminal gangs of the city. Terry Pratchett took the same story and incorporated it into Discworld.

    Set the story where you're most comfortable telling it.
     
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  19. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's possible you will find ways to utilize the setting the more you write your story, in case you don't know yet what exactly you're gonna do with it, you just know you see this type of setting and that's where your story happens.

    This sounds like the best setting so far.
     
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