1. ZionsRodeVos
    Offline

    ZionsRodeVos New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Woodbridge, Virginia

    Story Setting Questions

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by ZionsRodeVos, Aug 22, 2008.

    If a particular setting is important would it make sense to dedicate a chapter or two on it?

    For example most of a fantasy story I am writing will be set in a mountainous region, one that has many plants and animals and all of its trees unlike those found on Earth. They will become part of a specialized eco system that was created by magicians.

    Would it make sense to dedicate a chapter, possibly the first chapter, to describing the region or does it work better to put various pieces throughout the various chapters?
     
  2. Kratos
    Offline

    Kratos Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2008
    Messages:
    791
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Maryland, United States
    Put in various pieces of info throughout the story. For most people; it's boring to read infodumps.
     
  3. inkslinger
    Offline

    inkslinger Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Messages:
    403
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Las Vegas / Phoenix
    Yeah, as a reader, I would not want to read an entire chapter full of the setting being detailed. It would have to be the most incredible piece of writing for me to enjoy it for an *entire* chapter.
     
  4. Scarecrow28
    Offline

    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    Messages:
    496
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    That's Classified
    The best thing to do would be to begin the story and, as it progresses, include sections of information. If you plan to do a more epic piece like LOTR, you may want to include a brief "overview" before the actual story begins that justs contains all of the information withinthe story in a single location.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I agree with Kratos completely. You will lose the reader if you spend the fist few pages, never mind entire chapters, merely laying out the setting.

    Instead, begin with a character dealing with minor crises of challenges in your setting. This gets the action going, begins to develop the character, and provides the opportunity to begin showing the setting, a little at a time. You may in some cases develop the setting continually over the entire course of the book. For example, Larry Niven's Ringworld begins with the overall setting of life in Known Space, and from the first appearance of the mysterious ring around a star, it adds details a few at a time right up to the last chapter, where the mountain Fist-Of_God shows one last astonishing detail about the ring's design and history. Still, plenty is left for the next novel in the series to resume the setting's development.

    The same continuing development of setting can be found in Pers Anthony's The Apprentice Adept trilogy (beginning with Split Infinity).

    Each of these examples keeps the reader eager to learn the next interesting tidbit about the setting.
     
  6. Ommonite
    Offline

    Ommonite Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2008
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    0
    As the others said, no one wants to read a whole chapter that is like "and this tree looks like this, and its over there, and it does this, and that tree looks like those and this one is like that."

    If the whole story is set in the same area, primarily, you should introduce it with a few pages, then revisit its description later on.
     
  7. ZionsRodeVos
    Offline

    ZionsRodeVos New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Woodbridge, Virginia
    Thanks for all your comments. The thing that I seem to be doing or trying to do is put in more details as I feel that the short stories that I have written lack details and then when I decided (last night) to create a special eco system that would be needed for the story to be viable I started adding descriptions of trees to the first chapter and then began to wonder if that really would work.

    Would it work out if I dedicate 2 to 5 paragraphs about the region and then simply add to it as my story progresses?

    Before I started mucking about with the short story and turning it into a book it had the main character and a minor crisis and so far I feel that this will work nicely for the first chapter but then I became worried about the setting because there will be a large migration of creatures and humanoids into the region and I felt it would be better to give the reader a sense that the region was actually designed to handle the amount of new inhabitants and had been maintained to handle them even though there were few creatures there at the time the story starts. So it could be good to let the reader know at the beginning rather than conveniently explain it when all the creatures suddenly arrive.
     
  8. TwinPanther13
    Offline

    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dallas
    One novel Simarilion. That novel gives more information about middle earth and the different ages of it then any other. It even explains why Gandalf distrusts Sauramon and how the rings are forged, and all the types of wizards. Even the creation of Tom Bombadil and the dwarf and elven wars before the race of man was thought of.

