Subject: [FFML] Re: Choosing a setting
From: Bert Miller
Date: 2/2/2007, 12:19 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.

Let me give you a basic outline.  The universe is populated by intelligences 
that are mostly far greater than our own.  They live for thousands, even 
millions of years but are not quite immortal.  They've been involved in a 
conflict since the very beginning of the universe, and things are 
approaching a critical juncture.

Sounds like E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen saga.  Or any of its derivatives 
in this respect,
such as Babylon 5.  Or you could play with extrapolating from another of 
the latter's
parents, Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End".  There would probably be 
a way to
tie the singularity concepts from Vernor Vinge's "Marooned in Realtime" 
into the latter
as well, since both deal with approaching singularities in human history.

A Lensmen-like universe where the humans are minor players, or have not 
yet developed
space-flight, would fit your scenario quite well.

Everyone knows about humans, but they're regarded as barely intelligent. 
And since they only live for a few decades at most, humans are considered 
insignificant in the universal struggle.  Until one of the near-immortal 
super-intelligent beings decides that perhaps humans should become involved, 
and plucks one human from their homeworld and tries to teach him what he 
needs to know to fight against the Evil Bad Guys.  As you might be able to 
predict, said human becomes a key figure in the conflict.

I started to write it in a modern-day setting, some random college student 
being yoinked from Earth, but it ended up sounding way too much like a 
self-insert, which I didn't want at all.

I've toyed with the idea of making it sometime in the past or future - maybe 
someplace in Old England, maybe on an overpopulated Gibsonesque 22nd-century 
Earth, etc.  I've also considered just creating my own world, a Middle-Earth 
type of place except no non-human races, the typical RenFen fantasy setting.

I would go future, I think, but have the hero be from a backwater 
planet.  (You might consider having
even most humans in the universe look down on people from this planet.)  
A recent colony, perhaps,
on which an accident on landing rendered most of the high-tech equipment 
they brought worthless,
and is technologically circa 1780.  This should give you scope to really 
ground the hero's home
environment in real-seeming details, while also giving you scope for 
world-building.  And also explain,
if you want, why the hero has a modern understanding of what's happening.

If it is important to have your hero have hidden esper-type potentials, 
you could have the colonization
having occurred long enough ago to get some sort of Pern- or 
Darkover-like developments.

Try as I might, none of those appeal to me.  And the setting is important; 
wherever the human comes from, be it Earth or some equivalent, he'll keep 
coming back to it at key moments in the plot.  So I need that world to be 
fully developed.

Anyone have an idea for a setting for such a story?

How do you decide on a setting when you're writing a story?

For Ranma stories, I have simply researched contemporary Japan; for my 
Tenchi stories,
I have generally gone for comic exaggeration or parody in building other 
worlds' cultures.
For my Noir stories, I pick a contemporary setting somewhere on Earth 
and research it.
The choice of setting generally derives from other aspects of the story, 
such as whatever
I need to make the plot plausible.  (Lots and lots of violence goes down 
better in a
setting far removed from where your readers live.)

I have identified world-building as one area I should develop, but 
haven't identified any
stories I want to write which would utilize this particular skill.



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