1. Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    How did you come up with your settings?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Siberian, Jul 26, 2018.

    The biggest hindrance I have that's preventing me from writing my story is the setting. I have the MC's, the genre, the storyline, sub-plots, character arcs, twists and turns, all planned out but I can't for the life of me decide what time period or place I want the story to take place in.

    My initial thought was to say screw it and just write scenes until it came to me. The other thing I tried was making a list of things I do and don't want in the story but that didn't take me anywhere either, so my question is: How did you guys come up with your settings and time periods for your stories?
     
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  2. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Senior Member

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    For me, I looked at what story I wanted to write, as well as what characters I had, and asked a couple of questions:

    Where does the Protagonist Squad need to be/go to start the journey, experience significant personal growth, and then end the journey in a satisfactory way?
    Where does the antagonist need to be/go to fulfill his goal?
    Where do all of these characters need to meet to settle the clash of ideals/goals/loyalties?
    Where do these characters need to go to accurately portray the overall message of the story, if there is one?

    For me, any place that didn't answer any of these questions wasn't important to the main story. Sure, extra places could be referenced within the story in order to add a bit of flavor to the world, but those extras shouldn't be actual settings for my story if they don't make any contributions to the story/characters.

    I don't know if this helped, I'm kind of bad at explaining things, but it's how I came up with my settings so it may work for you as well.
     
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  3. Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    Thanks, those questions certainly helped me narrow down the type of setting that I need. I realized that the reason I don't have a setting is because I actually don't have as detailed of a plot. I understand now that I've been so confused because my story could literally be set in any time period. There aren't enough details to make it relevant to only one era!
     
  4. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Member

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    hmmmmm.... For different projects, how I get the setting is different. But all of them start with dreams I have. I'll see a glimpse of a "something" and I'll just kinda build from there and make it up as I go. Sometime's it gets clearer to me like multiple pages in and I will either take notes as I go, or go back and add more details about the setting (where its needed) in earlier pages.

    My current project was a planned one. I had this dream that took place in a diner, 2 women were trying to get a busted jukebox to work, and a group of guys came over and told them they didn't "belong here" (I tend to wake up in the middle of the night -if i can- to jot down a few notes on my dreams for later exploration).
    When I woke up and looked at my notes, I knew I didnt want to make a realistic setting with racially charged characters (I didnt want to do research on the 50's and 60's on politics).
    But I like the 50's time period style-wise, and cheesy retro space operas, so I based my WIP in an alternate earth with an alternate version of the 50's-60's where the "minorities" are non-humans who are segregated from the rest of the population.

    Other than that WIP, I've never really had trouble deciding what setting or time period to base my stories and characters. It just seems to fall into place as I write
     
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  5. Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    I like this idea of making an alternate version! I was thinking of making the setting either right before or post WW2, but I didn't want it to be exactly like the history books because of the fantasy/magic aspect of the book. Making an alternate timeline with similar style and some similar events would be easier, and I think a lot more interesting for readers.
     
  6. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Madman with a pen in hand

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    I have the slightest idea how, LOL. It just sort of happened.
     
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  7. DK3654

    DK3654 Active Member

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    In my case, I have strongly considered a historical setting, mostly for the sake of creating interesting novel plot points. But I decided on sticking to a modern setting as I first imagined, as it provides a cultural context that is an easier fit for the plot points I already had in mind.
    As to where to physically locate it, I knew I wanted a modern western country like the US, the UK or Australia. I also wanted it to be an internationally important one for the plot, so I eliminated Australia as it's a tad more obscure, as well as some odd rural area in the US or UK. Then I decided the UK was a more interesting setting in my personal preference than the US.
    So modern day UK, in and around the London area, it is.

    Hope that helps.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Can I suggest a radical plan? Instead of looking for the perfect setting for your story, pick a setting and time period. Any one. Preferably one that you already know something about, or is easy to research. And see if you can fit your story into that time period and place.

    This pushes you a bit, but that will help you break out of any clichés you might be harbouring. It will also give you some new ideas to work with. As an author, it always helps to surprise yourself a bit. Throw something into the mix YOU didn't expect to deal with, and see what happens.

    Instead of modern-day New York City, try the Inca Empire or the Napoleonic War era. Or instead of modern day New York City, try modern-day Copenhagen. Or Madison, Wisconsin. These setting changes will totally push your characters and plots in different and exciting directions.
     
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  9. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    For my current urban fantasy story, I started writing it in the spring of last year and was really feeling the tropical summer vibes, so I built my story around an island resort setting.

    Most of my works are real-world, slice-of-life stories, though, and I always set them in fictionalized versions of where I live, which is suburban Philadelphia. “Write what you know” is part of it, but it’s also not a locale you see represented very often. Plus it’s a fun way to make fun of it :p
     
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  10. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Member

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    Since I tend to write fantasy and sci-fi, I get to come up with completely fictional worlds. I do not like writing about our world at all (writing is an escape for me). That's not to say that I don't sometimes pull inspiration from real-world locations when necessary, of course. Sometimes, the setting is what comes to my mind before a plot or character does; other times, it's the other way around. I may itch to write a story set in a tropical setting, or maybe my plot lends itself to being set in a warm, dry region.
     
