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Thread: Fantasy world vs. real world?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin PlasticSmoothie's Avatar
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    Fantasy world vs. real world?

    Okay, I have a feeling that there is some really obvious answer to this, hence why I'm posting it here:
    My current project is a detective novel containing fantasy elements, no problem with that, however I find it to get extremely difficult to write because I set my story in a country I've never been to, simply because I want to write it in English and it'd feel weird to have an English novel set in a country where English isn't the native language.
    So now I'm considering to use the paranomal elements as an excuse to build a fantasy world, but I don't know if that would simply be silly. I don't plan on adding any magic, fantasy creatures or races. In fact, my fantasy world would be much alike the real one, following the same kinds of rules for physics as our own.
    I really like the idea of the freedom to create societies that really add to the already-existing conflict by simply having laws, governments and social customs that are a big bother to my characters, but I simply don't know if a non-magical fantasy world would feel unnecessary and silly to a reader.
    Please help? =) Would it really just be better to show it to a lot of people who are living in the country my novel is set in for feedback?
    THanks!

  2. #2
    Caped Codder jaksen's Avatar
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    Yes, to your final question...

    Quote Originally Posted by PlasticSmoothie View Post
    Would it really just be better to show it to a lot of people who are living in the country my novel is set in for feedback?
    THanks!
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  3. #3
    very srs artist Hapax Legomenon's Avatar
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    You don't have to set your novel in an English-speaking country for the novel to be in English. A lot of people make their works in English simply to reach a wider audience even if the work is set somewhere non-English-speaking.

    Just because it "feels weird" to you doesn't mean anyone would bat an eye at it, should you decide to go that route.
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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Victoria's Avatar
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    Maybe not a fantasy world so much becuase that implies magic, but more of a parallel world perhaps. You can create your own Earth, your own America, or whatever, and build any type of government and society that you wish. I think it would be obvious to the reader that this is not reality as we know it. And I agree with Haphazard. You don't have to place your story in an English-speaking country just to write it in English.

  5. #5
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    There's nothing wrong with inventing a place either, if you like that better. It doesn't have to be full of elves or whatnot. There are lots of stories set in invented places that are pretty much like real ones except they aren't on the map.

    I feel for you trying to write about somewhere you've never been. I think it can be done, but it's difficult and I have similar problems.
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  6. #6
    That hairy-handed gent
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    The only applicable rule that I can see is that a fictional world has to make more sense than the real world does.

  7. #7
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    It's your call. (and I agree you don't have to set it in an English-speaking world to write in English)


    Realize, however, that if you make up a world, you will have to do world building, which you may not have to do with real-world settings. With the freedom comes the responsibility of getting your readers acquainted with your world -- the rules, the government, the politics, the culture, etc.

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  8. #8
    New kid, critique harshly! Rhubix's Avatar
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    I think if the country isn't relevant to the plot just don't need to bring it up.
    If I read the novel was located in Fakeville- a bustling metropolis with 5 million people I'll just fill in what ever I want around it.
    If you never bring up the Prime Minister / President / king etc, describe flags, or structures exclusive to a particular country it could be anywhere.

    Just keep your word within the city and surrounding area. You never need to zoom out beyond that.
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  9. #9
    Very Necessary serabeara's Avatar
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    I've read alternate history settings where there was no magic involved. Worldbuilding isn't easy, though. I never seem to learn that lesson myself...

    ETA: I've also read plenty of books set in foreign countries that were completely in English, and it never seemed awkward to me.


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  10. #10
    Soldier, Storyteller Linda Adams's Avatar
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    If it's set in England, yes, you probably should show people to make sure you got the details right. It's going to stand out if you goof up something simple that everyone who has visited there knows.

    On the other hand, you can make up your own place and make it like a real place but make changes to suit your story. Mine is a fictional country on a series of islands. I used Hawaii as the basis to draw from but added my own material. That way, I don't have to reinvent the wheel.
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  11. #11
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PlasticSmoothie View Post
    Okay, I have a feeling that there is some really obvious answer to this, hence why I'm posting it here:
    My current project is a detective novel containing fantasy elements, no problem with that, however I find it to get extremely difficult to write because I set my story in a country I've never been to, simply because I want to write it in English and it'd feel weird to have an English novel set in a country where English isn't the native language.
    So now I'm considering to use the paranomal elements as an excuse to build a fantasy world, but I don't know if that would simply be silly. I don't plan on adding any magic, fantasy creatures or races. In fact, my fantasy world would be much alike the real one, following the same kinds of rules for physics as our own.
    I really like the idea of the freedom to create societies that really add to the already-existing conflict by simply having laws, governments and social customs that are a big bother to my characters, but I simply don't know if a non-magical fantasy world would feel unnecessary and silly to a reader.
    Please help? =) Would it really just be better to show it to a lot of people who are living in the country my novel is set in for feedback?
    THanks!

    I think the idea you need to retreat into fantasy to tell the story is silly--the fantastic elements should be fantastic, but for the rest, do you have any clue how many books were written in English about Egyptian love affairs, German military officers, Roman courtesians, Rennaissance Florentines, (or the lovers of "fair Verona" in Shakespeare) etc.? None of those folks spoke English in real life......
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  12. #12
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Scandinavian crime novels are doing rather well in the UK at the moment!
    One thing to consider is that if you set your story in a fantasy world then you (or your agent) will be restricted to sending it to fantasy editors as crime editors will take a lot of convincing to look at it; there are rather more crime publishers than fantasy publishers.
    I would set the story somewhere you are familiar with, write a compelling story and not worry too much about the setting. It worked for Stieg Larssen

  13. #13
    Mexican on the loose! DamaNegra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhubix View Post
    I think if the country isn't relevant to the plot just don't need to bring it up.
    I'm with Rhubix. If location isn't a big part of your story, then you don't even have to include it. You don't even have to name the city.

