1. Deyvion
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    Deyvion New Member

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    What's been holding me back...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Deyvion, Dec 7, 2012.

    Hi!

    I just wanted to see if someone kind and with some time to spare could help me with what is holding back my creative juices.

    I have wanted to write a story for years. However, I keep getting held back by two issues (that are stupid but that still restrains brain when it comes to actually get the story on paper):

    1. I am not a native English speaker. Is it stupid to WRITE in English then?
    2. I live in Sweden, and I don't know how many here have been in Sweden - but I think it is a boring country! I don't want to have Sweden as a setting for my story, so how necessary is it to have knowledge of the real world? Let me explain what I mean. If I want to have the story set in, for example, the States. If I make up a town, is that okey?

    How much can me not being a native English speaker potentially hold me back if I ever want to get published?

    Okey, I am sorry for my rambleing but I would really, REALLY appreciate it if someone could just tell me I am just thinking TOO much. Because, like I said: these two things are what has been holding me back in my writing.

    =)
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of people write in English, even though it is not their native tongue. Since I only speak English, I can't really speak from personal experience on that point, though.

    As far as knowing your setting, that has come up several times, and you can find threads on that issue relating to setting. There are varying opinions. I think it's important to have at the very least visited the location where you want to set your story. I think it would be very difficult to write about a place where you haven't experienced the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the particular location and very easy to get details wrong, which would bother people who do have knowledge of the location. Some people insist that you could do significant research online or in libraries and get a good enough feel to set a story there. I think this is possible, but very difficult.

    Some people use the location to communicate their love of the particular city or region and infuse a lot of local color into the writing. Others don't care as much and the setting is really incidental to the plot and characters. But it does come through, simply by virtue of the fact that the characters do have to exist somewhere, and the setting will have some influence on what happens.

    I wouldn't write off Sweden as a boring location. Steig Larsson portrayed Sweden very well and a lot of people enjoyed having his stories set there. I don't know what your story is about, but you could have the characters dislike Sweden as much as you do, and that could be a part of the story.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Stieg Larson, who wrote The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was Swedish, and the novels in the series were set in that country. Not boring at all. His books were written in Swedish, then later translated. Translation can be dicey (lost nuances), but it worked in this case.

    On the other had, from what I see so far, you are competent with English - at least as competent as many native English speakers here. Like every aspiring writer, you will have more to learn, but you seem to be at a good starting point.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that you seem to have a good grasp of English, and not every successful author is English-speaking ;)

    As to location - most writers aren't world travelers, but it hasn't stopped stories being set in every location known to man, so do your research and you'll be fine (after all, most of your readers won't be that knowledgeable about a specific location either).
     
  5. Deyvion
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    Deyvion New Member

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    Thank you both for your input!

    I have read Stieg Larsson, and I understand what you mean. However, the stories I have in mind are more mystery than crime, and I don't really see it happening in the woods around here. Also, the issue I have with setting the story in Sweden is my own inability to feel the 'this story is real'. For example, one of scenes of the Stieg Larsson books actually played out not far from where I live. I couldn't really 'live' in the story because of that because it happened so close and I know it wasn't real. And that is something that I can't lose in my own writing - the feeling that it is 'real'. Do you see what I mean?

    But thank you for your comment =)
    '



    Thank you for your comment, and I will do that. =)
     
  6. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    He's probably a great exception, but Joseph Conrad wrote brilliantly in English but was a Polish native speaker and didn't speak English fluently until his mid 20s. That said, many books get translated in many different languages, so write in the language you are strongest with.
     
  7. Deyvion
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    Deyvion New Member

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    Thank you for your comment.

    I see what everyone means about Stieg Larson. However, I think I will just make up some town.

    I don't dislike Sweden, I just find it quite boring. Trees, trees, and some more forest to add to it. Haha.
     
