World, Writing, Wealth discussion

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message 1: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments How important is the setting in your novels?


message 2: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin It is probably the second most important thing in a novel, next to the main character(s). It will introduce the reader to the story, give him/her a sense of direction and how things are generally going to go. For example, you wouldn't start a dystopian story with a nice, quiet and happy world, unless of course it is hidden from common sight by massive propaganda and lies. If it is a historical fiction book, then the author better have made his/her homework and studied the historical period in question, in order not to look outright dumb or careless to the readers by describing or introducing something that does not belong in that century or local setting.


message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11762 comments You can't write a novel without a setting because whatever happens has to happen somewhere at some time. Accordingly, it has to be self-consistent, otherwise it merely confuses the reader. As Michel said, if it a historical novel, everything must have been plausible at the time and place. For SF, at first sight because the setting is imaginative you can more or less do what you like, but that is not so either. Now while nobody can fault you for it "not being real" that can criticise for not being self-consistent or properly placed with whatever else is put there.

However, I also think that while the setting is important, it is equally important not to overly dwell on it in the text. It is something the author has to get right, but you don't want to be demonstrating how detailed it is every second page. It is something that must be seen but not heard.


message 4: by Graeme (last edited Aug 17, 2018 09:12PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Scout, another interesting topic question.

I have several things to say about it.

[1] When I first started work on Metaframe War series I was seriously considering placing it within a "fantasy world," - I swapped that to a world that is much like our own, but about ten years ahead in technology for one reason, - it would be faster to write if I didn't have to make up a brand new world as a backdrop to the story.

[2] For scenes with major fight complexity, I map and research the setting to make sure it will all make sense.

[3] I will take a familiar real-world setting and change it completely to make the story work. E.g. "Rikers Island," is a prison in the real world, in my story it's a bio-hazard waste facility where vampires secretly dispose of their victims in amongst the real waste disposal.

[4] In my upcoming book #5 "The Crane War," there is a "terrifyingly well defended fortress," which keeps presenting difficulties such that it becomes a major narrative force - i.e. the setting is playing a huge part in the unfolding of the story.

To answer your question - Setting plays a major part in shaping a story.


message 5: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments Thanks for your replies, Ian, Graeme, Michel.

I think that setting is very important in science fiction. When I read Matthew's book, I had to understand the setting before I could understand the characters' actions.

Do you think that getting the setting right is more important for science fiction than for other genres?


message 6: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan I suspect that the more exotic the setting, the more work needs to be done to make it a seamless part of the whole.


message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11762 comments Scout, I am not sure. As Graeme says, it has to be more seamless, and much more effort put in for self-consistency. If you re describing something on present-day Earth you will find the setting self-consistency will to some extent take care of itself, but in the future you have to make sure you don't accidentally bring in the present, or something out of time. Apparently in the first film of "The Lord of the Rings" there were some guffaws when at the back of Hobbiton in the distance you could see a tractor at work. That was quickly edited out.

But I think historical fiction will also be very difficult;t because there ar eco many "expert" critics out there. You can't prove the future is wrong, but there is plenty of evidence for past follies.


message 8: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments Anachronisms are a problem when writing about the past or about fictional settings.


message 9: by Fiona (new)

Fiona Hurley (fiona_hurley) | 0 comments Ian wrote: "But I think historical fiction will also be very difficult;t because there ar eco many "expert" critics out there. You can't prove the future is wrong, but there is plenty of evidence for past follies."

There are also the fixed ideas that readers have about the past, which may not necessarily be true but you need to be aware of them anyway. I've heard this called "the Tiffany problem". The name "Tiffany" is actually found in medieval records; it's short for Theophania. However, if you placed a character called Tiffany in your Medieval novel, a lot of readers would assume it's an anachronism.


message 10: by Fiona (new)

Fiona Hurley (fiona_hurley) | 0 comments Ian wrote: "But I think historical fiction will also be very difficult;t because there ar eco many "expert" critics out there. You can't prove the future is wrong, but there is plenty of evidence for past follies."

There are also the fixed ideas that readers have about the past, which may not necessarily be true but you need to be aware of them anyway. I've heard this called "the Tiffany problem". The name "Tiffany" is actually found in medieval records; it's short for Theophania. However, if you placed a character called Tiffany in your Medieval novel, a lot of readers would assume it's an anachronism.


message 11: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments Do you ever write a novel set in a place you'd like to visit or learn more about? How important is setting in your writing? Do you have a particular place you'd like to use as a setting in a future novel?


message 12: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) | 1579 comments Scout wrote: "Do you ever write a novel set in a place you'd like to visit or learn more about? How important is setting in your writing? Do you have a particular place you'd like to use as a setting in a future..."

I generally write science fiction and fantasy, so I tend to make my settings up, but I do often make them places I'd like to go, or base them on places I've been.

Some of them I definitely wouldn't want to go to!


message 13: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3078 comments I have sci-fi worlds but most of my writing is current or recent history. In one book I had to research which hotels were open in a city during a particular time. In another whether a hospital wing had been built.

The most detailed I did was for a house where I had to work out sight lines - I had a 3d model of the house and surroundings all so I knew whether my characters could see something.

I recently used Google street Map view for a similar look at a foreign city block so that I knew where a sniper could see a target.

