1. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    The Boarding School Setting

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Kio, Oct 24, 2009.

    I'm having a bit of a problem when it comes to the setting of my story. I've had it for years and so it's pretty hard to changed everything up.

    My main setting is in a boarding school. Or at least it's in a boarding school within a town. I've been having trouble with this setting considering that the genre I'm writing is fantasy.

    This causes me a bit of unease, considering that Harry Potter is also based in a boarding school and the genre is fantasy. I'm getting worried that, once my book is published, the audience will see the parallels and judge it when I am actually trying to distance myself away from the HP atmosphere as much as I could. I believe that I've done a pretty good job at making the two worlds different. However, the similarities in setting still stand out at me.

    I remember a time when a book named Charlie Bone was introduced to me by a friend. I read a bit of it and, after a few chapters, I noticed that the setting was in a boarding school. Not only that, but the genre was fatasy. It was a good book (I hadn't finished it- I plan on continuing it in the near future, but I've been in a bind lately), but I wondered what others thought about it. I surfed the internet and I got mixed reviews. However, whenever I would reach criticism, I would see a similar argument: the book was a Harry Potter rip-off. The basis for this argument was simply that it was set in a magical boarding school.

    It was rather unnerving. This is why I am wondering if it is it worth changing or should I just leave it all the same?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Don't worry too much about things being similar to another book. Given the large number of books out there, there's bound to be similarities between your book and another one. A similarity in setting isn't really a big deal anyways, so I wouldn't worry about it.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Many novels and screenplays have been written with a boarding school setting. Don't worry about it.

    No matter what you come up with, there will be people who will only see the parallels and turn up their noses at it.

    Let your writing stand on its own, and don't jump through flaming rings out of fear of being labelled.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I have to disagree a little here. From experience, if your work is a high-quality novel that is similar in content (even superficially) to Harry Potter, a publisher is going to want to exploit that. If you need an example, go to the young adult section of your nearest book store and observe the huge array of teen vampire romances that have been (re)branded to look like (and often directly reference) the Twilight series. A publisher will look at using a similarity like that as a selling point (as long as they feel your book compares favourably).

    How it comes across in the text, though, is quite up to you. It is entierly possible to write away all similarities with Harry Potter. But don't kid yourself that people won't be comparing.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think if you understand the boarding school set up, as JK Rowling did, you should use it. But if your only experience of boarding school is hearsay or other novels you'd be better off creating an environment you're familiar with.
     
  6. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    As long as the only similarity is the magical boarding school thing, then don't worry about what a few people say and just do it. As long as you're characters aren't playing Quidditch or anything then I don't see you have anything to worry about.

    It isn't as if JK Rowling came up with the idea (I seem to recall a radio interview with Ursula leGuin in which she slightly tarted reminded people that she had written about a school for magic yonks before anyone had heard of HP) after all, it is one of those settings that is 'in the public domain' so to speak.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's true, but even though Hogwarts is a magical school it's believable because it really seems like a real English public school in many ways. The fact that it's a magical boarding school is just another dimension IMO.

    Obviously, JKR was not the first person to use a boarding school as a setting, e.g. 'Tom Brown's Schooldays' or 'What Katy Did at School' were written years before U leGuin popped her head up. A magic boarding school is not wildly original either, it's how you use the setting that's important.

    If all you know of boarding school is what you've read, then why are you so keen to use it? I'd argue that in fact you are being influenced by current fashion. Why not try and be original and use something you know about. And if you DO know about boarding school, find an interesting slant so that people won't think you are just copying. Then there shouldn't be any problem.
     
  8. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    One thing that you leave unclear in your post: is this a boarding school that teaches magic and which only magicians (or whatever you call them) attend, or is it boarding school as the backdrop for an urban fantasy in which a small number of sorcerers practice their art under the noses of an unsuspecting student body?
     
  9. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    There's lots of stories/novels with boarding school settings. It just depends on how you write it.
     
  10. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    As Smithy has mentioned you don't say in what context you're using the boarding school. If it's just as a school are you able to consider an orphanage or military academy (think TAPS)? Establishments like these would also allow development of child characters that are removed from family and in a communal environment with adults as authoritative figures.
     
  11. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    The boarding school is a private school that teaches the regular stuff (math, science, english, etc). There really isn't anything too special. It doesn't teach magic, but it contains a few unique qualities that no other school possesses.

    I am considering the military academy suggestion (thanks, RobT). I find that it is not only easier but practically essential for the protagonist to grow up without any parental guidance. This way, her development may go smoothly.

    I'm struggling with different ideas. However, I'm appreciative of all the replies Im getting. Thanks!
     
  12. Ion Silverbolt
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    Ion Silverbolt New Member

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    (This post appeared here by mistake)
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    People want more of the same. Look at the Marked series. The school is a school for vampire kids. Look at Vampire Academy.
     
  14. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Personally, I am tired of the same. Or, I mean, if you are going to do the same, the best way to do it is to redo it in a less clicheish and more original form than the others. Like how JK Rowling reinvented the Witch and the Wizard.
     

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