  8. Deyvion
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    Deyvion New Member

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    I think what I am mostly concerned about is whether I would try to get published here in Sweden, and the script is not in Swedish...
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is an interesting perspective. For me, it is kind of the opposite. Picturing the setting makes the story feel more real to me. When I started my story, I read and discussed an excerpt from it with a writing group. I live in Philadelphia now, but my heart is in Chicago. I tried to make my setting generic, but I had a very particular setting in mind for one of the scenes in the excerpt and that setting happened to be in Chicago. Philadelphia doesn't have neighborhoods set up in the same way that Chicago does. People actually ended up asking where this took place, and I tried to make it the Philly area (everyone else's stories took place in, surprise, surprise, Philadelphia). But I realized I couldn't do it. I had to place the story in Chicago. That's the city I know best and that location kept seeping in. There's an industry that is very prevalent in Philadelphia that plays a role in my story, so that was part of why I initially thought I had to set it there. I had an epiphany when I realized that 'hey, you know, this is fiction -- I can place the global headquarters of a company in this industry in Chicago, even though there doesn't happen to be one exactly like this there.' The story was much better after I accepted this, and I liked being able to put elements of Chicago into the story.

    I understand that maybe you don't want to set your story in the woods, but might Stockholm do? Again, if this is a problem for you, set it wherever you like -- you're the writer and this is your baby. It's just that there is a danger in writing about a place you don't know really well. I will go ahead and admit that I read a certain erotic trilogy by a British author that takes place in a city in the U.S. I had many problems with this book, but some of them were that I kept being taken out of the story, because I would think "No American would do/say that," as she kept using words that were commonly used by Brits, but not Americans. I kept picturing one of the main characters talking with a British accent because of the language usage, but it would make absolutely no sense for him to have a British accent because he was American and had not spent any significant time in Britain. I saw other gripes from people who knew the particular American city better than I do, with respect to things that didn't make sense from a geographic perspective.
     
  10. Deyvion
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    Deyvion New Member

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    I see what you mean, and I will definitely consider it. Thank you!
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is one problem with translations (and UK English would need to be translated into American English, just as Swedish or German would have to be translated).

    This points out what I mentioned above - you didn't have those gripes because you didn't know that city. And when we think about the small percentage of readers who would know not only the particular city, but the particular area within that city - seems rather wasteful to worry about total accuracy in settings.
     
  12. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This particular book wasn't translated -- I don't even think it was edited. But that's another issue.

    That's true, but if if I was familiar with that city, it would have bothered me. You can bet I'm often bothered by movies and occasionally books that take place in Chicago -- they sure as heck better be accurate! And there are plenty of people who are familiar with the city who were bothered by it. I kept wondering why the author didn't just place the story in London.

    If an author wants to set a story in Dickenson, ND, even if you irk everyone familiar with that town, the vast majority of readers probably aren't familiar with it, and if you get a detail wrong about that particular town, it probably won't hurt much. (Another issue might be getting a detail wrong about US culture as a whole, which would bother the whole U.S. and people familiar with American culture.) But if you set it in New York, NY, there are a LOT of people who live there and even more who are very familiar with it, so you've got a huge number of people who potentially will be bothered by inaccuracies.

    Unless there's some very specific reason why the story must take place in, for example, New York City, why not have it take place in someplace with which the author is familiar? You pointed out earlier that stories are set everywhere -- well, that's because there are authors from everywhere. I love to get a feel for a place with which I am not familiar. It works better if I get that feeling from someone who really knows it. It does come through in the writing.

    I guess my feeling is, why make a potential issue out of something if there doesn't need to be one? If there is some compelling reason why a story must take place in some particular location with which the author is not familiar, I think it's important to become as familiar as possible with it. By writing about a location you know (which again, could come from research, ideally including a visit), you're turning a potential problem into a strength.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    While I agree that writing about places one has been is the ideal, it's just not practical. I can't see spies and terrorists running around a Midwestern town of 3500 people, for example. Normal research can handle most setting needs quite well for fiction; while a great many people live in New York, how many of those will read a given book and be familiar with a particular neighborhood or the streets/businesses within? It's carrying the already misunderstood "write what you know" advice to an unnecessary extreme. (I'm not, of course, excusing people who do a Wiki search on a location and that's the extent of their research.)
     
