1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Need to make some decisions

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by OurJud, Sep 17, 2015.

    I could do with some unbiased opinions on my setting.

    When I came up with the idea of this novel, the premise was simple. It would be a road novel set in the near future.

    However, ten chapters in I find the future element is so vague that it may just as well be set in present day. In fact, the only 'hints' that the story is future-set, are a GPS tracker implanted in one of the main characters, a car that runs on replaceable fuel cells, and a fictitious, liquid-based drug that comes in little glass vials, taken orally.

    I feel that the future element helps give my story a slight edge, but so far my instincts - and the way the story is progressing - have not given me any reason to develop the future aspects.

    The biggest problem is the GPS tracker implant -which is integral to the plot and is probably a good enough reason alone for a future setting.

    Any thoughts on whether these paper-thin future elements are strong enough to carry and justify the setting would be very much appreciated.
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I much prefer realistic futuristic settings rather than a world where absolutely everything is run by technology and people are using teleporters to get to work or whatever. The kind of small details you've mentioned would enrich the story for me without being distracting or making me think the author has just been lazy and thrown in a new technological advance whenever a plot point got tricky. The GPS tracker implant sounds very realistic and something we could develop very soon, if not now.
     
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, Tenderiser. I too prefer the future setting you describe. I started this thread because even as the damn writer, I forget the novel is future-set until one of the aforementioned elements crop up :D

    I think one of my main fears, is that because I don't date the setting, the reader may come across these elements and think, 'Hold on... a GPS tracker implant? We don't even have such a thing yet."

    I'm just wondering if I'd be better weaving something into the early narrative to make the future setting clear?

    Having said that, the book's blurb would be the perfect opportunity to make this clear.
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Yep, blurb it. Though don't you have a concept which doesn't exist in the current real world? So people will either assume it's in the future or it's an alternate reality where GPS trackers etc have been invented?
     
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have another big decision to make in terms of setting, and would greatly appreciate feedback.

    I've shot myself in the foot really, by not making a definite decision whether to set the story in the UK or the US. As a result, I have an undefined country (with fictitious place names), and characters who instinctively speak in British English, but a MC who uses American terms in the narrative. I avoid having the characters say anything during dialogue that have distinct UK/US terms, so that they don't clash with the US terms in the narrative. In other words, I would never say:

    "The sign told us the next gas station was twelve miles away. 'We need petrol, John,' I said."

    I've ended up in this mess for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted a country that offered more scope and size than the UK. And two, I know nothing about US geography and feared I couldn't pull off the setting convincingly - at least not without meticulous swatting over maps and other facts and figures.

    I thought setting the novel in the near-future would give me the scope and freedom to get away with this vagueness, but the further I get into the story, the less I believe this to be true.

    The way I see it, I have four choices.

    1. I set it in the UK, keep the made-up place names and change any 'Americanisms' over to British
    2. I set it in the UK, do my research and use real place names (and change any 'Americanisms')
    3. I set it in the US, keep the made-up place names and change narrative and dialogue to American
    4. As 3, but do my research and use real place names.

    Any of these are going to mean a fair amount of editing, although I'd probably just continue with whatever new direction I decide, and leave those changes for the second draft.

    Option 3 and 4 would require the most work, as it would mean editing all dialogue along with the narrative. Option 1 would be the easiest (just change the few instances of 'gas station', 'parking lot', 'trunk', etc)
    Option 2 is also doable, but would require careful research for place names.

    What I'm asking for here, in terms of help, is not for anyone to make the decision for me, of course, but to answer from a reader's perspective. Would it matter to you that you couldn't identify the country? Would you care that you'd never heard of the place names? Would you be bothered by the obviously English characters existing in a world that uses American terms?
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I don't want to dominate your thread but since nobody else has replied... :D

    I think your instinct is right and the UK is too small to pull off the scope you're looking for. But if you set it in the real-world US just a little in the future, it can't have changed THAT much. People would probably still refer to the states by their current names, for example. Poring over maps and searching for YouTube videos of the major roads in each state wouldn't be a great use of your time. So I would go to a fifth option - carry on with what you're doing. I don't think the British/Americanisms matter - maybe your American MC is an immigrant. Just keep it consistent for each character and, unless their childhoods are going to be explored in detail, leave it as a bit of a mystery.

    I like vagueness in setting, in general. I want a feel of whether they're driving through desert or corn fields but I don't need to know if there are mountains in the distance or what wild herbs grow in that part of the country. Made-up names, but a country which is probably based on the US or UK, would be fine with me.
     
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  7. OurJud
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    ... IS THE CORRECT ANSWER! :D

    To be serious for a moment, let me just clarify that my MC isn't American. It's a bit of a head-fuck, really, because it's written in first-person, meaning there's no 'third voice' offering the narrative. As you know, in first-person PoV, the MC also narrates.

    And that's where the contradictions lie. He's clearly English from his dialogue, but uses Americanisms when narrating.
     
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Ah. Well in that case I think you need to pick one and run with it. I would probably pick British English and still base the setting on the US because I'm tricky like that. :p
     
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    That's kind of what I've done. All that I've written since asking this question has used English terms (petrol station, not gas station), and I shall edit the previous chapters accordingly, during subsequent drafts and re-writes.

    For now I'm going to stick with 'vague' in terms of the country, and carry on with the made-up place names.
     

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