1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Writing a Nation

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Killer300, May 15, 2011.

    Okay, how does one write about an entire nation? Not just characters within a nation, but the entire nation's progress through history and so on. For example, if I were to write a story about the Soviet Union from 1920 to 2064, I would need a way to characterize the entire nation if that's what the focus of the story is, which in this example it is. But how does one do this? Tons of characters describing each part of it? The leaders? How?

    Remember I'm asking about how to write a story where the nation is the focus of it, not just the setting that supports the characters, although this is perhaps a time where the setting is a character rules applies the most.
     
  2. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    The whole point of fiction, and even creative nonfiction these days, is to find a character or personal story to follow so we get all the information and history in context. So, you basically tell the story of individuals in that nation, and because they're in that nation the story ends up being just as much about it as it is about them.

    The only other viable option I could see is trying to do a sort of mockumentary of sorts, or like writing a mock textbook. But just an entire novel that's basically the history and happenings of a nation sounds to me like it would be too hard to build the personal types of connections a reader needs to stay interested and engaged, since those are done through characters.

    Just because you're working through characters really doesn't mean you can't focus the story in a way that it's a greater story more about the nation. But if you think about it, why would a reader really care if it's just basically a fictional history lesson of a nation you've made up? No matter how interesting that is, it won't have the personal connection and resonance without characters. You can use multiple characters, and characters throughout a vast expanse of time (even across generations as people die and new characters are adopted), but it's definitely going to still have to include and feature the stories of individuals in that nation to give the nation context and relevance, and to make it interesting for a reader, as we care far more about the plight of people (characters are people) than simply being given a history lesson on a made up nation, no matter how interesting that history.
     
  3. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    archetypal "Eastern European", "Middle Eastern", "Asian", "African" or "Latin America"
    Embody stereotypes about their regions. For example,

    Eastern European country will typically describe it as a former or current Soviet satellite state, old gothic cities, cramped ghettos and hot old violins.

    A fictional Middle Eastern state often lies somewhere on the Arabian peninsula, has substantial oil-wealth and will have a sultan as handsome as Cogito.

    A fictional Latin American country will typically project images of a banana republic beset by constant revolutions, military dictatorships, coups d'état and a cocaine trade.

    A fictional African state will suffer from poverty, civil war, disease and diamonds

    A fictional Caribbean nation will feature voodoo,poverty, great drums and vacationing co-eds from the University of Arkansas.

    A fictional New Orleans would have inept politicans, corrupt police, syrupy air, architectural splendor and great music all ten feet below sea level

    A fictional Asia nation would have childern playing multiplication and division instead of kickball and a future Bruce Lee

    A fictional Canadian a law-abiding society with really bad hair cuts and Geddy Lee
     
  4. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    Then there's the often tried and true "screen crawl", or the exposition before the actual story begins.

    Lord of the Rings opens up with the iconic poem that ends in the lines, "One Ring to Rule Them All, One Ring to Bind Them, One Ring to Bring them All and in the Darkness Bind them."

    It sets up Middle Earth rather nicely and gives a dark undertone which is belied by the jovial festivities of Bilbo Baggins' birthday party.
     
  5. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    How long can a writer do that, though, and have a reader keep reading? Lord of the Rings is a perfect example, it's hugely about the world, but without the story of the world being told through characters, it really wouldn't have been a very good story. The brilliance is that we care about Frodo, empathize with his plight, understand the world through the context of his story and mission and what's at stake for these people, thus making the world feel more real and alive (not just information or history).

    An entire novel of world building, though? No thanks and good luck.
     
  6. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Gross national product looms large, what would Canada be without mullets?
    Would you character be a have or a have not ?
     
  7. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    If the writer absolutely has to build up the nation's history it's there for them to read. But the reader still has the option to "fast forward" to the actual story.

    Michael Crichton sometimes used prologues to set up stories like Jurassic Park and P.R.E.Y., so that you would understand the science and/or current understanding of the topic underscoring the main story.

    I never used to read those, but now that the writer has passed I tend to read every word of his books to honor him.

    So, what I'm saying Killer3000 is that you could certainly used an expository prologue to set up your nation and it's history, but that doesn't mean it will be the most attractive aspect of your story.
     
  8. Brandon P.
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    Brandon P. Senior Member

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    I've seen authors put a section at the end of their novels in which they described the world, history, races, and creatures they designed for the story (Harry Harrison's Eden trilogy is the example I can recall off the top of my head). Not only would it slake your desire to expose more of your world, but it could also provide a reference for readers who want to understand the jargon in the story itself.
     
  9. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Well, I say all of this because of a plot I had talking about nations, but now I can why that plot didn't work, it didn't start where it should've. Thanks guys!:)
     
  10. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    How long had been asleep? Where was he? What were the bite marks on his neck. Had he been taken? Xavier twitched his left foot and drew in a deep breath, he no longer smelled the gumbo of stale beer and urine,he was not in the French Quarter that much he knew.

    The grand estate around which the ancient kingdom of Cogito revolved was so old the young folk said it was built by the hand of God or Elvis. For centuries, the manor welcomed adventurers, forbidden love, and slave traffickers.The deep set windows offered beautiful views of both the sunrise and sunset over the Gulf of Prose's azure water. A sanctuary for some, a hideout for others, and Xavier Battle's Waterloo had his sister not intervened.

    Beyond the jurisdiction of the ugly Americans and their puritanical morals, life on Cogito was as lawless as a chat room without a moderator. Ethics billowed with the zephyr breeze swaying the royal palms lining Verbosity Boulevard.

    Katrina's sharp black crewcut outlined her narrow skull,her tight black jeans highlighted her sinful hips, while the pointed high heeled black boots telegraphed a bad girl vibe. As much she hated her brother, she loved him equally. If anyone was going to kill Xavier it was going to be her.

    But even the moon has a dark side and tragedy eventually struck the happy hearth of the mansion.She traversed the alley, behind the mansion littered with wooden crates and empty wine barrels. She tipped on her toes, she spied thru the French Doors. General Lee Bruce stood in naked splendor. For a dictator he was rather small, almost puny

    “Well, lookie here.” Katrina took on a mock-baritone, playing the part of the surly corporate boss to an upstart secretary dawdling in the copy room. She pulled open the door with a wide grin and wagged her finger at the criminally thin leader of the island nation.

    "Let's get him," she called to the absent Inky. Inky who loved dirty, dirty clothes, dirty cars , dirty woman had lingered at the end of the block making time with a Morrocan deaf woman with an disreputable figure and one good eye. So much for a decent wingman she thought.

    "Inky, what the heck?" she hissed her fists clenching tighter.The beer can came into view. "Don't tell me you are drunk ? Inky what the heck?"
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    your best examples to study for this are the works of james michener... he's the acknowledged master of the genre...
     

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