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  11. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Interesting question. Usually my plots suggest a setting. I just finished a novel that featured a child star so the setting featured L.A. & Hollywood and because I've from Canada I decided to have him film in Canada. In L.A. I used a typical rundown suburb, a high school, a mansion and in Canada an old ski resort that was refurbished for the set. In several of my other stories I've used a prison set in underground caves and I've got a short story of a shrunken man set in an old rundown amusement park. Most of my settings feature hybrids of things I know. Places that have caught my eye in Canada or that remind me of favorite times from my childhood -- the run down amusement park, crummy suburb houses, and tunnels pop up frequently in my stores because as a child I used to dig tunnels in the snow.
    Time periods are settled pretty fast. The child star story takes place a few years back. Mainly cause I wanted to address the now climate of Hollywood contrasted with a few decades ago and that TV is trumping a lot of movies. Two other stories I've set aside will take place in the 80s one because it's based somewhat on my summers as an 80s child, the other is to reflect my love of the 80s.
    I suppose if I was doing a thriller and didn't want the convince of cell phones I might go about my decision differently concerning plotting but for the most part I pick what I love and would love to write about.
     
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  12. MikeyC

    MikeyC Active Member

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    One word of warning . . in my last book i was an idiot - even more so than normal.

    I started writing it, not worrying too much about where it was set. Made up small town, made up forest with mountains.

    I got to the end, quite happy with the first draft. Sent it to a freind for an initial read, and after the first few pages they asked, 'Which country is this in? USA? England?'

    And i thought, oh bugger. I spent the first major edit removing English and American idioms. Being English and a heavy reader of American novelists and TV shows, i have a very weird mix of the two. Making a novel neutral after the first draft is a major undertaking!!!!

    Just a word of warning.


    Rgds
     
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  13. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Member

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    Usually I think about a historical period that I want to write about and stories within it, realize that I don't have energy or patience to do the proper research to write historical fiction and get some overview and wrap together a fantasy setting based on that time period. Its worked out so far.
     
  14. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    For my latest story I'm working on I actually did something completely different than what I regularly do (which is usually just sitting there and letting the gears turn as I'm writing). My story revolves around a mountain and the barren land that surrounds it, so I took my notebook out and actually drew the different levels of the mountain. I even drew a map of the surrounding land, and made different designs on it to represent different areas. Even if you're a terrible artist, and if you're like me and need to write things down to remember them, drawing a map is seriously my best suggestion. It's more work, but man does it save you from sitting there listlessly for hours on end.
    And honestly I don't think EXACT setting is mandatory. Especially in most fantasy novels or stories where the characters are trapped somewhere or don't even know where they are.

    If you have quite a few settings within your story, I agree with the first comment about asking what your character's goals are and what kind of places suit those goals. Even your own personal experiences work very well. Usually I have some forest in there since I grew up in the boonies, so use that stuff to your advantage :)
     
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  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I wrote scenes and the (non real world) setting grew. Some facts presented themselves before I started the first scene—rocky island, sunshine, a woman with red hair, and technology somewhere before steam power. But past that, it just grew.
     
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  16. Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    I like this idea a lot! I'm more of a visual person anyways so this would help me visualize where and what direction the story needs to go. Thanks :)

    I'm thinking this is my best option to go for. I want a historical setting with a twist on the major events that took place. That seems, to me, to be a more interesting and easier route.

    Thanks for all the responses, I'm always interested in hearing how you guys created your stories!
     
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  17. izzybot

    izzybot Deadly Jerry Contributor

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    I sort of have two loose methods for worldbuilding / setting creation:
    1. Let the story shape the setting, or
    2. Build the world and see what stories I can set in it
    For my low fantasy project, LAFS, I did the former. I winged the entire thing and just decided on the fly things like, "Well, I want them to go through a forest now, so there's a forest," and "There's a neighboring country with a higher tech level than our gang, so there are some imported anachronisms." You have to sort of follow the ripples of these sorts of decisions out, of course, and some of them are going to be more major than others. And every idea isn't going to work out. But there's a great deal of freedom in just going, "Eh, this is where I want to go with this now."

    My SF project is more the latter. It's taken/taking much, much longer to build -- but to be fair, that's by design too. I love building it! I had an original story that I sort of winged the setting for, like with LAFS, but then I started paying more attention to that setting and fleshing it out. Now it's more fun to see what bits I can keep fiddling with and making new opportunities for more stories. I've got a timeline stretching from before First Contact to after the Singularity and humanity's probable demise so there's a ton of room to play. Having an established setting also gives me sort of a webbing in which to place SF stories that I have general concepts for and would otherwise end up getting carried away with the worldbuildy minutiae for. But that's just a personal failing :D
     
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  18. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Pinterest. I have an idea what I want then I start a Pinterest file and search around:

    Future penthouses
    Future fashions
    Future nightclubs

    and so on.
     
