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Thread: Advice on plausibility for my setting

  1. #1
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    Advice on plausibility for my setting

    I'm working on a MG fantasy (set in present-day England) and would like some advice on how plausible the setting/backstory is. Preferably, the sort where, if it has some problems, the kind of advice that could offer a way to fix those problems.

    A family called the Westwoods has lived in an old house in an out-of-the-way English town named Attenbury (in the border territory between England and Wales - definitely on the English side of the border, but still not far from Wales) for centuries; they've traditionally been among the leading families in town - and have even been expected to participate in annual events (for example - the case featured in the story - hosting an annual children's party on Twelfth Night - January 5). There's a strong sense (though not made public - even a lot of the townspeople don't know it) that Attenbury is a magnet for strange things (of the "mythical creature" variety) - and that some of the Westwoods' less publicized responsibilities may involve keeping said strange things under control.

    During the 19th century, a younger son in the family emigrated to the United States, where his descendants (though now going by the surname of Briggs - one of the descendants of this younger son evidently only had a daughter, no male offspring) still live. More recently, the senior branch of the family died out, and the family solicitor, tracking down the Briggs family to the States, urges it to move to England and settle in the Westwoods' house (with a feeling of "There must always be Westwoods in the Westwoods' house" - even if the surname's changed). (The solicitor himself - a grim old man named Mr. Saxon, with a military bearing and a prosthetic right hand that he refuses to talk about - is one of the few townspeople who knows much about the town's "mythical magnet" nature, though he hasn't brought the Briggs family in on it yet - he wants to examine them first and see if they're up to handling it.)

    The book opens with the Briggs family moving in, seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Jennifer Briggs (a keen would-be detective), and revolves around Jennifer discovering the weirdness beneath Attenbury's surface - especially after she inadvertently frees a mischief-making shape-shifter and has to re-imprison it or place it under control. (With the added complication that many of the townspeople aren't quite certain on the new residents of the Westwoods' house being Americans - even Americans related to the old family - and the trickster's chaos isn't helping their acceptance.)

    What I want to know is how plausible the set-up (particularly the Briggs family inheriting their British relatives' house and moving there) is, and what work I'll need to do on it to make it believable.

  2. #2
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    Well, 'old families' have tended to 'evolve' over the last few decades, with the dilution of a 'pure line' by non-local family members (or more often through marriage) now more accepted - by the gentry at least.

    Your average 'town folk' don't really tend to have a strong emotional connection to the 'big houses' anymore, unless they're employees (and not even then so much)

    Yes, that's a lot of ' ' in my post.

    ETA (if it were set in the 50's you might have more of an issue re 'Yankee foreigners', so if the MC was an old woman relating a tale of yore...it might work)
    Last edited by Davy The First; 10-19-2017 at 05:09 AM.

  3. #3
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    I think the setting/back story works. If you're worrying about the family in the US inheriting a house in Britain, I imagine you could just specify it was left to the descendants of the Westwoods, and that the most recent descendants were the Briggs? If I were reading it, I believe I would be able to accept the premise fine!

  4. #4
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    I read/read a ton of English-set stories, and the 'Americans inherit property in Jolly Olde England' is a common-enough situation that I wouldn't blink at it.

  5. #5
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    If you really need to create a negative response from the town folk (who as I said, would tend to have no interest in who's in 'the big house' these days) you could withdraw the locals a/ fishing rights, b/ right of way, c/common grazing areas, 4/ have a rock concert in the house

    The first three have tended to be a bone of contention over the years, with old owners turning a blind eye for rights technically held by the house, for the sake of peace and harmony. If the US family were say extreme eco-friendly, and felt the river must be left 'as nature intended (ie full of fish)' or whatever, then, yup, the town folk would definitely take an interest in who's occupying the big house then.

  6. #6
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    Thanks. So the basic situation in the book is possible. (I was mainly concerned with the "American family inheriting the English home" part; the friction between them and the townspeople isn't as central to the story.)