    That is the most boring book ever written it is one huge info dump(487 pages). I read it cause I wanted to know. Like there were blue wizards in Middle earth. Did you know that? Did you need to know that to enjoy LOTR. Did you need to know that there were two Gray Wizards to enjoy The Hobbit. No. Let your info flow into the story. Keep what you know to yourself and let the reader see what they need to know
     
  9. tehuti88
    Offline

    tehuti88 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Michigan
    If the information that readers need to know is important enough, you should be able to find a way to work it into the story as it's needed. It's okay now and then to use a paragraph or two to describe or explain something, especially if, for example, the characters are entering new and unfamiliar territory, but the information about your setting will make much more of an impact if you explain it only as it's needed--that is, when the characters THEMSELVES notice and start to understand it. Why have the uninvolved narrator tell us how this world works when the characters themselves probably don't even know yet?

    Instead of describing this place the characters are going to enter, and then having them enter it, you have them enter it and learn about it for themselves, through their actions and observations. That's a lot more interesting than the narrator breaking into the story with some textbook-like explanation of how things work. Let the reader discover this information as the characters do. With wide-eyed wonder.
     
  10. ParanormalWriter
    Offline

    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    USA
    Zions, I wouldn't suggest dedicating that much space (especially not the first chapter, where readers are still looking for something to latch onto) to information about the setting. Any necessary facts can be slipped in during the story, but the sad fact about world building is that readers are never as interested in your world as they are in the characters and their actions. It's fun for the writer to play around with those kinds of details, but most readers won't have the patience to work their way through it.

    If the temptation is incredibly strong, however, and you feel these details really are pertinent to the story, you might do something like what Robin Hobb does in her Farseer books. She dedicates the first couple paragraphs of each chapter to giving a little info on the history of her world. She does this in an engaging way though, by having the MC write with his own pen these notes he's keeping on the subject.
     
  11. ZionsRodeVos
    Offline

    ZionsRodeVos New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Woodbridge, Virginia
    Thanks for these comments too. This is very helpful.

    It amazes me that I have read many fantasy books and they probably don't have info dumps in them and if they did I probably wouldn't have finished them as I enjoy action and well defined characters. And yet when I attempt to write my own book and create my own magical realm I start wanting to describe it all at once and begin to forget about the characters in them.

    Thanks for all your wonderful tips for better ways to develop a setting in a story.

    I am now thinking that with my lack of experience I may do better starting my story earlier when my main character first arrives in this special region so that I can develop it as he explores it.

    I like the idea of putting one or two paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter that are penned by the main character. Would it work just as well if it were written by a character that may not be introduced in the first few chapters but would become the main supporting character if not a second main character?
     
  12. ParanormalWriter
    Offline

    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    USA
    I don't see any reason that couldn't work. Good luck with it.
     
  13. Ungood
    Offline

    Ungood Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    790
    Likes Received:
    6
    It depends on how you do it.

    You can make it truly wonderful and have this kind of 'let me walk you through a garden" type feel, or it can sound like "This really should go in the prologue so I can ignore it" type deal.

    It all depends on how you bring me into it.

    Everything has been done before.

    There is not wrong way to write.
     
  14. TwinPanther13
    Offline

    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dallas
    Look do it how you feel. 10 000 b.c. was similar in the fact that at then end of the movie you find that it was one of the minor characters who related the whole story.

    It does not matter how you drop the hints in that manner, or which character does it. Just do it well
     
  15. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    In his Foundation series, Isaac Asimov disguised the infodumps at the start of each chapter as excerpts from the fictional Encyclopedia Galactica, written long after the events took place.

    This gave a slight feeling of predetermination, which was rather fitting, since the book series is about controlling history. It also added a little bit of atmosphere to the somewhat dry writing.

    I think this trick can be adapted to most genres, if for some reason the information can't be fitted into the main text. But it still only works for short infodumps.
     
  16. ZionsRodeVos
    Offline

    ZionsRodeVos New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Woodbridge, Virginia
    I am planning to steer clear of info dumps and do my best to incorporate the setting into the story little by little. I have begun reading the first book in the dragon riders of pern series and looking specifically how Anne McCaffery incorporated the setting into the story. It makes for slower reading but as I keep your comments in mind while I read is helping me see a bit better.

    I have read or listened to (I think I listened to it on books on tape I checked out from the library) the Foundation series and remember liking it. It sounds like that book will give me another example to look at.
     

Share This Page