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  19. Kingwood Kid

    Kingwood Kid Member

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    This may be really helpful or totally useless.

    I don't write fantasy, sci-fi or historical fiction, and none of what I write "needs" to take place in a foreign country. That more or less leaves me with the "modern" USA, although generally there's no reason it couldn't take place just about anywhere in the industrialized West. I'm not sure what I'd do without my computer, cell phone and car, but I don't particularly like reading or writing about these things, so I leave them out. It's up to the reader to decide whether I just didn't mention them or whether my story takes place prior to their invention/ubiquity.

    It sounds like you've got pretty much everything but the setting figured out. My first question would be if it matters. Could you write it effectively without much reference to a specific time or place? If you do feel the need to put it somewhere, I'd say to do what you suggested. Just start writing and figure that out later. Most likely, you'll be merrily typing away and realize your characters just did something that puts it somewhere specific.
     
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  20. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya New Member

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    I came up with the world first and fleshed it out as it became more relevant (and as boredom set in when I was, say, showering or walking or whatever) to the main plot.

    I guess what you ought to do is ask "why". Why does X exist? Answer that, and you've got a history. Apply this to just about every cultural and political facet and you suddenly have a world.

    Studying history, as well as a bit of psychology, can be helpful in fleshing out the details as-needed (or wanted--I tend to create more world than I know I'll need, but I do so anyway because I both enjoy it and know there's a small chance I might need it later).
     
  21. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Contest Administrator Supporter

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    I have dozens of maps of different planets, universes, and fantasy worlds, on my wall. I grab a dart, close my eyes, spin around seven times, and throw it. Once had to set a story in my brother's eyeball because I hit him with the dart. It was gnarly.
     
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  22. Mitchell garcia

    Mitchell garcia New Member

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    I wanted to do alt history in the carribbean. There was too much research for my lazy ass, so now it's The Archipelago and I can do whatever I damn well please with minimal research.
     
  23. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Member

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    1. Example

    I found out a real world need and tried to fill part of it.

    2. Example

    I am going further and deeper with finer tools with same area I did with example 1.

    3. Example

    A real person with a real life made a life change years ago. He went towards his childhood dreams.

    That kicked "what if" -gear of my mind moving. Totally different kind of character was born. He married. His career collapsed. He had big problems... And then borderline between backsotry and story appeared...

    6-7 charracters started to live in my imagination. Now I have a need to write them out of my head. They occupy too much room.

    4. In my adult life I have misunderstood the norms and conventions of some industry - in a big way. I found it out much later. I started to solve that out. And my mistake has been very similar to mistakes kids do. And so I started to think: "What if some little girl made similar mistake and started to solve it in a bit similar way..."

    And this little girl just took a scene and made a question to one kind professional of that field, and that scene came alive. And...

    Setting?

    Settings come every day. 99% go away if I try to ignore them. Maybe 1% of them are resilient. They don't go away. So maybe I have to write them away.

    Those resilient ones have deep roots. The real thing is not the trunk you see or leaves. They don't go away because they are deep rooted.



    Small part of those settings and ideas that don't go away go to my pipeline. Not all.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018 at 8:45 AM
  24. Nariac

    Nariac Member

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    The most important question you should ask yourself is the following: Would mobile phones be annoying?

    If the answer is yes, set your book in a pre-mobile era where the characters can't get out of any problem by phoning 911.

    Otherwise, be prepared to deploy the traditional writer fallback tactics of having phones being forgotten and batteries running flat left right and centre. :p
     
  25. Night Herald

    Night Herald We said we wouldn't talk about Canada!

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    I doubt anything I'm about to say will be useful, but here goes.

    I write mostly Fantasy, so I have to create my settings rather than pick a time and place. I discovery write, so my settings grow organically along with characters and plot. As much as I love setting, and even though a good setting is one of the most important things for me in any story, I consider it subservient to the other two.

    I think about the story events, and what kind of place and circumstance will allow them to unfold. I think about my characters, and consider what their natural habitat might look like.

    For instance, I created a soldier who is a religious fanatic, who encounters monsters in the opening of that story. I decided that he must have grown up in a hard-line theocratic city state in a hostile wilderness; a society founded on "visions from God", where every facet of life is guided by strict doctrines of faith. I later changes that character into someone more conflicted in his beliefs, because I thought it would make for a better story. Then I made the setting even more dystopian to play up the tension and contrast. Character informs setting, and vice versa. There's a lot of back and forth, the way I do it.

    As for plot, you obviously need a setting where the story's conflict could conceivably happen, no matter how unlikely. It may rely on the presence or absence of a certain technology, real or imagined.

    It seems strange to me that you have everything but setting. There has to be something, if you look hard enough, that lends itself naturally to some space-time coordinate or other. If all else fails, you should be able to conjure an opinion of what you think will be most fun to write/read about.

    ETA: Please forgive any spelling errors, my autocorrect is having some kind of seizure.
     

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