    To add a bit more about the setting and clarify it - I saw the house as being not up to the scale of a big stately home - but large and old enough that it has, for example, a sizable library (the kind where most of the books are the old leather-bound variety). (The library's the setting of a "character-defining moment" for the MC. On her first full day in the house, she enters the library and discovers that the books have been shelved in a random fashion - random, as in Volume Two of a multi-book set is on an entirely different shelf from Volume One - and Volume Three probably on the shelves on the opposite side of the room. She immediately decides to re-organize it properly (it helps that she's done volunteer work at the school library back when she and her family were living in the States) and so starts piling the books up by subject matter, to then re-shelf them. Her parents walk in on her in the middle of it, are initially a bit taken aback by her project, but decide, after she explains it to them, to let her pursue it - if with the request to next time, approach them about it first before she embarks upon something like that.)
    Last edited by t0dd; 10-19-2017 at 06:29 PM.

  7. #7
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    For the sake of creating animosity, the right of way is a good one, building a boundary where there was none before or even building a new modern extension etc to an older house could cause some consternation with townsfolk. They might not have the emotional connection as such but there could definitely be rise to a "flashy modern yanks ruining that lovely old house with their flashy kitchens and solar panel mumbo jumbo".

    THough having said that, developing animosity from previously well recieved characters via that acts of mischief making bogle might be interesting...having good deeds turn sour etc "invite everyone to big barbecue, cue bogle putting chillin in all the food, locals revolt" more good intentions = more chaos.

  8. #8
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I think it makes sense for them to just inherit the house in the normal manner. If it is a money pit like most old estate houses with most of the land sold off, no one is going to be fighting them for it.
    Emily Veinglory

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    Thanks. Again, I don't know yet whether there'll be enough tension between the American family and the townspeople to provide serious conflict for the story (I'm still on the opening chapters); as I mentioned, my concern was more over how believable/possible the American family inheriting the old English house and moving in was, and the comments I got here assured me that it was believable enough that I didn't need to worry about that.

    Icarus's comment does echo the direction that I was going in for the story, in a sense - I planned to have the shape-shifting trickster disrupt just such an event at the house (though it's the Twelfth Night children's party that the Westwoods are expected to host each year - a big tradition that the Briggs family is expected to keep up) as a major moment in the story (though the scene's chief function will be to have the MC recognize from the disruption that the trickster's out there, has to be reined in, and she sets out to do just that).

  10. #10
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    perhaps changing the tone of the 12th night childrens party from traditional to more modern or "americanizing" it might also create tensions.

    any time Someone in our community mentions updating a traditional event or bringing in a new idea the old guard are quick to ire (Scotland, so not too far from England).

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    The initial premise of the American family inheriting the English home is similar to that of The Canterville Ghost (1986 film), and I completely bought that idea as a child.
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    I've heard of "The Canterville Ghost" (at least, the name sounds familiar), but I've never seen it. I ought to look it up.

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    I looked up about "The Canterville Ghost", and was surprised and amused to learn that the daughter in the family has the largest role in helping the ghost (she was a bit older than my lead, though), and that while her name was Virginia in the original story, one of the movie adaptations renamed her "Jennifer" (the name of my MC).

    I wanted a bit more advice about the verisimilitude of the setting, so here's a brief description of what I've established so far about it, and a few questions.

    ATTENBURY is a small town in England, near the Welsh border but definitely on the English side. Its history has mostly been quiet (officially) - the one notable event being a battle in 1643 during the English Civil War, where local Cavalier Sir Francis Westwood drove off a Roundhead force - though he was mortally wounded in the fighting. (The battle of Attenbury Heath was really only skirmish-level, but do not tell the townspeople that.) There's also a legend about a mischief-making shape-shifting trickster called the ATTENBURY KOW, which ran about many years ago, playing all sorts of tricks on people - though by now, it's seen by everyone (or almost everyone) as just a story (as my posts above make clear, the little creature actually existed, and the big event in the story is its return, and resuming its antics).

