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rosewood
03-26-2005, 06:37 AM
In writing a work of fiction, if the time period of the story takes place in the not so distant future, is ok to make up an entire country/people? Or would it be more powerful to elude in general terms, to an already existing country?

Ace
03-26-2005, 06:44 AM
I'm no authority, but it seems pretty obvious that you could do a lot more with a county you make up--if that's what you want to do. I wouldn't assume that your readers would get any powerful feelings about a country that already exists. The average American can barely point out where the USA is on a map, so it would make sense to build your own concepts and feelings pertaining to a country or group of people.

clintl
03-26-2005, 08:09 AM
I don't think it's a problem. It has been done by others.

Mistook
03-26-2005, 08:41 AM
You could use an existing nation and have them taken over by some weird political group who changes it into something else.

For example, Nazi Germany is not the same thing as Germany. Or if France became communist, it would't be the France we knew anymore.

Ace
03-26-2005, 08:51 AM
Yes it would

Kallahan
03-26-2005, 09:22 AM
Yes it would

Thats just cold.

SJB
03-26-2005, 02:12 PM
FWIW, I hate books ostensibly set on Earth but featuring made-up countries. Made-up cities are fine (viz. Vikram Seth's wonderful A Suitable Boy, set in the Indian city of "Brahumpur"), as are entire imaginary counties (it's the great sorrow of my life that I can't visit Hardy's Wessex. Well, one of them; I'm even more distraught that I'll never meet Rudyard Kipling).

But countries that don't exist? Ugh. I don't even particularly like reading about countries that existed at the time of writing but don't now (eg. various places that pop up in the Sherlock Holmes stories). Clearly, this is just my irrational taste, but futuristic books that refer to countries that the reader is familiar with already have some extra degree of believability and resonance.

So yes, I think it'd be more powerful to allude to a country that exists now. If you want to please me, do so. Perhaps (she concedes) you would be better off writing the story you want to, though. (Grin)

Another thought: you would definitely alienate 4 million potential readers if you wrote that New Zealand was taken over by sheep or hobbits or Americans in 2054 and known ever after as "Baaaaaaaaaa" or "Middle Earth" or "That Quaint Little Country." You might want to consider, if you haven't already, the effect that tinkering (even merely on paper) with the future of a country will have on those of your readers who are its citizens.

(Btw, what's up with the responses on this thread? I'll never understand the American preoccupation with other people's political systems...)

Richard
03-26-2005, 02:42 PM
In writing a work of fiction, if the time period of the story takes place in the not so distant future, is ok to make up an entire country/people?

If it's a small country, the kind that most readers aren't going to be in a position to know is a fake (for instance, islands or African states and the like) then I doubt there's a problem. If it's a big world power, you might have a bit more difficulty.

Mistook
03-26-2005, 03:35 PM
FWIW, I hate books ostensibly set on Earth but featuring made-up countries. Made-up cities are fine (viz. Vikram Seth's wonderful A Suitable Boy, set in the Indian city of "Brahumpur"), as are entire imaginary counties (it's the great sorrow of my life that I can't visit Hardy's Wessex. Well, one of them; I'm even more distraught that I'll never meet Rudyard Kipling).

But countries that don't exist? Ugh. I don't even particularly like reading about countries that existed at the time of writing but don't now (eg. various places that pop up in the Sherlock Holmes stories). Clearly, this is just my irrational taste, but futuristic books that refer to countries that the reader is familiar with already have some extra degree of believability and resonance.

So yes, I think it'd be more powerful to allude to a country that exists now. If you want to please me, do so. Perhaps (she concedes) you would be better off writing the story you want to, though. (Grin)

Another thought: you would definitely alienate 4 million potential readers if you wrote that New Zealand was taken over by sheep or hobbits or Americans in 2054 and known ever after as "Baaaaaaaaaa" or "Middle Earth" or "That Quaint Little Country." You might want to consider, if you haven't already, the effect that tinkering (even merely on paper) with the future of a country will have on those of your readers who are its citizens.

(Btw, what's up with the responses on this thread? I'll never understand the American preoccupation with other people's political systems...)


Didn't you hear? We have the perfect system ;)

HConn
03-26-2005, 05:59 PM
All that matters is how well you execute it.

Fresie
03-26-2005, 07:27 PM
I'd think, it's fine to make up a country (think of all the new countries that appeared on the map in the last 20 years or so), but it might not be so fine to make up a culture. If, as you say, it's not so distant future, this nation will definitely have to have some links to one or other culture of today. Even if entire Europe or Asia go underwater (God forbid!), a tiny island that's left will have a culture quite similar to those already dead. I'd say, invent as many countries as you want, but make sure your "culture-building" is believable.

