1. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    If you're writing about a foreign country?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Inspired writer, Jan 25, 2012.

    If you're book is set in a foreign country and you've never visited. Is imagination enough to cut it? What if research can only take you so far? And that applies to historical fiction also.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    generally speaking, imagination alone wouldn't be enough... imagine what you'd think of a writer who wrote a book about your country, having never been there or done enough research to 'get it right' and just used his/her imagination to describe it and its people...

    research can take you far enough, if you spend enough time on it and use only reliable sources, but it can't really equal actual experience and first-hand observation...
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    No. You have to do as much research as possible. Experience the country, talk to the locals. Ask them questions. If I were to write a book set in 1560s Britain, I'd have to do as much research as I can about that era. Of course, I have a major setback as in I do not have the ability to get on a plane to Britain to explore the country personally. That may mean I'll have to push it aside until the day I can actually get there because just gabbing with various British people online may not be enough.

    I've been turned off from otherwise great shows/movies because they stupidly thought that Virginia has towering cliffs on the coastline *glares at Disney's Pocahantas and doesn't bother mentioning all the other glaring historical errors of the movie*, or the presidental-elect had the same power as a fully-elected president.

    You owe it to the readers to get the facts straight; just like you expect another writer to get his/her facts straight when setting a book in your country.
     
  4. THP
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    THP New Member

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    It can work. It depends on the style of the story. If it is a light hearted action romp then it might be enough to go with the stererotypical view of this country. However if the setting is important, and the style more serious you are going to have a very hard time faking it. It is the little things that make a place, often the only way to know or understand these little things is to have been there.
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    True. Saints Row 3 has a fake Cockney and Russian accent and I enjoy the crap out of the game despite the stereotypes and cliches I see in it. Some stories are not meant to be taken seriously and, thus, you can do whatever you please.

    But if you want to be taken seriously, you need to do the research.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think, for the most part, one can do enough research (and find sites/forums/people online) to serve adequately for most stories. It depends, as others have mentioned, just how totally accurate your depiction has to be. I'd hate to say don't write about a country if you haven't traveled to it - a bit of the 'write what you know' gone wild there. But you definitely have to research - and find people who live in the area of the country who have posted about it (and email them - I've done that and even had some of them read the questionable parts for accuracy. People are very friendly that way :D).
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    ^ True!

    Although I have had people tell me that if I don't know enough about a foreign country to accurately protray it, I'm better off writing about my own.

    I guess that's partially true, but if you know another foreign country that you're somewhat in the knowledge about, then focus on them.
     
  8. SunnyDays
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    SunnyDays Member

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    The thing is if you get the country depicted wrong
    you are in danger
    of people from the country and people who have visited the country
    hating your book.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Pretty much this. I doubt folks from the UK would like it one bit if I bungled up their history so much that I have my characters calling the Scots English, etc.

    Golden rule of thumb: If you wish to set it in another country, you must research it.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Whether it's in another country or another time (or both), research it until you feel like you've experienced it.
     
  11. THP
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    THP New Member

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  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Get on Google Maps and find locations in the country. Then switch to street view. That will help with your physical descriptions, if nothing else.
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Hi, Steerpike! It's been a while. I use Google Earth/Maps for all sorts of things. Great resource!
     
  14. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    well I've tried you tube and to be perfectly honest the imagery was pretty close. But I was worried about their way of living etc. I didn't want to come off racist in anyway or mean to offend. If you know what I mean?
     
  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I think I know what you mean, though I wouldn't use just youtube.

    Basically, go to bookstores, watch documentaries (historical, IMHO), talk to the locals IRL or on the web. Ask questions, dont' be afraid if they're dumb or not. If the locals are nice, they'll be more than ready to help you.

    I mean, I've made topics about Elizabethan England (been wanting to write a story set there) on here and the UKers were more than helpful. They gave me information and suggested readings so I can research the subject further.
     
  16. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    Thanks 'Link the writer'. I'll do that. I appreciate the help.
     
  17. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You are most welcome. =)
     
  18. Inspired writer
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    What about the dialogue? Is dialect important if you're planning on basing your novel in another country or point in history? Cause that would require a tremendous amount of research.
    Or could you just go with, "Come here", Helga announced using with her usual broad Norweign tune. For example.
     
  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You could.

    If I were writing a book set in the South, and one of my characters had a strong Southern accent, I'd have him say something like, "C'mere, y'all! I have something you really gotta hear!" or something like that.

    I guess it depends on what the situation demands for.
     
  20. Inspired writer
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    What about a different language entirely? If a writer was to start trying to imitate that particular language, wouldn't they feel like they're getting mocked?
     
  21. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If they're speaking in a different language, I would make some kind of statement to the fact early on, and/or perhaps throw in a couple of appropriate and recognized phrases - I certainly wouldn't try to write the dialogue in that language, or put too many 'foreign' phrases in - that's a recipe for disaster.
     

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