    The chief landmarks are WESTWOOD HALL (an originally Tudor-era house - with a few changes over the past few hundred years) which stands on a hill at the edge of town, belonging to the Westwoods (who were about as close to "local gentry/the squire" as Attenbury has ever experienced) - and which is now lived in by the just-moved-from-America Briggs family (see my posts above) and WESTWOOD FOREST, a wood at the western edge of town. Westwood Forest has an atmosphere almost evocative of one of those old fairy-tale forests, almost as if, as its boundaries shrank (you could probably walk from one end to the other in just a couple of hours), its "old forest" essence concentrated. Nobody goes far into it nowadays except a local boy named SIMON (a solitary lad with an artistic bent, who likes sketching the trees) and the Westwood family's solicitor, MR. SAXON, a grim fellow with a prosthetic right hand (he refuses to talk about how he lost the original hand) and a military bearing (suggesting that he'd been an Army officer earlier in his life, but he won't talk about that either, and certainly will not either confirm or deny those rumors about his past).

    There are a few other things I've already decided on, but don't bring up here because they don't play a major role in the story (I'm writing it as "complete in itself, but with series potential", and those elements are for possible sequels, so they're placed in the background in a "You won't notice them until/unless other books in the series come out" - kind of like that mention of Hagrid borrowing the flying motorcycle from Sirius Black in the first Harry Potter book).

    A few questions I had were:

    1. Would a small town in England like this one be likely to have its own newspaper? (I began wondering it when one of the major incidents in the early part of the book was an unusual weather event - I found myself thinking when writing about it, and the townspeople's response to it, that it would be almost certainly front-page news - and then wondered if it would have a local newspaper with a front page to cover the weather event.)

    2. Approximately how many children in the 10-12 age group would it be likely to have? (This comes up because another major event in the book is a Twelfth Night children's party held at the Hall; the MC and her brother are both eleven, so I wondered how many children around their age would be likely to be at it - I know that Simon's around that age. There might also be one or two school scenes, so I'd like some idea as to the size of their class.)

    These are the only questions that come to mind at present, though there might be one or two more as I continue to write it.
    Last edited by t0dd; 10-31-2017 at 05:25 AM.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    I find it extremely implausible that no-one would go in the forest. My family's very outdoorsy and would make a beeline for that forest. A small wood/forest will be full of people walking dogs and kids riding bikes and stuff. There are much more sparse countryside places, but you're talking about a forest you could walk through in a couple of hours. Even if the village is very small, people from nearby towns will go there for a break from urban life. Tales about monsters and spooky events will probably make people more likely to go there.

    It's really hard to answer the questions without a better idea of population/settlement size. However some things come to mind:

    The class size for state schools in the UK is around 30 (more if there's a shortage of school places, as is the case for most of the country). A small primary school will have just one class in each year group - that's reception (like kindergarten, but the kids are a year younger) through to year 6 (one year younger than grade 6 in the USA). A large primary school may have 2 or 3 in each year group, but smaller primary schools are more common. Secondary schools (year 7-11 or 13) tend to be bigger, with usually around 4-8 classes in each year group. Villages won't usually have a secondary school and children will travel to nearby towns to go to school.

    As your MC is 11, whether she's in year 6 or year 7 (therefore at primary or secondary school) would depend when her birthday is. If she turned 11 before Sept 1st and the story's set in Autumn/winter (12th night an all that) she'd be in year 7, but if her birthday's Sept 1st or later she'll be in year 6.

    If a village is not big enough to have its own primary school, kids will go to school nearby. Note: if it's that small, it won't be a town, it'll be a village. Even if there's no school in the village and/or she's at secondary school, she will have classmates from nearby towns and villages that can go to the party. The UK is very compact and there aren't many places that are so remote that kids will only know other kids from the same village. There are some remote islands in Scotland that might have difficulty having a normal sized school, but anywhere else kids would have plenty of friends to go to their parties, even if the parents have to drive their kids in from other villages and/or the nearest town.

