Subject: [FFML] Re: Choosing a setting
From: Scott Schimmel
Date: 2/1/2007, 2:30 PM
To: Richard Lawson

Richard Lawson wrote:
I have a sci-fi and/or fantasy story I've been writing in my head for many 
years now.

It's epic.  It has characters, a plot, a villain, a conflict, and an ending. 
Typical fish-out-of-water scenario, thrust into a situation that has Dire 
Consequences, struggles between different Good Guys, manipulation by the Bad 
Guys, and a Dramatic Resolution full of melodrama.

What I don't have is a setting.

Modern-day and near future are the common choices for a setting for that 
type of story, yes.
But there are other options.

The most important thing, I think, is to consider the type of character 
you want to be writing.
A gentleman from Victorian England will have one way of interpreting 
these events.  A sailor
plucked from Magellan's ships will have a different outlook.  A soldier 
from World War I
another.  And a soldier from Vietnam or from the Peloponnesian War a 
different one still.  A
French musketeer.  A Wild West outlaw.  A flapper out of the 20s.  A 
general out of the
Three Kingdoms.  A slave from ancient Egypt.  A Mayan priest.  A 
starship captain.

Even if you stick to the modern day, you needn't write about an American 
college student.
You could write about a high-powered Hollywood agent.  Or an oil 
executive.  An aide
to the Prime Minister of the U.K.  A rank-and-file member of Hamas.  A 
drug runner.
A star athlete.  A low-ranking Party bureaucrat from China.  A former 
Party official
from Russia, now disenfranchised.  A Cuban nationalist.  None of these 
people are going
to have the same outlook on events.

Choosing the type of character you want to write will usually imply at 
least a little about his
world.  It's possible, I suppose, to take that Wild West gunman from a 
far-future setting
(perhaps a "lost colony" where the technology and society has mostly 
regressed, or a
setting something like Firefly), but it requires less explanation to 
take him from 1800s-era
America.  Neal Stephenson had high-tech Victorians in The Diamond Age, 
but the real
Victorian England is a setting about which there are a great many 
sources to draw upon
for inspiration.

If you really want to go with historical fiction, you might even 
consider a historical character.
Using a Wild West outlaw is one thing; using Billy the Kid is another.  
One might wonder
what Sun Tzu or Cao Cao would make of an interstellar conflict.  Of 
course, there are
limitations to that approach, too.  Mainly, the need to take into 
account (one way or another)
what is known historically about that figure's life.

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