1. CrimsonAngel

    CrimsonAngel Banned

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    New Setting?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by CrimsonAngel, Jan 14, 2021.

    So I am wondering if it is ok to write up a setting with characters in a place I've never been before? Like Japan. I really am tired of writing of places in the west or where I live (which is Canada by the way), do I have to actually go to Japan to write of these places like in Tokyo, Osaka, or Sendai perhaps? Let me know what you think on this matter.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2021
  2. Blackbɨrd

    Blackbɨrd Member

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    I'd say it's fine however make sure to really research the setting!
     
  3. CrimsonAngel

    CrimsonAngel Banned

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    Ok, I sure will. Does looking at YouTube clips count?
     
  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Research of any type is good, so long as it is accurate to
    where you're trying to write. Gotta get a good feel of the
    layout and the culture and you should be off to a decent
    start. :)
     
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  5. CrimsonAngel

    CrimsonAngel Banned

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    Thanks, that helps tremendously.
     
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  6. Scarlet-MagicianX26

    Scarlet-MagicianX26 New Member

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    As someone who lives in Asia - I'm going to say, IMO, normal, 'standard' research isn't necessarily enough.

    If you want to truly accurately capture a foreign character and culture, you in some way have to live and interact in the world you based them on. The various Asian subsets have their own ways of interacting with each other and their respective worlds, the festivals they visit have their own unique reasons and rituals. Their cultures have certain taboos and issues that an outsider may not accurately see. In fact, a common theme among a lot of expats from overseas to Asian countries is their inevitable cloistering into expat communities instead of interacting with the society at large.

    So yes, looking up guides and Wikipedia is a good first step, but if you want to be authentic, find someone of that nationality and world, or look for how those communities communicate.
     
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  7. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    And as someone who is familiar with Tokyo, I second @Scarlet-MagicianX26. Japan in particular.

    I mean, yes, you can see the layout of the area from Google Maps. But did you know, for example, that many shops in Japan don't have street level storefronts? Instead, they're on upper floors of buildings and you have to go up there in a lift, and they often have staff on the streets going "<something> wa ikaga deshou ka?" to beckon you inside.

    Or that local cash machines close after certain times of the day but international ones, found in 7-11 and Family Mart do not?

    Or that there are no rubbish bins on the streets?

    Or that you don't walk and smoke/eat at the same time, and there are designated smoking areas and shelters on the streets?

    Or that there are two different subway companies, which have their own sets of stations and tickets are not interchangeable between the two?

    Or that your phone will work underground on the Tokyo Metro system, but you will get disapproving looks from everyone if you talk into it?

    Or that you will regularly find the same set of mad Christians with yellow signs and the same speech blaring out on loudspeakers at major intersections such as the 8-way crossing in Shinjuku?

    There are lots of things that are very specific to life and culture in particular cities. Osaka and Tokyo are quite different, even in the attitude of people - Osakans are less bothered by honne and tatemae than Tokyoites. Even different districts of Tokyo are very different from one another, since Tokyo is VAST. Roppongi is quite dangerous to be wandering around in on your own. It's the only place where I've ever seen signs warning about pickpockets, whereas I would happily (and have done) wander around at 3am by myself in Asakusa, going for late-night sushi.

    These are things that you will often not see covered by videos, especially those made by foreign visitors - because foreign visitors usually only see one side of a city. For example, if you listen to foreigners in Bangkok. they all think that Thai food consists of larb, sticky rice or grilled food. Why? Because they only come into contact with people from the north of Thailand, who go to Bangkok and work in the "entertainment" industry and sell street food, whereas native Bangkokians eat very different food.

    By all means, write stories in those settings, but I absolutely guarantee you, if you've not visited those places, someone like me WILL pick out errors. Research everything, and make no assumptions at all.
     
  8. CrimsonAngel

    CrimsonAngel Banned

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    Thanks Naomasa! I will do that. I never knew that there were mad Christians in Japan? It must be weird being a Christian over there.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2021
  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    There are mad everythings in Japan. There's a shop run by a guy who believes Jesus and all the Christian saints were aliens and sells memorabilia to that effect, and there's a bar in Kabuki-cho (better known as the gay entertainment district) run by a blind Buddhist monk.
     
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  10. CrimsonAngel

    CrimsonAngel Banned

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    How many times have you been to Tokyo? You seem like you have been to all the districts.
     
  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Many times, but I've only visited a fraction of the districts. I used to go 2-3 times year. I've been to a fair few of the core areas, but only a few of the outlying areas. Since I usually stay in Asakusa, I know that area better than anywhere else.

    I've been to Osaka and Kyoto twice, but I've never been to Sendai. @Iain Aschendale lives in Osaka.
     