    A village wouldn't have its own newspaper (a really big village might, but I can't think of any examples off the top of my head), but it may have a parish newsletter, printed at home and hand delivered. A town usually would either have its own newspaper, or the newspaper of a bigger town nearby would cover both towns. Local papers often cover a particular area - could be a town and surrounding villages or could be an entire county. It varies a lot. The best option for your story would be that the local paper of the county or a nearby biggish town would cover the village, so events in the village would get on front page news. The local paper where I live report all traffic accident fatalities (and a few non-fatal ones, if they cause significant damage or disruption) in the area, and most crimes. It's not hard for events to get on the front page of the local paper. If the weather event is that freaky weird it would probably also get a mention in the national press, particularly the Sun or the Mirror. But yeah, front page of local paper would be very plausible, albeit that it's not plausible that a normal-sized village would have its own paper.

    The definition of town v. village isn't based on size, though villages are usually much smaller. A village has a church. A settlement without a church is called a hamlet. Villages will also usually also have a corner shop (small grocery store) and post office and a primary school. If it has a market it's a town (though some towns may no longer run a traditional market.. can't think of any that don't though). Not sure if there are any USA/UK linguistic differences in "market" but it means an event where you have stallholders that set up temporarily, usually once a week (can be more or less often) to sell their produce, including farm produce, clothes, crafted items etc. Towns usually have squares (or similar) where the market stalls set up. Cities are another category altogether - but they're very large and your place definitely isn't a city.

    It is really important to get it right with regards to whether your place is a town or a village. If you're calling it a "small town" when it's really a village, it'll jar a lot. And "town-folk" - that sounds American... might be okay in the narration of the story if your MC's American, but villagers won't appreciated as being called "town-folk" - in rural areas there can be a kind of rivalry between villagers and "townies".

    It doesn't strike me as plausible that random Americans would inherit an actual stately home. A mansion maybe. If someone inherits a stately home they would have aristocratic/upper class status and be totally aware of possibly inheriting such a large estate. And the upper classes, if they only have daughters and no sons, they make double barrel surnames to keep the family name alive. Granted that someone can renounce their upper class status but they'd also renounce their inheritance at the same time. If it's a mansion, then that's different. Having said all that, it probably doesn't matter that much for a children's story, as you have more leeway for weird and wonderful things happening, but you're probably safer calling it a mansion rather than a stately home.

    Note: I'm working class so could very well be wrong about the upper classes, but it still doesn't strike me as plausible and think you'd be safer calling it a mansion.

    Another thing... Twelfth Night isn't really a thing over here. Most people are back at work/school after the Christmas holidays and the only significant thing about the day is taking Christmas decorations down. Some Christians will celebrate Christmas day on 6th Dec but they'd be a small minority. That's not to say your characters can't do a 12th night party, especially if they're American and it's a thing in America (maybe it is? I'm guessing...) but English parents might be a bit surprised by someone having a party 2-3 days after the start of the school term. Maybe if you don't want lots of kids at the party, some parents wouldn't let their kids go to a party on a school night.
    Last edited by neandermagnon; 11-01-2017 at 02:01 AM.
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    Thanks for your comments.

    1. I did imagine people visiting the fringes of the wood for various reasons (anything from simple strolls to a "nature hike" as part of science class), but not going into its depths - since I saw the wood as having some sort of "magical" quality, I could assume that most people are subtly influenced so that they simply never see any reason to go far into it. (Although I remembered, in the course of writing this paragraph, that I'd already made a large old oak tree in the heart of the forest a part of local folklore, so the "people seldom go in there" could be discarded. Fortunately, it wasn't vital to the story.)

    2. I'm not certain as yet as to the population size. I saw the town as small enough that everyone knows everyone else and you can walk from one end to the other easily, but large enough to have such features as a library, a church, a school, etc. I did want the MC's school to be in the town, rather than in a neighboring place. (I saw her birthday as being in late August, so that would make her Year Seven,)

    3. Thanks for your comments on inheriting the house (the first I've seen to raise questions about the plausibility; the other posters here thought that the situation, which I described in the beginning post, seemed possible). I see it as more a "mansion" than a "stately home", fortunately.

    4. Pity about the Twelfth Night party turning out implausible. (It's not prominent here in the States, either.) It might not be that crucial to the story (I've been rethinking parts of the plot since my last post), so I might be able to do without it. I did see it as an annual event in the town (which I imagined as conservative enough that old customs would be still flourishing), and part of expectations that the townspeople have towards the family in the Hall, but if that turns out to be unrealistic (as you stated), I'll see about removing it.

