1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Creating a novel with only one setting?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Thomas Kitchen, Jan 30, 2013.

    Hi all,

    Inspiration struck me last night, when I was reading in bed. BAM! Right in the face. So, I need to ask a question: can one base an entire novel in one place or setting, such as a lecture hall or a kitchen? I heard that Herge once began creating a Tintin story set entirely in an airport, but I have no idea how true that actually is. Have other writers managed it, and if so, which ones, and which books pulled it off? Is it only certain genres that can execute it well?

    Any of your own opinions/advice would also be especially helpful and appreciated. :)
     
  2. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    I believe that a good writer can base a novel on any setting.

    Hergé did not write novels, and even if he did, an airport would not be comparable to a lecture hall or a kitchen. There are airports that are larger than towns.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Stephen King did it with Misery and, I believe Gerald's Game, though I haven't read the latter.
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I suppose they could - movies do it - but they're usually thrillers or horrors to explain the
    confinement. Time could also play a part in limiting the location - if your story only takes
    place over one night than you could legitimately keep your characters confined. But
    flashbacks would break the limited setting as in a book I read back in the 90's called The Girl
    in the Box by Ouida Sebestyen it starts with the hero trapped in a fruit cellar in the
    dark. She has no idea why she's been kidnapped and types out memories of the days
    leading up to capture on a typewriter.
     
  5. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am sure it can be done if that is what you're going for. I suppose it also depends on where the setting is and how tight your "one setting" is. Is it just one room or can it be one entire house? Or maybe it's a big amusement park? I am sure just about anything can be done if that's what the story calls for. But I wouldn't recommend forcing it just to do it.
     
  6. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Michael Collins - I am not stating that he wrote novels, instead merely saying that one of his Tintin graphic novels was supposedly to be set in an airport.

    minstrel - Thank you, I had forgotten about Misery.

    Show - I'm trying to set it in a train station, so I think it will be expansive enough.
     
  7. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    "Resevoir Dogs," the film by Quentin Tarantino, did it. But he did use flashbacks in different settings so I don't know if that still counts or not.
     
  8. Traviud
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    Traviud New Member

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    A lot of great examples listed above. Misery was extremely pleasurable in large part due to the choice of setting, which was appropriately suffocating and claustrophobic. The movie broke away from the setting far too often to see how the search was going and what various townspeople were thinking, such that even Kathy Bates couldn't save it. Just a bad idea all around.

    I'm a novice writer and not yet ready to attempt writing a novel from inside the headspace of a protagonist that can't go anywhere (or, tougher yet, in third person EXTREMELY limited), but applaud anyone who tries.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there have been novels taking place in an elevator, a bed, an asylum, on a boat, a train, a plane...

    anything can be successful, if the writer has the chops...
     
  10. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I wrote my 1st novel and its setting was the country of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    An entire country doesn't count as one setting, at least not for purposes of this discussion.
     
  12. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on the country! Think of, say, Andorra - it's a country, it's a single town, and it's actually just a single ski track :D
    Just kiddin' with Andorrans...

    Seriously, what do you consider wide or narrow enough to be a "single setting"? For example, a kitchen is a single room - however, a fridge, or a kitchen table, or a drawer, or a microwave, or the empty space under the table, can all be used as separate settings, described with tiny details, each of them can have it's own characters connected to them, and you don't have to move your narrator away from the kitchen itself to move the perspective to a completely different "setting"!
     
  13. Xatron
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    I once wrote a short story as practice whose title was "Memoirs of a kitchen table", and it was about the most important and most mundane events that a kitchen table witnesses through years of staying in the middle of a kitchen.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Arthur C Clarke's A Fall of Moondust takes place on board the marooned tour boat Selene. There are a few external scenes, but it would not be difficult to envision a similar novel without them.

    It's much easier to have a short story with a single setting, but there's no law preventing a single-setting novel.
     
  15. swifteye12
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    swifteye12 New Member

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    Definitely possible. Go for it!
     
  16. aspidistra
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    aspidistra Member

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    At risk of exposing my lack of culturing, I can offer a brilliant piece of fiction that plays out in just one setting, thought it's not a novel. Remember that Seinfeld episode that takes place entirely in the waiting room of a restaurant? I'm always amazed they made that work. Might be worth a look just for ideas.

    Also Kafka's Metamorphosis was 95% in one house, and most of that was just in one room.
     
  17. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    ^ I love that episode! They really had to fight to be allowed to make it but it works so well.

    i hope you give your idea a go Thomas, best of luck with t :D
     
  18. niallohagan
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    dont! That is all. Its not very good
     
  19. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thanks, everyone - I am going to give it a go, although I'm still in the early planning stage at the moment. And if it turns out to be rubbish, nothing ventured nothing gained, right? :)
     
  20. niallohagan
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    True. Good luck with it? Interesting setting a train station? What type? By that I mean, one approaching the size of Picadilly or a small rural one?
     
  21. Carthonn
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    Good call Mistrel:

    Stephen King - Gerald's Game..............that book was like 400+ pages. It was total page turner. The setting was one room in cabin in a room bedroom in Maine. Good luck to you bro. If you want to top that I'll buy you a drink. IT was sick. It was sexual but not totally explicit. It was genius. King is the man because he's sick hahaha.

    I other words, IT HAS BEEN DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE

    But yeah - GO FOR IT. He went with horror. Attempt a different genre maybe. Romance? Definitely could work.
     
  22. Edward M. Grant
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    A friend once produced a play set entirely at a small rural train station and it seemed to go down well with the audience. Though it probably helped that it was performed at a real rural train station with real steam trains.

    Ultimately, the largest part of most novels is about the characters, so their story can often be told just as well in one location as in a galaxy-spanning epic.
     
  23. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Thanks. :D At the moment it will be the same sort of size as Swansea trainstation, if you have any idea how big that is (much smaller than Picadilly). However, I also have a drama I would like to do, also set at a train station, but that would be a very rural place, as only two people are waiting for a train. :)

    Yes, I'm actually attempting two novels set at a trainstation because I couldn't decide between them! :p One will be a thriller, the other a drama.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A play is quite different from a novel. It's much easier to set a play in a single setting than a novel, not to mention a gift to the stage crew. Waiting for Godot comes immediately to mind,
     

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