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Dark Angel
06-21-2009, 04:52 PM
For my WIP I have been deliberating over the context or background rather in which the story is told.

First, I'll clarify by what I mean. The context of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children is set after British rule has ended. Mark Zusak's The Book Thief is set during Nazi Germany. I have found that these settings provided good plot points for stories to develop and are an enriching feature.

The Problem

What I'm having a problem is when to set the story. The story is about a Muslim boy who is trying to discover his true identity in an increasingly totalitarian regime in which (following a tragic terrorist attack by Muslims) a neo-conservative government has come into power and deemed all Muslims as second-class citizens. The story has several surreal elements and deals with issues such as prophecy, black magic and even flying carpets. But, I am consttantly getting new ideas and it is hard for me to get my story to sit still so that I can look at it and ask myself whether or not the story (plot/theme) would benefit without this 'context'.

The Solution?

Has anyone had this problem before?

How did you go on to resolve it?

Do you think that context/background diminishes a story?

Thank you for any replies

10er
06-21-2009, 05:02 PM
an increasingly totalitarian regime in which (following a tragic terrorist attack by Muslims) a neo-conservative government has come into power and deemed all Muslims as second-class citizens.

Hahaha oh wow, how... subtle.

Seriously though, I'm not sure I understand the question. I don't think context/background and character development can be completely divided, so if you choose a different context, your story will be different, of course.
Whether it will still be the story you want to tell is only for you to decide.

alleycat
06-21-2009, 05:02 PM
I wonder if Spain (or a country under Spanish control) under Franco would work for your story. You would have to do some research to learn exactly how Muslims were treated; I'm not exactly sure myself, but as I recall they were treated rather harshly. If it would work for you, it would certainly provides some interesting settings.

LaceWing
06-21-2009, 05:21 PM
No, I don't think context/background diminishes a story. It's a frame, it's contrast to what the story contains explicitly, it contains "accepted history" and some of the world a reader brings into the reading. Good for you that you're wrestling with it.

Maybe it's messing with you because your story's force is to argue with it.

Could scale your story down to a small village that has no explicit place?

Dark Angel
06-21-2009, 05:39 PM
No, I don't think context/background diminishes a story. It's a frame, it's contrast to what the story contains explicitly, it contains "accepted history" and some of the world a reader brings into the reading. Good for you that you're wrestling with it.

Maybe it's messing with you because your story's force is to argue with it.

Could scale your story down to a small village that has no explicit place?

Yeah, I thought that I should leave it as background and that's it rather than make it a focal point of the story. In that way the reader can make of the background what they will and it will, as you said, stop me from trying to argue with it. I like that advice and what you said is very true. I guess I mus resist the temptation of taking myself too seriously.

TTo alleycat: And the story is set in a fantasy setting sometime in the near future.

And 10er...what were your comments about exactly? Would you care to explain?

10er
06-21-2009, 06:05 PM
What I meant is: I don't think a setting diminishes or augments a story by default.
It's how well you can insert your character and his interactions with his environment into that setting.
"Guy finds his identity" is too generic to make a judgment on that aspect. Does finding his identity entail fighting bigotry and a system that has him at a disadvantage? If so, you can't tell the same story in a different setting. If not, what's the point of having this particular setting? You can still have it, but it will be a simple matter of taste.

Exir
06-21-2009, 06:10 PM
What about Fantasy/Science Fiction in an alternative history? Maybe a story set in the future? Doesn't have to be historical...

Danthia
06-23-2009, 03:58 PM
Context is everything. Something that has significance in one context won't in another. The context is what gives it significance.

Exir asks a good question. If you have fantastical elements, do you need to set this story in the real world against a real timeline? If you do that, readers will naturally assume everything is connected to the known world somehow. So when you reveal flying carpets, they might be thrown. Or if you veer off from what's "known" they'll think you made a mistake.

Your story might be best served if you create your own world, or alternative world, based on the real geographic/economic/cultural/political aspects of the Middle Eastern Muslin setting. That way, you can pick and choose what aspects are important and put them into context that matters to YOUR world as YOU see it.

This is actually why I love to write fantasy. It's so much easier than having to follow the rules of the real world :)

ccv707
06-23-2009, 04:35 PM
a Muslim boy who is trying to discover his true identity in an increasingly totalitarian regime in which (following a tragic terrorist attack by Muslims) a neo-conservative government has come into power and deemed all Muslims as second-class citizens.

This would NEVER happen in real life!!! *shifty eyes*

Ninjas Love Nixon
06-23-2009, 05:20 PM
The story is about a Muslim boy who is trying to discover his true identity in an increasingly totalitarian regime in which (following a tragic terrorist attack by Muslims) a neo-conservative government has come into power and deemed all Muslims as second-class citizens.

You don't have to step out of Islamic history for that. Just take a look at the relationship between the Sunni and Shi'a sects. The Sunni are pretty much the orthodoxy (in overarching terms), as they've been in the ascendant position for most of Islam's history (the Isma'ili Fatimid Dynasty of Egypt being, as far as I know, the notable exception). The Shi'a branch of Islam is far more fractured, and underwent considerable suppression at times, eliciting inevitable terrorist responses.

If you were to go with something based in Islamic history, the neo-conservative government as well as the suppressed, second-class citizens can be Muslim (for good possibilities for the suppressed, look at the Nizaris, for example, who adopted some interesting survival strategies). A purely internal Islamic setting might also allow you to deal with things like flying carpets in a way that having to account for the rest of the world would not.

Garpy
06-23-2009, 05:54 PM
since you're clearly allegorizing 9/11...why not just go the whole hog and set it in real world NY? And yes....you can have magic too. Why not?

Wark
06-23-2009, 09:41 PM
Sci-Fi FTW!

There it won't seem so political, after you make the boy a psychic dinosaur. The Republican's can stay. The evil dictator can be Shepherd Fox.