So, too, is much of the work of a writer. Too little detail leaves your characters wandering through the narrative equivalent of an empty stage.
They can certainly find compelling plots and characters in mainstream fiction. There are more books from which to choose, from classics to potboilers, and no lack of adventure, romance, suspense, and conflict.
And most literary critics would contend that in the best mainstream fiction one encounters superior writing and greater emotional and ideational depth than in the best science fiction.
Yet science fiction offers one distinctive and significant element that is lacking in mainstream fiction: The reason many readers choose science fiction over mainstream is because they want to leave the cares and concerns of everyday reality behind and be transported to a completely different world.
Further, an imaginary setting is not only essential to the definition of most science fiction, it generally plays a far more important role in it and a qualitatively different one than it does in mainstream fiction.
In science fiction, setting is less a backdrop for action and characterization and more a key element that is intimately related to plot, character, and the story as a whole. In fact, one might argue that story elements such as plot and character are far less relevant to the success of a science fiction story than its setting.
In both these books, the conflicts the characters face and the direction the plot takes hinge completely on the environments the authors have created. Logan must embark upon a journey of discovery beyond his cloistered environment so that he will not be terminated at the age of twenty-one thirty in the movie.
The ideas that resonate through these novels would have been impossible to communicate without the settings their authors created. Both of these novels and many others in the speculative genre, with regard to their thematic content, can be viewed in terms of a dialectic.
The setting presents the thesis; certain characters offer an antithesis; the resolution of the plot leads to a new thesis which often manifests itself as a changed environment.
Unlike most mainstream fiction, where the environment is not only a real setting but a relatively static one, the environments of speculative fiction are both imaginary and capable of transformation. Even in science fiction stories where the overall setting remains unchanged, such as novels involving a journey or quest, it is often setting -- not plot -- that moves the narrative forward.
The resolution of plot in such novels, in the broadest sense, is a foregone conclusion. Good will triumph over evil; the journey will be successful; the quest will be completed.
What keeps the reader involved and anticipating more are the particulars of the fascinating environments through which the protagonists pass and the adventures they experience as a result of exploring those environments.
Framing a Speculative Setting One way to approach setting in science fiction as a writer is to view its creation in the same way you would the creation of a character. And just as a character might evolve and change as your story progresses, so can your environment.
Mainstream versus Speculative Settings When it comes to creating a setting, the mainstream writer has certain advantages over the writer of speculative fiction. Suppose my mainstream novel deals with a character who becomes successful in the fashion industry.
The action begins in small-town Kansas, moves to Manhattan, and then to Paris. Contemporary readers are already familiar with each of these settings, and with the fashion industry, either from personal experience or the media movies, television, books, the Internet.
The mainstream writer can bring them alive with a few deft strokes that play on this familiarity. Most readers will know them already. Just mentioning the Eiffel Tower, and noting that the streets of Paris were jammed with honking traffic that rainy afternoon, will evoke a very specific setting.
This advantage extends beyond specific environments such as Manhattan or Paris to all the general settings of contemporary life. Flying in an airplane, riding in a taxi, sitting in a classroom, buying a hot dog from a sidewalk vendor.
Each of these phrases calls up associations for us that we share in common to a large extent.
The action takes place in a city built by aliens. I have two characters meet at the foot of the Centauri Monument.
The planet Tarjel and the Centauri Monument evoke nothing in themselves, except perhaps a vague sense of the alien. Thus in certain kinds of science fiction, you need to build your world from the ground up.
If the setting of your story is different enough from what we experience in everyday life, this may need to include the political, cultural, and religious values of the world you are creating.
However, you are not the first science fiction writer. You are working in a tradition. If your readers are also familiar with this tradition, which most of them will be, you share some of the advantages of a mainstream author.
None of us has ever walked on the surface of another planet, but through television, movies, and books, we have done so many times. If your story is set on the surface of the moon or Mars, even those who do not normally read science fiction will already have a readymade image of the setting in their minds.Fiction Writing Exercises: Place and Time.
There are two sides to setting: place and time. If you’re writing a contemporary novel, the time in which your story is set is relatively straightforward. 25 different Sci-Fi Settings by Guest Sep 25, 11 Posted in Writing Advice Writing and Publishing We recently received this list of science fiction story settings from Venezuelan writer Vladmir Vasquez.
Learn how to establish a scene and use different locations in a story with our Settings resources for Key Stage 2 English students. Including story setting checklists, setting description word cards, inspirational display posters and story setting PowerPoints.
KS2 Creative Writing Story Starters: Science . A worksheet I put together for my class when we were writing a science fiction setting. The worksheet has lots of wonderfully strange made up names for places, areas, zones and planets and some good vocabulary to describe the settings.
Setting. The setting is the place and time your story is 'set'. Letting your readers know where and when your story is set will help bring the story to life. Learn how to establish a scene and use different locations in a story with our Settings resources for Key Stage 2 English students.
Including story setting checklists, setting description word cards, inspirational display posters and story setting PowerPoints.