All of that takes a lot of time just so that I know my setting works even if it's just a few lines in the book


message 14: by Ian (last edited Nov 03, 2019 06:23PM) (new)

Ian Miller | 11762 comments Most of my writing is scifi but I try to incorporate places I have been. This can have problems. The first novel I started writing in 1987 included places I had been (as well as parts of the solar system where I have not been) but there can be problems. I had a scene in Samarkand where MC was following someone, and I could recall the terrain, only I found out later it had changed. From the time if Timur apparently a lot of sand and such like had built up, and nobody cared in the old Soviet Union because tourism was not a priority, but now they have done a lot of restoration. That was not helpful. Similarly, in another novel I have a MC walking down a street in Santiago, he looks up at an inscription on a building - and that inscription is real. (Then he sees what he shouldn't see, although he has to for the plot.) So yes, I am happy to use scenes I know.

My current WIP has some scenes around Wee Waa, which may be dangerous for me with Leonie having more knowledge. I have spent two years in New England there so I have some idea, but not specifically around Wee Waa. (I needed that because the big radio telescopes are nearby.) Sorry, Leonie if it lacks a little accuracy.


message 15: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) | 1579 comments It's OK, Ian, I haven't really been to Wee Waa either!

🤣🤣🤣


message 16: by Ian (last edited Nov 04, 2019 01:56PM) (new)

Ian Miller | 11762 comments I can understand that Leonie. It is not really a "must see" place. What I find is that like others, Google Earth gives a reasonably good general idea, and if you know what the local vegetation is likely to be, that helps. Setting it in the future helps too - there is the answer, "It changed by then!"

I also think there are some things you can do to make life easier. Unless you actually know, be wary about very specific descriptions of large buildings, etc., at least their exteriors. Thus my literary venture into a Wee Waa supermarket sized it on what I know of comparable Australian supermarkets, I focused on evs in the parking lot, the shelves, and later the check-out operator, in other words things that are not too specific.


message 17: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Philip wrote: "I recently used Google street Map view for a similar look at a foreign city block so that I knew where a sniper could see a target..."

I have also done that to research settings.


message 18: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11762 comments I also use Google earth


message 19: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments An amazing resource. I wonder how often it's updated. Some guys in Alabama decided to test that by putting duck decoys on the top of their building and waiting for them to appear on GE. It took a while.


message 20: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11762 comments It can take a while here. I once recorded the image for my whitebait position on the Orowaiti river, where the little jetty I used was there on the island, and the boat used to get to the island could be seen in the shrubbery on the south bank of the river. That image stayed there for nearly ten years, untouched.


message 21: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments :-) Ever the scientist, Ian.


message 22: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11762 comments Scout wrote: ":-) Ever the scientist, Ian."

I guess so, Scout.


message 23: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I've recently read a few novels set in Canada. I like that setting.


message 24: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I've always liked novels set in haunted houses - Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Anne Rivers Siddons' The House Next Door in particular. I just finished one, The Invited, that had a new twist: a couple built a haunted house by filling it with things that belonged to women with supernatural powers. Anyone else into stories about haunted houses or locations with supernatural or magical powers?


message 25: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I'm reading a novel set in the Outer Hebrides, of which I knew nothing. Now I've done some research and I know a good bit. I like reading novels with settings unfamiliar to me and learning something about them.


message 26: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3078 comments Scout wrote: "I'm reading a novel set in the Outer Hebrides, of which I knew nothing. Now I've done some research and I know a good bit. I like reading novels with settings unfamiliar to me and learning somethin..."

I spent an 18 month tour of duty based there. Cold, windy and beautiful. In the Uists on Benbecula which is the middle one.


message 27: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments Hi, Philip. The novel is Coffin Road by Peter May. He does a great job describing the landscape, and from my research I can see what a beautiful place it is. I have some Scottish ancestors, which makes it even more interesting for me. The novel is a mystery, but also involves bees and chemical pesticides and how they affect the bee population. And about how powerful and ruthless some of these agricultural companies are. I'm about halfway through, and it's interesting and well written if you want to give it a try. What was the purpose of a military base there?


message 28: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3078 comments Scout wrote: "Hi, Philip. The novel is Coffin Road by Peter May. He does a great job describing the landscape, and from my research I can see what a beautiful place it is. I have some Scottish ancestors, which m..."

Hi, it was (and still is) a radar site as well as a military missile firing range. I'll check out the book


message 29: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments Looks like I need to do more research. Thanks for your reply.


message 30: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I just finished Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. The author did something different with settings in this one about nuclear war. The characters never leave the isolated vacation setting on Long Island, but the omniscient narrator throws in events taking place in other major cities in the U.S. - events of which the characters aren't aware - so I guess you'd have to consider them settings, too. We only see the characters trying to figure out and deal with what's happening in the outside world with no access to Internet or TV. The novel was still suspenseful and illustrative of the fear and helplessness people would feel in this situation without actually visiting the scenes of destruction. Interesting.


message 31: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Graham (andrewjamesgraham) | 11 comments The novel I wrote was set in the China Town area of Newcastle upon tyne and also the surrounding areas. It's an area I know well having been born, raised and worked in some of the most socially and economically deprived areas of North Tyneside. I hope this comes across in my writing.


message 32: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I enjoy reading novels set in England. Other favorite settings are Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Sweden, and Norway. Also novels set in the southern US and Maine. Setting is often the deciding factor when I choose a novel.


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