Thekherham
03-28-2005, 02:38 AM
The novel I'm working on now is set somewhere in North America, but I've made up the names of several small towns, and one fair-sized city. (Three-quarters of a million people there.)

Didn't William Faulkner make up a fictitious town or county or something?

Zane Curtis
03-28-2005, 05:47 AM
Personally, I prefer to make up just enough of the setting to serve the story. If you start to create bits of the setting that are not immediately relevant, you might be tempted to mention them in passing, just for the heck of it. And if you mention them in passing, you might be tempted to explain them, and explain the way everything fits in. It's a particularly dangerous urge when you've got people giving you critiques that say, "What's all this about? Can you explain it a bit better?" And before you know it, you've stopped writing the actual story and filled your MS with a bunch of meaningless, boring facts and figures you've pulled out of thin air.

I have found you can get away with not mentioning some fairly substantial facts and figures. When you listen to people talk, they don't need to remind each other what country or city they're in. They don't need to remind each other what year it is, or who the prime minister/president is. All this is assumed knowledge. In fact, if someone had to ask who the president of their own country was, the answer wouldn't be a potted lecture on history and current events (summarized for the convenience of the reader). Instead, the answer would be, "Do you seriously not know? Wow. Now I've heard everything." You have the additional problem of how to work this information naturally into the text. So, on the whole, why bother? Is something that can't be inferred from your character's immediate environment and circumstances really all that essential?

I occasionally write fantasy, where people have got the world building bug something bad. Sometimes that means you crack the spine of a fantasy book and a stream of nonsense syllables assaults your eyes, driving you straight back out of the story again. These are supposed to be the foreign language names of exotic places and people, but it winds up looking more like a page out of Finnegans Wake (http://www.trentu.ca/jjoyce/fw.htm). So even in fantasy, I prefer to reign in the setting. Rather than inventing names for characters, I prefer to use real names -- old fashioned or romantic sounding names, if this is high fantasy, or uncommon variations of common names. I'll allow myself a handful of neologisms for setting (just to keep with the spirit of it), but otherwise it's "the market" or "the hill" or even names of actual places.

CACTUSWENDY
03-28-2005, 05:51 AM
:roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: Yes it would

James D. Macdonald
03-28-2005, 07:08 AM
Ruritania
The Duchy of Grand Fenwick
Latveria

Gehanna
03-28-2005, 07:26 AM
Have you ever watched the movie Escape from New York? Kurt Russell played in it. The movie is futuristic and Manhattan Island had been turned into a penal (I have to watch how I spell that word. I'm not a pervert. I'm a nurse) ....anyway, it had been turned into a penal colony. My point is, I feel that you have a third option to consider if you wanted to and that is, take what exists in reality and add the element of futuristic evolution to it. Country, people and etc.

Sincerely,
Gehanna

SJB
03-28-2005, 03:47 PM
I've created a town in my novel-in-progress, and it's difficult work. When you live in a nation that has only five towns with populations exceeding 100,000, it is quite tricky to slip in a city of half a million people without altering the balance of the entire country. Then there's the question of where (there are relatively few habitable places in NZ that aren't already lived in, unless you want to clear some native forest, which I don't). I'm seriously considering obliterating the town of Nelson and putting my town there- hopefully Nelson's 50,000 residents won't notice or mind. :D

Zane Curtis, thanks for your really interesting post! (Including the bit about Finnegan's Wake, which I'll have to share with a friend of mine. He's doing a Masters on Joyce's Ulysses, which he adores, but can't get past page 50 on Finnegan's Wake.)

Mistook: so you're saying, America is the wealthy, stuck-up blonde beeyotch with perfect hair, making fun of France's greasy unwashed mullet? Free advice for America: watch the movie Heathers. ;)

brokenfingers
03-28-2005, 05:07 PM
A large part of your answer will also depend on what type of story you're telling.

If you're writing speculative fiction - the reader will give a great deal of latitude as far as new nations etc.

If you're writing mainstream or literary, there might not be as much room.

I would think that if it is mainstream or literary, it might pack a more powerful punch if it does take place in a real country/place.

But even if that's the case, it shouldn't be something that some research couldn't handle.

Plus, placing your story in a real place adds verismilitude and helps bring the reader more fully into your dream.

Mistook
03-29-2005, 04:35 AM
Mistook: so you're saying, America is the wealthy, stuck-up blonde beeyotch with perfect hair, making fun of France's greasy unwashed mullet? Free advice for America: watch the movie Heathers. ;)

Hey, I wasn't the one dissing on France, and when I said America was perfect I was being quite sarcastic.

