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June 9th, 2006, 05:31 PM #31
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For me, personally a setting gives me the basic framework to hang my ideas on. I have used victorian methods of industry in a medieval setting, giving the medieval mindset of some the characters the excuse to cry "witch" at the character that uses said methods.
I have used the early industrial revolution circa 1800, with steam trains and religious magic. I love to see what is possible and what is not. I love to read what is possible and what is not. Imagination and making the reader believe in your world is a challenge I enjoy. And I love to read authors that attempt that.
Over the past few weeks I have been mulling over an idea, something that has been in the back of my mind for years to attempt. A story set in "real time," with real world events at the backdrop, in fact the affect of these events the driving force that shapes and alters my characters. The first lot of research books have just arrived and I realise what a task I have set myself. Though the story is fiction and it has a supernatural edge to it, it is dealing with the aftermath, the affect on a country and people of a war, called at the time "The war to end all Wars" For this the setting, and the way I hope to write about that setting with frame the whole structure of the story.
June 9th, 2006, 06:02 PM #32Originally Posted by Holbrook
June 9th, 2006, 06:57 PM #33
Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
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June 9th, 2006, 07:41 PM #34Originally Posted by Hereford Eye
But I think I know what you mean: any more specific and the play wouldn't work anymore. Lack of setting-details = important factor of setting.
I've heard people interprete the barren tree as a hint towards a post-apocalyptic setting. But is this fair?
Perhaps, that's the original question posed? When people talk about "medieval fantasy" what do they mean? When they talk about "pre-industrial" fantasy, does this imply that the fictional world will develop an industry one fictional day? Or that the author has been (should have been) inspired by a specific point in the past?
This may be a variant of the old "Do they serve elk in yon tavern?" discussion.
June 10th, 2006, 12:24 PM #35Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
I agree with you about setting shaping a scene, HE, but the degree to which aspects of setting shape things does vary. I have had this happen a lot with my mystery pals -- picking out where the sex scene goes is less important than the sex scene and when it happens in the plot, or whether the clue is in the garbage can or under the sink is a random choice because the important thing is the clue. The writer may have it one way first, and then switch it to another without particular change. A writer can conceivably write a story in one setting and then rewrite it with another. This will change the story, but may not change the bones of the story. The setting can only limit the story to the extent that the writer allows it to do so.
But in some stories, the setting and all its details are the story. I'm reading a non-fantasy historical work -- "In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden" and it's about the collapse of a dam in Pennsylvania near the turn of the century. The story is all about showing the people and lifestyles and landscape of that time and place, and the setting and the dam are equivalent to characters in the story and greatly effect the characters in the story. So that story is that setting and nothing more. But it varies.
Take Gary's trilogy. The setting has a major impact, the trees are both characters and setting -- it is a focus of the book. But, what if Gary's warriors didn't have chain mail and iron swords and women wearing bodice dresses? What if they had copper armor and swords, like the ancient Romans, and the women wore tunics? What if they had solid metal breastplates and lighter swords and the women wore copious underskirts over metal frames, as in the Renaissance? Would it make a substantial difference? If they had machine guns, obviously that would. But some details of setting are not going to have a very large impact and are interchangable.
And sometimes it's a matter of what the author picks to focus on. If a character's shirt is blue or yellow may be incidental. But if the author choses to focus on the fact that the character is wearing a blue shirt, links that blue shirt to some aspect of the character or as a symbol of something in the story, then the fact that the shirt is blue becomes very important. But, the author may decide that instead of a blue shirt which is symbolic, he wants the character to sport a yellow shirt, which will also be symbolic in a different way. Because it is a small detail of the setting, it does not greatly effect the plot of the story, but it is a handy tool for the author to provide information or atmosphere.
Or storm's typewriter. Right now, it exists only in his mind and therefore is not part of the setting except in his conception of the scene. If he has the typewriter mentioned, then it becomes part of the setting, but may be in the background. If two characters have a discussion about the typewriter, then the typewriter moves front and center, and becomes more important and has a bigger impact. Of course, all these details can add up.
June 10th, 2006, 02:14 PM #36
KatG, I started with the idea of a young alienated kid who was confused about his background and went off on a journey to figure out what life was all about. I wanted him to focus on his role in the world, how his actions might affect big things through the little choices he made. I intended him to be very sensitive, alone, and aware of nature and the vast changes in his environment - pollution, warming etc. I wasn't sure what I wanted to wrap this all up in. Then it occurred to me to try to do it all as a metaphor. It wasn't such a far fetched extrapolation to go from a dying environment to dying trees. And by making them sentient I could express nature's struggle better, along with the ambivalence etc. So there you have it.
