1. Mell
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    Mell Member

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    Familiar vs Unfamiliar setting?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Mell, Apr 3, 2013.

    I always run into this problem when I try and start writing something new. See, I live in Australia, so it's obviously the setting I know most about, but always reading books set in more "common" places such as London and New York, I can never make up my mind whether to go with what I know by setting my story here, or go with one of these more commonly written about (and wider) settings. There is also not a whole lot here in comparison. Smaller cities, less culture, not as much history in general. It also sits in the back of my mind (although in reality it's not that important), that if I were to ever be published, would my stories be of less interest internationally? Basically, I'm not sure how to go about it, the setting is usually of some importance in my stories, but I fear that if I try and set my story somewhere that many know much more about than I do (by, y'know, living there), my research might fall short and poke holes in my story, and on the other hand, the unfamiliarity of the setting I know might put people off. Ugh. Any suggestions?
     
  2. maze
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    maze New Member

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    In general, if you are going to set a story in a place you don't know, research is going to be important. However, I doubt setting a story in a less familiar area, to the reader, is going to make it uninteresting. Sometimes the reader is looking for something different. Ultimately, it is up to you. Just about anywhere can be an interesting setting if you build it write. Have some fun.
     
  3. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    My main question: What setting best fits your story? You definitely should NOT be worried about what will make your book sell.

    The quality that I think tends to sell are when stories that are the best version of themselves. It's polished: edited, critiqued, rewritten a dozen times. Everything just fits the story. That includes setting.

    A good example of the opposite of this are all those terrible hollywood movies that are clearly attempts to make more money.
     
  4. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    How does the setting of your story relate to the subject matter, character development, and plot conflict resolution? If your character is seconds from death, does it matter if he's clinging to an iceberg, a tree root on a cliff face, the top of The Shard, or a submarine's conning tower?

    Whilst setting can be immensely interesting/unusual, bring any setting to life in the way you tell your tale. If you think some settings/locations have little to offer, then you as a writer can help to change perceptions. You have an ideal opportunity to bring aspects of Oz to life.

    Only dead things go with the flow. :D
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what's wrong with setting your stories in ozland?... sure didn't hurt nevil shute any, did it?

    turn it to your advantage... give readers in other parts of the world a chance to have adventures in places they'll probably never get to in their lives... fill your stories/books with local color and set your scenes in the most exotic parts of your amazingly eclectic land...

    i learned about australia first from shute's wonderful books many decades ago... so why not give this generation and ones to come more of your idiosyncratic, upside-down land to enjoy with your own works?...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  6. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Not a whole lot here? :O... We invented wifi! AC-DC, a big bridge, a big pineapple, a big sheep... Kangaroos?... I could go on. Heaps of stuff!

    What city in Australia are you from? I'm not sure what you mean by culture, because by my understanding we have bucket loads of it, it's just different. No you're not assailed by 400 year old buildings at every turn, but historians believe that indigenous Australians are one of the oldest living races in the world. We were also a penal colony only a couple of hundred years ago, we had bush rangers, cattle drivers, adventurers. Our history is great, but for some reason not taught in a very boring manner.

    One thing I discovered while travelling is that people know dick about Australia. Setting a book here would be fine for an international market but you'd be treading the fine line between a novel set in Australia and an Australian novel. A lot of people either forget or simply don't know that Australian is very much a dialect of English. There are words (I've never met anyone who knows what a bogan is), and countless similes, that we use and nobody else does. As long as you don't use them outside of dialogue, and have enough descriptive writing to convey the feel of the city you've chosen, it could actually be more interesting to outside readers... After all, the reason I find novels set overseas appealing is because they are different.

    Write what you know, because if you set it in London and miss the mark, you just found 8 million people who'll call you a hack... But after visiting London I'm not sure they can all read, so you might be fine :p.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Want to know what's boring? When every novel you read is set in New York or London. Lots of readers yearn for more exotic settings! Set your novel in Australia - I think you'll be surprised how many American and English readers (and others around the world) would love it!
     
