The World in Which the Story Takes Place

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Prof. Tarma Amelia Black
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The World in Which the Story Takes Place

Post by Prof. Tarma Amelia Black » Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:56 pm

In some books, we start reading and the actual physicality of the world in which the story is set makes an immediate impact upon us. How important is this to you -- to know immediately (or soon) in the story, just what the world is like to live in? Do you need to know that it is mountainous or arid or windy or extremely cold?

Also, how does the terrain, the weather conditions, the climate in different places and/or planets affect the story?

What would change, if anything, if the Harry Potter books were set in the Sahara Desert? Or, to use an example of a book I'd just read, what would happen if Pride and Prejudice was set in Russia? Be gone with the temperate maritime conditions of Britain and enter the vast range of conditions of Russia, from frigid and freezing cold to warmth and ferocious winds! What would have happened in Doctor Zhivago if it had been set in England?

How would the stories have changed -- or would they?

Is it only (or mostly) adventure stories, set in the wilds or in countryside, which would have more of an impact upon the actual story line? How much of the world would be a 'cast member' of the story? In Powers That Be, the world Petaybee is terraformed and still in the process of shaping itself -- so the planet is a definite protagonist of the story, even if not one that is usually counted in most books.

What do you think? Your response should be at least 200 words in length to count for beans and towards the Literati Award. Please be sure to keep your post HOL appropriate. Also, remember to use spoiler tags if you’re discussing specific parts of story plots. Who knows but you writing about the book will encourage someone else to read it! And they don't need to know 'the butler did it'.

These prompts, just like our library of prompts, are worth 20 beans each. While our celebration of world-building technically ends at the end of January when we pick another theme, you can complete these prompts whenever you feel like it.
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Raevia Ward
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Re: The World in Which the Story Takes Place

Post by Raevia Ward » Wed Oct 23, 2019 3:44 pm

Whether the setting is immediately introduced or gradually revealed depends on the book, if the story is more character driven then it makes sense to build them first. Though I would argue that plays depend heavily on the setting (not including avantgarde drama, duh), and where the action happens is the first thing you want to know whether you watch it or read it. Novels have narrators that can be helpful in making sense of the world gradually so I'd say it gives the world more mystery to reveal it that way (if that's what you wanna go for). I find it tedious to have the whole world-building on the get-go, and it makes it hard for me to keep my interest to get to the actual story.

About swapping places, of course the climate is a big part of the setting but I think the customs of the place would be more important. Pride and Prejudice, for example, is a social commentary and I don't think it'd be the same book had it been set in Russia (I'd love to say more about how the story would change, but I know nothing about Russian culture <_< ). The characters are really shaped by their environment, and if Harry Potter was set in the Sahara Desert he would be a different person entirely. Even if you put the same character in a different setting, their reactions would change because they'd have to adapt to the circumstances and customs of the place. Even if it's an imaginary country you'd have to create that world from scratch and it would still have different set of rules, and our little wizard would have to adapt to that (or not adapt, which could be a plot device).

I don't think it is just the adventure stories that are highly dependant on the setting (though obviously Narnia would not be Narnia if it was set in....the Middle Earth maybe? that would be a different story). Pride and Prejudice is dependant on the setting. The world defines the characters and informs their available choices, even when the story isn't following realist or naturalist traditions. Even a basic concept like the public and private place will change the way a character will behave, and tell you a lot about the character and the themes you want to focus on.

As for the setting as a "cast member" as you put it, well, on the top of my head I can say Thornfield Hall is definitely a character in Jane Eyre. The house literally forms the characters, it moves the plot along, and responds to what's happening inside (not in a Monster House kind of way, getting up on it's legs and trying to eat people, but you know).

This is getting out of hand :P I tried to keep it spoiler free so somethings stayed very vague....... Would love to elaborate though, so anyone can dm me to talk more.
Last edited by Prof. Tarma Amelia Black on Wed Oct 23, 2019 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: beans sent - Tarma
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