When I was in college, Grace Slick, the singer with Jefferson Airplane, was one of my favorites. I saw them often live, the Fillmore east, Academy of Music, lot's of places. I'm a bit of a music freak. Anyway, their songs inspired me always - Wooden Ships was like a post-apocalyptic tale and one line from another song repeated in my head all the time and still does - The human name doesn't mean **** to a tree. Tree's for me represented nature at its noblest, strongest, healthiest and I thought of them as timeless, ancient. In a sense, they were my measure of health. They spoke to me about life, and if they were to die, life would end.
I never intended at first to write fantasy. I just couldn't tell my story any other way without boring myself and everyone else to death. The world of GemQuest sprung up around my characters and my intentions.
None of this though detracts from the importance of my world to my story. I"m just pointing out that the world did not inspire the story and the world did not require that I write this story. I created the world to help me tell it.
June 14th, 2006, 07:00 AM #37
When I was in college, Grace Slick, the singer with Jefferson Airplane, was one of my favorites. I saw them often live, the Fillmore east, Academy of Music, lot's of places.
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But I'm curious to hear what you think of other books that have distinctive settings in fantastic fiction. What about Peake's work, or David Lindsay, or ER Eddison, or James Branch Caball. Definitely Clark Ashton Smith as well - would CAS be CAS without those drippy, decadant settings like Zothique and Averoigne?
Throw more onto the fire than just the typical pseudo-middle ages setting!
June 14th, 2006, 09:13 AM #38
I was a child prodigy Mathain. I went to college when I was a mere babe.
As an author I've realized so many things since I completed my first book. We always have so much to learn about the art. When you begin to perfect your technique and you have more tools in your bag, it becomes less daunting to experiment. Yet still I believe that each writer has a weltanshauung that matures perhaps with age and experience, but it's built on a liftetime of influence and circumstance. Some environments are not appealing. Some don't express that sensibility well. I know mine. I can't put it into a few words, but I know that whatever world I write in, I have to identify with it. It has to be capable of fulfilling my needs. My writing is very personal. Very personal. Even my children's books. I write my feelings, my thoughts, my concerns. And because I tend toward melancholy, I need to write about hope. Reality is so full of tragedy and sadness - lives taken too soon, ironic twists in the paths of lives, unrequited years - things we have no control over. Fate, if you want to call it that, can be overwhelming as the years pass, and personally it's always been a struggle for me. The worlds I write in can't be colder than this one, harsher than this one. I'm not anxious to write in a world that's already fallen apart. I know what's possible. We all know what's possible. I've feared it my entire life and writing in a world that's a product of my fears isn't illuminating for me.
I don't know what I'm going to write next when GemQuest is finished. But I probably will begin it the same way I did this series. I'll sit down and start writing.
June 18th, 2006, 07:29 PM #39
That's funny that you say that, Gary, because I see your GemQuest world as quite dark.
Mathain -- sorry to say I've read none of those yet. Any others?
June 19th, 2006, 03:21 AM #40
It is dark, KatG. I know that. But it's also hopeful, don't you think? The characters are trying so hard to be humane and to find their way, despite what has inadvertently become of their world.
June 19th, 2006, 06:47 PM #41
Well, some of the characters are hopeful. Some of them, though, are depressed and liable to fall into the abyss. And the greatest force for good in the world might be evil. I figure it will probably come out alright in the end, because otherwise you'd have to write about the end of the universe, and since you have problems with the current theories about the beginning of the universe, I think you'll avoid that. But I can't know that for sure -- you aren't an author who gives assurances. Which is fine. Very seldom, in fact, does an author provide me with assurances. In a few, I'm pretty sure the protagonist will make it, maybe the love interest, but fantasy writers are notoriously nasty about such things, because they like to do dramatic death scenes.
Fantasy worlds really aren't black or white. I think if they're put in those two boxes, that people are missing the nuances. There are nuances in your work, Kevin's, Caitlin's, Alison's, Tolkein's, etc. In comic stories, there are quite subtle, very dark nuances that I think often get overlooked, because hey, it's comedy. In dark, gritty tales, there are finely tuned moments of love and laughter. Even in the work of authors whose stuff I'm not particularly interested in, I find mixes of evil and good that are essentially human. In fantasy, it's built into the locale, the atmosphere, which is perhaps why setting so often becomes important in fantasy stories.