  8. Mell
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    Mell Member

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    I'm not so worried about it selling as I am having people want to read it.

    There's nothing wrong with it, I can just never decide which to go with. Definitely a good point. Thanks Maia :)

    Not a lot here in comparison. We are a relatively new country, after all. You can't exactly talk about what was happening in Australia in the 1500's, and even with the while gold rush thing, I honestly find that tediously boring after having it shoved down my throat through years at school. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the history of other countries interests me a lot more, even though I know less about them.

    And yeah, I do live in Melbourne, which I suppose is debatably the most culture-rich city in Australia, so that is a plus. Mmm that was another thing, I'd absolutely hate a novel I write to be an Australian novel haha. But I suppose it really shouldn't be too much of an issue.

    Good points, thanks everyone :D
     
  9. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Why? Because there weren't any white people here? It's estimated we've had people banging around the continent for over 40 000 years.

    ... Why?
     
  10. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I don't think there's anything wrong with having it being set in Australia. You don't have to use NY or London because they're more widely used. In fact I think using some place that is less used is better. I like to read stories set in locations I've never seen. It's always fun to learn about other cultures and places in the world.

    If you choose to write about a place you don't know much about research it heavily. Live, eat, breathe, that place until you know it backwards and forwards.
     
  11. Mell
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    Mell Member

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    Considering I would be writing of characters who are mostly of European decent, there isn't really anything I can think of to reference from that time in this country that would be relevant to the story, like it might have had they lived elsewhere. For example, having lived here all my life, my "known" family tree goes as far back as my grandparents, and stops, due to the fact that after emigrating here, there has been no contact with anyone else from their country of origin. I'm not saying there is no history here, just not one that is useful to me, for what I write about.

    Because I find them to be quite awful, and in the case that we are thinking of the same thing, I find them very bland and superficial about how this country is. But it wouldn't really be an issue, since I don't think I could write about the Australian outback without falling asleep, anyhow.



    Thank you :)
     
  12. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    I think it would be best if you were to set your story in Sidney or Melbourne, or where ever it is that you know best. People will read a story wherever it is located--as long as it is a good story.
     
  13. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Can I ask what "them" refers too. Titles and authors would be good. I don't read Australian fiction simply because I read fantasy. But I've always gotten the impression that Australian literature is very true to our culture.

    ... Also, what does the outback have to do with anything?
     
  14. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    On second thoughts, perhaps you should set it in London, or NY.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Nee is, apparently, not Australian.
     
  16. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Long day, sorry.
     
  17. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    nevermind.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It seems that you pretty fervently dislike your home country. In that case, it would make sense to write about a place that you dislike less. However, I don't think that this would be about the readers' preferences, but about your own.

    This worries me. There were human beings there, so, yep, you can talk about what they were doing in the 1500's. New York, by the way, didn't have a European-origin population in the 1500's either.
     
  19. Mell
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    Mell Member

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    Honestly I don't have any titles or authors to give you, as my judgements are based on some of the very forgetful novels I was forced to read in high school rather than things I chose to read, and it is a certain possibility that there are much better Australian novels out there that I'm just oblivious to. Well that's the thing, a lot of the books I'm thinking of were based in the outback, it was as if the authors didn't even acknowledge we had cities in many. But as I said, I likely have a very narrow view of these kinds of books, and I could certainly be wrong about Australian novels as a whole.

    I don't dislike my home country at all, actually. I was talking about how I have seen it portrayed in the books I have read, not how I think it is.

    To answer that I'll just quote my previous response.

    That's a good point. But then again, in either case, I wouldn't feel comfortable writing about the native people of either country, at least not in any kind of depth.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, I see. Well, there's certainly no reason why you have to follow the lead of those novels--I'd say, write about your country as you know it. London, New York, etc., certainly aren't novel enough to be exotic any more--and in fact, urban Australia might be more exotic to many readers.

    Your concern about the lack of a distant-past European-origins history still confuses me, unless you're writing an historical novel or one heavily based on old architecture, antiques, or something of that sort. Most of the novels that I read don't delve all that deeply into the past.
     

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