Richard Lawson wrote:
I have a sci-fi and/or fantasy story I've been writing in my head for many
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
Even if you stick to the modern day, you needn't write about an American
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
A star athlete. A low-ranking Party bureaucrat from China. A former
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
(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
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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