I was simply trying to point out how a change in government (for good or ill) can drastically change how we think about a nation. I mean, you could make up a fictional political group - call them the Blarzes who belive in Blarzism. If the Blarzists took control of, say Canada (or Uganda, China, any old country) then they might turn that nation into a super power, or a super menace, or a super duper place to be.

Honestly I don't know why anybody would say that France was communist. If France is communist, I'm the Pope!

it's ridiculous.

<rant>
Wise cracks like the ones that happened in response to my post only make sense in America where "France" is a dirty word to many, because they were really big meanies who said we shouldn't invade the hell out of Iraq. These are the same people who say we don't need anybody's permission. Well fine then, why are you crying when you don't get the permission you don't need?
</rant>

PattiTheWicked
03-29-2005, 07:48 AM
I can see circumstances where making up a country might work, although I've never needed to do that sort of thing on a global scale. My first ms was set in a small town in Virginia, near Bedford, called Haver Springs. You won't find Haver Springs on a map, but Bedford is real, and anyone who read my ms would be able to take the geography described within and say, "Oh, yeah, that's like such-and-such an area just east of Roanoke!"

Likewise, my WIP is set in the small South Carolina town of Monroe's Folly. It only exists in my imagination, but I send my characters into nearby Charleston a few times and mention a few Actual Landmarks, which makes Monroe's Folly seem all the more real.

SJB
03-29-2005, 08:55 AM
Honestly I don't know why anybody would say that France was communist. If France is communist, I'm the Pope!


Hey, I knew you were being sarky, your Holiness. :)

I'm a Francophile, but agreed with America's decision to stop calling chips "French fries." Trouble is, they should have been renamed "Belgian fries." I wonder if Belgium will ever get recognised for its number one contribution to haute cuisine?

SJB
03-29-2005, 08:58 AM
I can see circumstances where making up a country might work, although I've never needed to do that sort of thing on a global scale. My first ms was set in a small town in Virginia, near Bedford, called Haver Springs. You won't find Haver Springs on a map, but Bedford is real, and anyone who read my ms would be able to take the geography described within and say, "Oh, yeah, that's like such-and-such an area just east of Roanoke!"

Intriguing. Is there an actual expanse of uninhabited land where you put Haver Springs? Or is it built on imaginary land? I'm considering adding another peninsula onto the South Island on NZ...

PattiTheWicked
03-29-2005, 10:27 PM
Intriguing. Is there an actual expanse of uninhabited land where you put Haver Springs? Or is it built on imaginary land? I'm considering adding another peninsula onto the South Island on NZ...

Haver Springs is located somewhere north of Bedford, near the Peaks of Otter, not far off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I actually did have it mapped at one point, on some state park land. The nice thing is that the area is so rural, you could easily stick a small town in there and have it fit perfectly. Even in a place that's more urban, you could invent a new neighborhood in say, New York City, as long as it fit in with the neighborhoods around it.

Although I do like the idea of adding a whole new geographical feature to a country. That's kinda cool.

Ace
03-30-2005, 01:48 AM
As the one who wrote the "wise crack" about France, I would like to point out that it was a joke which seemed destined to be made. I don't really care one way or another. SJB, it's funny how information passes from America to foreign countries. One small government building had changed the menu at their cafeteria to say "freedom fries" instead of french fries, and everyone started joking about it. There was never an American concept of renaming french fries. Mistook, my comment was the sort of thing that would fit in an America where we have free speech and people are allowed to not take things so seriously. Do I believe France is communist? No. It doesn't really matter, does it? I don't care for their law which says that Muslim girls in schools can't wear burqas; but then again, that's more fascist.

Mistook
03-30-2005, 03:51 AM
As the one who wrote the "wise crack" about France, I would like to point out that it was a joke which seemed destined to be made. I don't really care one way or another. SJB, it's funny how information passes from America to foreign countries. One small government building had changed the menu at their cafeteria to say "freedom fries" instead of french fries, and everyone started joking about it. There was never an American concept of renaming french fries. Mistook, my comment was the sort of thing that would fit in an America where we have free speech and people are allowed to not take things so seriously. Do I believe France is communist? No. It doesn't really matter, does it? I don't care for their law which says that Muslim girls in schools can't wear burqas; but then again, that's more fascist.


Duly noted. Last thing I wanna see is a political dog-fight here at the water cooler, 'specially one with me in it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to the Vatican to have some scrambled eggs and liberty-toast. :)