1. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    When choosing a setting...

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by deadrats, Jul 21, 2016.

    Is it better to have a weird story in a normal or common setting or a story that seems more common and normal is a more unusual setting? This is something I think about in writing my short stories. Since I write a lot of them, I've tried out both approaches. I think I like a weird story in a common setting better. Sure, there are many combinations that could be made, but the juxtaposition of something more mundane with something a little off the works well, I believe. Either way it also gives the setting more of a role in the story. Maybe not more page space, but creates this sort of feeling like whatever happening really shouldn't be happening in this setting. It can create tension and a feeling of uneasiness all because of where the story is taking place. Do any of you think about things like this? I'm sure you do, and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
     
  2. billy_pilgrim
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    billy_pilgrim New Member

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    If I were making this decision, I'd go with whatever best reflected the theme or tone of my story. For example, if I wanted to write about characters who felt like they were increasingly losing control over their lives, then I might go for a weird-in-a-normal-setting to try and make them seem sorta violated (exploiting the tension you mentioned). However, if I wanted to comment on something that was happening in the real world, then I might opt for a normal-in-a-weird-setting to try and distance the story from real life events so I could analyse it freely. IDK, I suppose it depends too much on what you're dealing with as a writer. And to be honest, I usually already have some idea about the setting before I start (and it's normally a weird-in-a-normal-setting).
     
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  3. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Hey, billy. Some good points. I think we're kind of on the same page. Having a weird story in a normal situation can just give readers this sort of uneasy feeling in a good way. I know I get that feeling when reading something that uses this combination. I never really preplan my stories, but I do have a thing for making the strangest things I can think of happen at chain restaurants. I can't really wrap my head around theme or tone while I'm writing. Again, that probably has a lot to do with making up the story on the fly or that the idea of theme and tone can just seem pretty abstract when you have no idea where you are going with a story.
     
  4. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    My wife did this successfully with her first effort. The setting is a rural town in the US, sometime between 1930-1970. Telephones, no mention of TVs. Bad things can happen there and just be handled by the sheriff, without everyone from state and federal levels getting involved. So very normal, very quiet.

    Living in the town are very ordinary people, doing ordinary jobs, but some have an extraordinary talent... they can shift into wolves, unbeknownst to their friends and neighbors. Opa, the old herbalist, and his granddaughter Carolyn are the alpha male and female respectively of the pack.

    Then a stranger comes to town...
     
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  5. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I personally tend to think of big moments. Like, it is usually a big moment that inspires me to write a story, and then I build around that framing. I try to build whatever I think that original moment needs. So I guess maybe I have done both?

    Though I have never done it consciously or thought about that dynamic consciously.

    Thinking about it. I think I have one that is BOTH at the same time! The short story set up was like this.

    A high school teacher is blackmailed to teach a self defense class. Blackmailed as the teacher is a established fighter but sort of never wanted to fight again. One of the students reveals that he is trying to learn to fight to pick a fight, which he does, and gets in over his head. The teacher steps in and breaks down the bad guys! Damn I make that sound like a B-list action movie from the 80s. Let me explain my points.

    - The concept of someone trying to move on to a new life style is mundane.
    - The idea of someone pushing them into there own life I think is fairly mundane
    - A highschool get in over his head! lol Obviously mundane!

    But

    - Highschool kid starting like a gang war? Less mundane
    - Teacher able to handle that situation? Less mundane

    And lastly.

    - The teacher handles the situation with well, relative ease. Like, taking on an entire gang single handedly was an easy thing to do.


    Oops, I sort of rambled a bit longer than I meant too. Sorry
     
  6. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    In terms of setting my question is normally going to be more along the lines of "do I want to set this one in my home city or not?" And that's usually a matter of how much time or effort I want to put into building the setting versus the other components. My main project ended up being set in Washington, DC where I live - rather than New York where I originally planned it - because I know Washington at the street level without doing research, and could put my effort into worldbuilding a fun future on top of a city I already know. I also decided to put the beginnings of an urban fantasy I've toyed with in Washington for the same reason, even though I was originally thinking it should be in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. In both of those cases I have one or two secondary settings that I can put minor research into getting right rather than the sort of deep stuff I'd need for a primary (part of the main project takes place in the Vatican, and the other one is going to end up in Newfoundland) - but I decided on both that the really important research time needed to go toward things like technology and mythology.

    But I have another beginning written down that takes place in Denmark and Greenland - and if I go back to that one it has to stay there. That one's meant as a take-off on Nordic Noir crime dramas, so setting there is a lot more integral to the plot, and I know that the big challenge in that one is going to be less about getting the fantasy parts right and more about nailing the bleak Scandinavian window dressing.

    So really it's all about how important the setting is to the story as a whole.
     

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