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by t0dd View Post
    Thanks for your comments.

    1. I did imagine people visiting the fringes of the wood for various reasons (anything from simple strolls to a "nature hike" as part of science class), but not going into its depths - since I saw the wood as having some sort of "magical" quality, I could assume that most people are subtly influenced so that they simply never see any reason to go far into it. (Although I remembered, in the course of writing this paragraph, that I'd already made a large old oak tree in the heart of the forest a part of local folklore, so the "people seldom go in there" could be discarded. Fortunately, it wasn't vital to the story.)
    With a magical explanation and all the dog walkers, people who enjoy the countryside, etc, could all stay away from the centre through whatever mystical forces etc. That sort of thing's okay with an explanation.

    Sherwood Forest has a famous oak tree at the centre of it - allegedly the very tree that Robin Hood hid out in. I like the idea of a particular tree being part of folklore.

    2. I'm not certain as yet as to the population size. I saw the town as small enough that everyone knows everyone else and you can walk from one end to the other easily, but large enough to have such features as a library, a church, a school, etc. I did want the MC's school to be in the town, rather than in a neighboring place. (I saw her birthday as being in late August, so that would make her Year Seven,)
    IMO you'd best make it a village. If it's big enough to have a secondary school, then it's not that plausible that everyone knows everyone else. Bear in mind that places are all close together in the UK so she won't have to travel all that far, and it's likely that the school will run school buses to/from the various villages around the town so children can get to school. It wouldn't feel like she's travelling that far away. And she'd be on a bus with other children from the same village (in case there are story reasons why she needs to be friends specifically with other children from the village).

    Or you could change her birthday and she'd be in year 6 at the village primary.

    Have you seen the Vicar of Dibley? (BBC comedy) It's about a woman vicar in a fairly conservative village. It's a comedy but it does show village life. Just populate your village with normal people rather than comedy ones

    3. Thanks for your comments on inheriting the house (the first I've seen to raise questions about the plausibility; the other posters here thought that the situation, which I described in the beginning post, seemed possible). I see it as more a "mansion" than a "stately home", fortunately.
    Stately homes are huge, almost like palaces, and they come with huge amounts of land and are/were the homes of aristocrats. You can visit them as many of them are now owned by charitable organisations like the National Trust and English Heritage. Thing is, there's some dispute about the meaning of "stately home" and it does get used interchangeably with "mansion" a lot, but they're not the same thing at all.

    There's a lovely children's story - Moondial by Helen Cresswell - that's set in a stately home, but the MC doesn't live there, she goes to stay with her aunt when her mum's severely injured in a car accident. Her aunt lives in a cottage that was originally part of the stately home grounds and works for the charity that owns the stately home, being one of the staff members responsible for looking after it. This means the MC can go there and play, explore etc. It's a ghost story (the ghosts in it are friendly) focusing on the history of the stately home.

    4. Pity about the Twelfth Night party turning out implausible. (It's not prominent here in the States, either.) It might not be that crucial to the story (I've been rethinking parts of the plot since my last post), so I might be able to do without it. I did see it as an annual event in the town (which I imagined as conservative enough that old customs would be still flourishing), and part of expectations that the townspeople have towards the family in the Hall, but if that turns out to be unrealistic (as you stated), I'll see about removing it.
    Some plausible traditional annual events in English villages:

    the harvest festival - these are usually run by churches, usually in October when the harvest is taking place. In the past the farmers would give thanks for the harvest. Nowadays, while the focus is still on giving thanks for the harvest (whether or not any harvesting is actually taking place in the village) it's a lot more common for local people, especially school children, to bring food in to school and/or church to be donated to food banks (i.e. food for poor people). Generally it's a church service and people who don't go to church and are not schoolchildren don't get involved much.