    On the other hand, the location of the novel has absolutely nothing to do with the language it's written in. I've read novels written in Spanish that take place in France, novels written in French that take place in China, novels written in English that take place in India... so on and so forth. The language you're writing in does not afect the location your novel is set in, it affects the market you can sell it to. Sometimes, an exotic locale is great with the readers, because it adds an extra layer of fascination to the text.
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  14. #14
    Testing the waters V_writes's Avatar
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    I think I know what you mean about feeling weird when you set your English novel in a non-English speaking country. It's one thing to have an English character visiting that country, and another to have a character who is presumably speaking French (or whatever) written in English. The idiom would be all wrong, etc.

    That said, it has been done very successfully before and I think once you get over your feeling of weirdness about it, you'll find that a non-English speaking setting might lend another level of richness to your story. The same goes for creating your own semi-fantasy world. One of the great joys of writing (in my opinion) is the freedom to create your own little world and play god. Whatever you decide, the important thing is really believe in it yourself. If you don't, how can you expect the reader to?

  15. #15
    Real Men Have Gills OpheliaRevived's Avatar
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    My opinion will be as a reader. (As a writer who will never write a full fledged fantasy novel, my brain is screaming: "Nooo! Don't do it!")

    *deep breath*

    I love it when the setting of a novel does justice to a plot and isn't just incidental. All of the greatest books make the setting an important part of the reading experience. After all, there's reason that your story takes place when and where it does, right? In the end, you'll have to decide. If the setting is causing plot issues, you should reconsider both your plot and your setting.

    This happened to me with a wip, Korsikov. I'll rewrite this some day soon and the setting will be totally different. Changing the location of the action will change many chapters / character motivations / etc. You may discover you're writing a totally different story than you set out to write. This has happened to me too. LOL I suppose we could avoid this if we'd outline.
    Last edited by OpheliaRevived; 04-01-2011 at 07:43 PM.
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  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW AdamR85's Avatar
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    So it's sort of a parallel world, identical to our own but with fantastical elements that make it feel like everything's been moved two feet to the left? Like Pullman's Oxford?

    Why not just make your alternative world one in which English is spoken in that country?

  17. #17
    Action is my reward..that and bacon MttStrn's Avatar
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    I agree with those people who are saying you can set it where you want and just have them speak English. Just because they are speaking in English in your book doesn't mean they have to be speaking English in the reality of your book if you know what I mean. It's like when books are translated into English from another language like Steig Larson's stuff or the Nightwatch books. The books are English on the page but it is understood that they are speaking their native language in the reality of your books. This works even in books not translated, like Burdett's Bangkok series.

    Just my opinion of course but I think why world if you don't have to.

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW ConChron's Avatar
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    Is the mention of what country you're in crucial to the plot? If not then simply skip the country part and go with your imagination. You can easily create fictive places, laws and people without placing them in a specific country. This will give you a lot of freedom to do whatever you want.

    If the country is part of the plot then you can use key elements from culture, nature and so on and then create a fictive place within that country. Many writers does this, authentic settings + fictive places and people.


    Quote Originally Posted by PlasticSmoothie View Post
    I want to write it in English and it'd feel weird to have an English novel set in a country where English isn't the native language.
    I know the feeling. This far I've never written about "typical" Swedish settings when writing in English. It's something that the English speaking probably never think of since they read "country typical" books that has been translated into English. However, it's different when you usually read such books in the language of the area. The language somehow becomes part of the setting and it's a bit tricky to picture it in English.
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  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW bonitakale's Avatar
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    Well, Donna Leon writes in English about a Venetian cop, and Barbara Nadel writes about a Turkish one. They are both very familiar with the country the stories are set in.

  20. #20
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin PlasticSmoothie's Avatar
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    THat's so helpful, thanks everyone! Now I'm just considering making a place up withn the real world or just do a parallel world(Which, I admit, will get to be more of a question about how lazy I am than sillyness). Placing it in a foreign country still feels too weird for me to do, though. I always read a novel in its original language if I can and I've only read 2-3 translated books in my life. That might be why it feels so weird to me.
    The only applicable rule that I can see is that a fictional world has to make more sense than the real world does.
    THat just made it into my mental book of quotes to remember, because that's so true indeed, hah =)

    So it's sort of a parallel world, identical to our own but with fantastical elements that make it feel like everything's been moved two feet to the left? Like Pullman's Oxford?
    I guess, yeah. Hadn't really thought of that connection, but that pretty much sums what I'm considering to do up. Thanks =)

    I know the feeling. This far I've never written about "typical" Swedish settings when writing in English. It's something that the English speaking probably never think of since they read "country typical" books that has been translated into English. However, it's different when you usually read such books in the language of the area. The language somehow becomes part of the setting and it's a bit tricky to picture it in English.
    True. I've always stayed off translated books because seeing the phrase: 'Don't you speak...' and then some language the novel's not in bugs my eyes. (I do feel lonely when people here are talking about Harry Potter, being the only one who never read them in Danish. I never know who they're talking about because some of the names were changed!)
    Last edited by PlasticSmoothie; 04-03-2011 at 12:25 AM.

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