Lately, I’ve been having thoughts on creating a setting for a story. Thought I should share.
The story I’m working on at the moment was my first finished story written in English. Alas, it was a fan fiction story and I could never publish it.
Or could I? The only thing I truly borrowed was the setting because I’m so terrible with creating settings of my own. So if I could replace the setting with another, original, and replace a few names, it could be my story after all. I could publish it.
The first step was ripping the story out of its borrowed setting and try to fit it with the setting I’ve been developing for years. It was a painful process. I had to discard so many bits and pieces that belonged to the borrowed setting. So many little things that gave the story that special something. And after it was torn out by the root and plucked into the new setting, I realized it didn’t fit. The setting and the story were too different to work together.
What I did was turn the clock forward a few thousand years and thus modified my new setting so that it could accept the story. And it worked because I adapted the setting to the story, not simply dump it in there, hoping for the impossible. With more time and effort, the new setting had grown around the story, accepting it as its own, both becoming dependant of the other.
Strange that I’m using a planting metaphor, because I’ve never been one for flower arranging. But yes, a setting of a book is very much like a plant, growing around a piece of architecture that is the story.
There’s two ways of forming the decor. You can either place the pots with the plants neatly around it, creating a pleasant but dull scenery. But that setting is weak. A strong setting is like an ivy plant, winding its way around the entire house, a house that is the story. A weak setting can easily be picked away from the story, just like you can easily remove a few pot flowers, leaving the architecture barren. But can you remove the ivy plant that has grown around the house? You can’t, not unless you tear out half the bricks in the building.
I always thought a setting is like a backdrop in a drama play. I thought the story can work without the setting. I was wrong. It would be like trying to strip a living body of its veins. But that’s another metaphor…