  14. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Why not write it in Swedish and English?
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That would be disastrous. The problem with travelling the middle of the road is you get run over in BOTH directions.
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Write in the language you're most comfortable in and go for it. Btw your English seems as good as any English native speaker as Cog has said already, I don't think you'll have a problem. As for Sweden - well, just do some research, right? Find a place you wanna know more about and start researching - it'll be a good excuse to travel too :D Otherwise, you could always write fantasy or sci-fi :)
     
  17. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I think maybe the idea of basing the story in a place you know well might be hard for you. It's hard for all of us. I'm a kiwi grew up in Wellington. I couldn't imagine having ancient Greek gods and wizards walking the streets of my old home. It's simply too jarring a concept. But having said that have you considered that while it might be difficult for you to accept this mundane place you know so well being a den of iniquity and fantasy etc, and that's really the clash we're taliking about, it could also be fascinating to readers from elsewhere.

    I've never been to Sweden. And outside of ABBA and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, (and maybe Smilla's feeling for snow - not sure if that's Swedish or Norwegian), I know nothing about it. So if you want to write about international spies in Stockholm, I might actually find that both fascinating, and more interesting as a reader because its a place I don't know. Equally I might find it more believable because I simply don't have the local knowledge to question it.

    Consider it a form of asymetric warfare. Taking your weakness and making it a strength.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  18. Deyvion
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    Deyvion New Member

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    Thank you ALL for your comments!!

    I will give you a little hint to the setting I have in mind and maybe it will be more clear to what my issues with Sweden are. It is not that a crime novel could not work out in a Swedish setting, of course they can, as you have all pointed out with Stieg Larson. The problem I have is that it will be partially set in a ghost town (an abandoned town). Since Sweden is such a small country, I don't think the chances of comming across one is very likely.
     
  19. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not certain how likely this would be in the U.S., either. Again, though it's your call. This might be an instance where readers will accept a premise for the sake of the story -- there are ways to do this, especially if the characters themselves point out how strange it is to find this ghost town, because it would be so unlikely, and maybe they'd been in the area and never known of it, etc.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are lots of ghost towns in the US. Small farming communities that died out because of the Dust Bowl, the highway that was rerouted, businesses that couldn't compete with the bigger cities - hell, the town I live in has more empty buildings than surviving businesses, and none of them could be considered 'robust'. There's a village not far from here that has 3 families living there - that's it. Everything else is boarded up. When they move out/die off, one more ghost town.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...from not much to greatly, depending on how well you write in english...

    ...see cog's info/advice... and if you want to find out how well you write in english, you can post an excerpt here, for review and/or send your first chapter to me for a detailed assessment...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  22. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    My Chinese teacher read Mark Twain in her native language. They assigned it to her in her middle school in China. Mark Twain is one of her favorite authors.
    Not the best example, I know, but it just goes to show that language isn't always such a great barrier.
     
  23. Deyvion
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    Deyvion New Member

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    That is very kind of you. Maybe I will take up on that offer. Thanks! =)

    Warm hugs
     
  24. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Ghost towns? Not a problem. Even New Zealand has ghost towns. Most were simply old gold mining towns abandoned after the gold ran out a century or so ago. Some were industry towns, for example when some of the huge hydro plants were being built. Construction took years and thousands of people. But once they were up, running them takes a crew of twelve. There are forestry towns that have died, simply because the saw mills and process plants have shut down or been moved elsewhere. And there are some junction towns I can think of that used to survive on the trade from the railways and highways. When the rail or the road was shifted a few miles, they died.

    So take the idea and make one up for your book if you can't use an actual one.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  25. Deyvion
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    Deyvion New Member

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    That is sort of what I mean, even though I will make a fictional town or village. However, Sweden is too small to find this.
     

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