1. mrdan987
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    mrdan987 New Member

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    How much does historical setting affect a novel?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by mrdan987, Feb 21, 2012.

    After years of having this epic, fantasy series playing out in my imagination, in recent months I have finally started putting my plans to paper and have recently began writing my first novel.

    The story involves the 'transported to another land' aspect and begins in our world, with the main character being a wizard. I'm trying to get across the MC lives a fairly normal life, but inside he has a wealth of insecurities related to his secret abilities. However the problem is, writing in a modern context seems sort of forced, as if I'm trying too hard to show that this is a modern fantasy story (I'm not consciously trying to do this though). Basically, I don't really think the first two chapters I've written help to establish the general tone of the overall story arc.

    I'm wondering whether setting the story in an earlier time period would maybe help to rectify this? My main character is 18, and I am only 21 so very much 'of' this era. I'm starting to think perhaps my quest to establish a realistic portrayal of youth in the 21st century is overtaking the creation of a good opening for my fantasy tale.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I'm a little confused about what the problem is. Are you saying that you want to portray the story in modern times, but worry it will come across as forced or too easy? It won't come across that way at all - provided that your characterization, pacing, interest-level of storyline, suspense, etc are done well. That's what matters.

    You mean getting the setting and atmosphere right is taking away from the focus of the beginning? It shouldn't. Convey details naturally, rather than by infodumps. It won't seem forced. (In fact, if anything seems forced to me, it's when people feel like they HAVE to do medieval stuff just because they think it's status quo.) If you're doing an earlier time period, you'd have to set up the atmosphere and setting too, and that would be harder if you're not familiar with it and have to research.

    Try reading some fantasy books that take place in modern times, and study how the author makes the setting clear while still getting to the point of the fantasy plot.

    The issue here, it seems, is making sure you convey your details in a way that naturally slips them in, rather than in a way that goes on a long diatribe and distracts from the story.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    "X is ordinary in every way--apart from being a secret wizard with powers even he cannot control, especially when he gets accidentally teleported into a parallel universe, right in the middle of doing the Saturday grocery run with his mum..."

    I'd love to read a fantasy epic about a normal guy that is not set in some quasi-medieval time.
     
  4. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Are you saying that the book takes place in a world you've made up that is sort of old fashioned-ish, but you think it would be weird to transport a modern guy there because he doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the story? That's the way I read it...but if not please let me know and I'll try again.

    Anyway, I don't think the historical context is something you should just pick out of a hat. If you do make the character from a specific context, it should be related to the fantasy component of your story. For instance, maybe it will contrast and parallel the other world he gets transported in, or he'll resolve an issue from his current world in the other world. This is all just speculation, of course. I don't know what your book is about and I don't read or write fantasy very much. But I don't like the idea of dropping, say, the sixteenth century on us at random just because you like the way the guy says "thou". On the other hand, if, say, the story took place in the 18th century and x was a scientist doubting his faith in mysticism or god, and suddenly he gets transported to this magical realm, maybe the context would be appropriate.
     
  5. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    The title of the thread and what you're really asking don't seem to match...

    How much does the historical setting affect a novel? Well, quite a lot. Depends what type of novel you're writing. As has been said, many people think fantasy is synonymous with a quasi-mediaeval setting (high fantasy usually is), but this doesn't have to be the case. Fantasy set in the Victorian era is known as Steampunk, and fantasy set in a technologically advanced future is most likely Sci Fi.

    From your post I gather that you think having an 18 year old wizard living in the 21st century real word would be incongruous, but you just have to look at Harry Potter or the Sorcerer's apprentice to realise that can be made to work. And anyway, the incongruity of a fantasy character in a non fantasy world could be an important aspect of the story.

    If, on the other hand, what you're worried about is that you spend too much time focusing on the modern setting and this doesn't fit with the rest of your novel, then you need to sit down and plan out your story arc. Anything can work if you think it through and plan it properly.
     
  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    This. Exactly.
     

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