    May day - technically speaking, this is a pagan (pre-Christian) festival, but it's still celebrated and the mainstream church denominations (e.g. Church of England) aren't bothered by the pagan origin of the festival. You'll have a maypole (and maypole dancers) and a fete on the village green. A fete is a bit like a market, but not with professional stall holders. Local organisations, e.g. brownie guides, cub scouts, the local school, etc will run stalls with things like home made cakes. Any of these local organisations could be running the whole fete. There may be competitions, e.g. best locally grown veg, or art competitions for children. I've even seen dog shows being run at village fetes. Local people organise the different parts of the events, so it can vary a lot.

    Summer fete - like May Day, but without the maypole. Maypoles are only for May Day. Everything else about the fete is likely to be the same. Can be done any time in summer, but mid July is the most popular time, because many of them are run by schools, and schools break up for summer in mid July so there's less focus on academic work and kids will get involved in organising the fete, including helping out on stalls and/or making stuff for stalls. If it is run by a school, it won't be run after the last day of term. Most likely would be one of the last few Saturday afternoons before the end of term.

    Guy Fawkes night/fireworks night - 5th November (or the nearest Saturday to it) - this is a big deal in a lot of places. You have a huge bonfire, burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes and have lots of fireworks. There's usually a few stalls selling things as well. These days there's more focus on fireworks and most places will spend money on a decent fireworks display. Nowadays, there may or may not be a bonfire and if there is a bonfire, there may or may not be a Guy to burn. There's one town where people make huge effigies of current politicans and burn them instead of a guy. Famously, they had a huge naked effigy of David Cameron with a pig (due to the David Cameron pig scandal) a few years back. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Donald Trump gets a huge effigy made of him this year (only a few days away!) Attitudes to burning effigies of Guy Fawkes and/or various other people varies, but there will be fireworks.

    There can be all kinds of other events, but they wouldn't be considered traditional.

    No-one would really care much if a new family in the village attend these events or not, though if your MC's at school, the kids will be excited about Guy Fawkes night and all your MC's friends will be going so she'll want to go too.
    Last edited by neandermagnon; 11-01-2017 at 11:48 AM.
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    On Sherwood Forest: is that the Major Oak? Funny you mentioned it, since in the latest draft (broken off; I'd run into some troubles and decided I needed to pause for a while and think things out) I had one of the characters mention that the townspeople consider the oak to be older than Sherwood Forest's Major Oak (though with the possibility that they're biased).

    I'd chosen Twelfth Night largely because I'd wanted a "January to December" cycle for the story (originally I'd imagined it as twelve short stories in one book, each story set in a different month, but connected with the same MC and setting; now I'm thinking of having it a short book set in January but with "series potential"), and Twelfth Night seemed to fit January. Now I'll have to rethink that. (I might end up abandoning the "calendar cycle" aspect of the story.)

    Thanks for the advice on other English holidays. I'd thought of doing May Day when I got to that part of the year. (One image that I'd had running through my head was for the MC to get chosen "Queen of the May" - I wasn't certain about that, since she's eleven, which seems a bit young for it - but I had seen her as being far more interested in investigating various "weird and fantastic" events going on beneath the surface of the town than in being at the center of a local festival, and saying at one point in complete exasperation, after her attempts to get out of it have failed, "I'm to be Queen of the May, mother, I'm to be Queen of the May!" - based on a line in a Tennyson poem, but recast from enthusiasm to frustration. Though since, as I mentioned above, it could turn into one of those scenes I'd have to drop as too implausible.)

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    New Westminster, B.C. has celebrated it's British roots with a May Day celebration (complete with Queen and court) for 147 years. As I recall, an elementary school girl is chosen to be Queen, half-a-dozen girls from the other schools are named to positions in her 'court'. (And a boy is chosen to be each girl's 'knight'. They seldom look honoured to be chosen.)
    If you wanted to have the May Day as part of the story, but not have your MC as the May Queen, maybe have her appointed to a 'lesser' position? Her mother is all sympathetic at the 'loss', but the MC is pleased to not be in the spotlight.
    Last edited by frimble3; 11-02-2017 at 11:58 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by frimble3 View Post
    If you wanted to have the May Day as part of the story, but not have your MC as the May Queen, maybe have her appointed to a 'lesser' position? Her mother is all sympathetic at the 'loss', but the MC is pleased to not be in the spotlight.
    Thanks. Actually, I don't want to have the MC *not* be the May Queen - it's she who's protesting it. But that event was far enough away in my story that I hadn't seriously worked out how vital it was for the story that she be the May Queen.