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  12. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Get someone to read it before you're ready to edit. I'm from Canada too and I decided to have my story take place in L.A. and I take for granted that Canada and U.S share a lot but not everything. I had no idea Bulk Barns, Swiss Chalet, Coffee Crisp, Tiger Tail ice cream, we're just Canadian.

    Also I'm starting to worry that mindsets won't be the same so I'm considering changing where one of the characters was born. Research helps but it's hard not to have some of what you know slip in.
     
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  13. CrimsonAngel

    CrimsonAngel Banned

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    Sure sounds like a good idea, thanks! Research it is.
     
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  14. MartinM

    MartinM Member

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    @CrimsonAngel

    For what its worth... I’ve lived in Hong Kong for many years. Currently have a story set within the city. One thing I’ve tried to focus on is the different traits it has compared to that of London. The rain for instance... Hopefully anybody who’s visited reading it would recognize that, this story is Hong Kong.

    @Naomasa298 and others have pointed out some real nuances specific to Japan. These things are vital but you’ll need more feeling as well. For instance, when I visited Tokyo for the first time there were some very standout differences from HK and that of London.

    ... Nobody speaks English well. HK ex-UK colony

    ... It’s all very clean, spotless

    ... It’s very quiet. You can hear a pin drop walking down Ginza. HK is very noisy hustle and bustle; Tokyo is just as busy but its amazingly quiet.

    These types of pickups and many others make the city come alive. This more that just street names or superficial atmospheric setting.

    MartinM
     
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  15. CrimsonAngel

    CrimsonAngel Banned

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    I heard of Tokyo being quiet and polite but still I need to go to Japan and still do research.
     
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  16. Blackbɨrd

    Blackbɨrd Member

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    Well, it could! I'd advise you to read about the culture, food, the history of the city or town and really research. Notable landmarks, the politics even religion! In some countries, religion is a huge deal!
     
  17. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Depends where. Shinjuku, Roppongi, Kabuki-cho, especially at night, not so much so.
     
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  18. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    My last book was set in Los Angeles, and while I have visited there briefly three times, I've never lived there. I thought I had it down pretty well, but I made sure that one of my betas was a L.A. native, and she picked out all kinds of little gaffes (like Del Taco is way more common than Taco Bell, and that not all colors of bougainvillea grow there naturally) I'd made. The setting of that book was really important to the story, so I was very excited to have it as authentic as possible.

    I also had the conclusion of the first book set in New Zealand, and sent those chapters to someone I knew online who lived there. I had comment after publishing say that they lived in NZ and were often frustrated by how misrepresented it was by non-native authors, but that I got it just right. Thanks, of course to my buddy from across the ocean.

    So yes, research is good, but getting feedback and advice from people who live where your book is set can make the difference between okay and great.
     
  19. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    I didn't start the thread but thank you for formulating this truth. Its a peculiar feeling when dreams die but maybe its for the best.
     
  20. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I write historical fiction, set 2000 years ago, and my flagship The Eagle and the Dragon is an odyssey of 17,000 miles by sea and land across the Indian Ocean, S. China Sea, China, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Persia and back to Rome. I couldn't afford to visit them all, don't want to go to several of them these days, and anyway, they are very different from what they are now. It was done with a LOT of research. For the physical surrounding, Google Earth is a good tool for exploring an area at ground level. In one chapter, my team was on a caravan going from Kashgar in China across the Pamir Mountains into Central Asia. What I did was examine on Google maps where today's roads go, because in the general, they are constrained by the same geography as the old Silk Road of 2000 years ago. And the road from Kashgar to Kyrgyzstan goes through the Irkeshtam Pass. Turns out, this is not too high, 12,000 feet, and descends to an alpine valley at 9,000 feet on the other side. And you don't have to be a mountain climber to cross it. The road runs up the mountain through what looks like a wide valley carved out by a glacier, five miles wide at the base and about a mile wide at the top. It didn't begin to twist and turn until the last few miles at the crest.

    As for Japan, read books about Japan, both fiction and travel journals. They will give you a sense of the culture. I also found Wikipedia a valuable resource for information, like what river runs through these towns? Also watch movies, the next best thing to seeing these places
     
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  21. Scarlet-MagicianX26

    Scarlet-MagicianX26 New Member

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    I will just say one thing: write what you know best about, and write to your strengths. You don't have to set your story in some far off place or something - a good story will attract people regardless of the setting or place. Fundamentally, people enjoy a story packed with rich details about a somewhat 'mundane' place than one that's trying to fit itself in another world.
     
  22. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    I agree with what you write. But I also think that you should write what you want to read.

    The point was not to set things far away for the sake of it. But if you've got an interest in a topic and you think you've got a solid idea for that topic; research the topic, and surrounding topics, carefully, be humble to accept and acknowledge your limitations regarding the topics and you should in my opinion be ok to have a go writing something which is beyond your personal experience.
     

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