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    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    It doesn't strike me as plausible that someone would get chosen to be May Queen against their will. Usually (like in most villages/areas that do this stuff) they will ask for young women to put themselves forward and will choose from them. 11 seems very young. Usually she'd be in her mid to late teens or something, at least in my experience. Bear in mind that this is a pagan fertility rite... the May Queen is traditionally a young woman, not a little girl.

    If it was being run by a school (or an organisation like the Brownie Guides or similar) for the children to have the experience and learn about English culture then a younger May Queen would be more plausible but even then they would select all the various roles from volunteers, especially if they're going to be appearing at a public event. People don't force kids to do public appearances.

    The festival described by frimble seems a lot more formal compared to how these things are done over here. Maybe because they're holding on to English roots while over here people are more relaxed about it? Most people wouldn't see it as that big a deal. It has more importance for Wiccans and other pagans, though they usually call it Beltane rather than May Day and AFAIK their traditions are quite different to the May Day traditions you'd get at villages fetes and stuff.

    If there are plot reasons that she has to be a May Queen against her will, maybe her school is running the event and they ask for volunteers and she puts her name forward for a dare or something, or other children rope her into it, and she doesn't think much of it because she thinks she won't get chosen... then she does. Though also you'd need a reason why she doesn't just step down and let another girl do it... it's not like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and a binding magical contract.

    I totally love the idea of your villagers considering their oak to be older than the Sherwood Forest one. I don't know the official name of the Sherwood Forest oak. In my family we've always just called it the big oak in Sherwood Forest because everyone knows which one you mean. But it's very realistic that a village would think that their special thing is better than every other places's special thing.
    Last edited by neandermagnon; 11-02-2017 at 11:18 PM.
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    Thanks for the comments. The May Queen business was just something I'd been considering, not vital to the story, so I don't have any problems dropping it.

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    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neandermagnon View Post

    The festival described by frimble seems a lot more formal compared to how these things are done over here. Maybe because they're holding on to English roots while over here people are more relaxed about it? Most people wouldn't see it as that big a deal.
    Oh, I think that's a big part of it. If it's your own tradition, it lives (or dies out) naturally. Little tweaks are made, adjustments, etc.
    But, if the point is to memorialize a tradition from another place and time, then every little change will be fussed over and argued about, in a forlorn effort at 'accuracy'.

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    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frimble3 View Post
    Oh, I think that's a big part of it. If it's your own tradition, it lives (or dies out) naturally. Little tweaks are made, adjustments, etc.
    But, if the point is to memorialize a tradition from another place and time, then every little change will be fussed over and argued about, in a forlorn effort at 'accuracy'.
    Yeah I think you're exactly right about that.

    Traditions evolve. For example we have Guy Fawkes this weekend and I was thinking that if it weren't for the distance, I'd go to Lewes and watch them burn giant effigies. So while most places in the UK, Guy Fawkes festivities have kind of evolved away from burning effigies and focused much more on fireworks and some places don't have a bonfire at all, in Lewes, it's gone completely in the other direction. They have fireworks too, but it's their giant effigies that are centre stage. And it's catching on... I read in the papers that a giant effigy of Harvey Weinstein is due to be burned in a town in Kent.
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    Could you create something specific to your village? There's a lot of info available on local traditions in the UK -- the Furry Dance, the 'Obby 'Oss, Jack-in-the-Green (all associated with May) and a load of others.


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    I've been rethinking the story, and have been moving away from the "annual village festival" element. Originally, one of the major elements was to be a "year's round" concept, as I mentioned above (a short story for each month of the year), and annual events like Twelfth Night and May Day seemed natural for it. But since then (helped in part by the discussions here), I've been seriously considering dropping that element, to put more emphasis on the MC and her doings, cutting out the "year's cycle" element.

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