A Question of Setting

In going through the HTTS process, one of the things that Holly says is that the setting of your story should have an impact on the conflicts that you face.  She gives a great example that a story set in New York City is going to be different than a story set somewhere in the Deep South (I don’t recall her exact example.)  The conflicts are different, the characters are different, and the story itself is going to be different. 

Placing a story in a new setting is going to force some very basic changes.  So you shouldn’t write your story as though it takes place outside of a specific time and place.   The Count of Monte Cristo could be placed in the Star Wars universe and it would totally rock, but a lot of things would change.  You could place Romeo and Juliet in Compton or Puerto Rico or Moscow and you’ve got a different story (but probably still great.)

And that’s a bit of my dilemma.

When I originally conceived this story, I was thinking far future and a universe similar to the Honor Harrington universe.  In many ways, my story is similar to HH: a strong female lead taking control and kicking some butt.  Except that my protagonist isn’t the genetically engineered, tree-cat having, blackbelt wearing superwoman that Honor Harrington is and basically just shares HH’s strategic and tactical genius.  But I envisioned the kinds of star spanning empires and tech level to be very similar.

But I have to admit that I’ve got a big hurdle when it comes to hyper-light travel.  I’ve read novels with hyperlight travel my entire life and loved them but from a scientific standpoint, it’s kinda like believing in the tooth fairy.  (I don’t have this sort of problem when thinking about writing novels with magic.  What’s up with that?)

So, part of me is strongly considering downsizing and putting the story into a future where humans are pretty much trapped in our own solar system.  There can still be empires and kingdoms but it starts to get complicated when you have to base them on existing planets, moons, and asteroids.  But the science grows much more believable and reasonable.  It takes time to get from Earth to Venus, maybe weeks or days instead of the months that it takes today at their closest.  An independent kingdom could be a space station.  An empire could be some portions of Mars along with several stations and a strong showing on Titan.  That could be very interesting.

But the book would be much easier if I just get over the magic of hyperlight drives or folded space or jump gates or something that allows us to cross the huge distances between stars quickly.  That way, I don’t have to check all my distances to make sure no one’s going to peg me for a mathematics mistake.


2 Responses to “A Question of Setting”

  1. Ummmm… I’m afraid I have nothing useful to say about the science aspect of space travel. But when it comes to making the decision about how widespread the world of your story is you might want to consider what you require for the story to unfold as you envisage it. If downsizing is going to mean some elements of your story idea won’t work any more, that could be a problem. On the other hand, if downsizing means you can focus far more comfortably on specific locations and have fun with them, then that could be good thing, particularly if it provides an even better backdrop for your story.

    Is (let me just check what the term was again)… hyperlight travel something that’s essential to the story? I don’t know much about it, but I’m wondering if it affects time in someway. Is it different from the perspective of the one travelling and the perspective of someone left behind? Will they have aged differently? Does it matter to the plot?

    And that’s my tuppence worth.

    Maybe what you need to do is write the story you yearn to write while only writing in the elements you believe in and are comfortable with. If hyperlight travel doesn’t sit well with you, it would be difficult to write it into the story in a convincing way.

    Good luck!

  2. Your universe, your rules. A lightyear could take a month, so 10 lightyears takes ten months, in your ship using your engines, whatever they are. You don’t even have to explain the fuel and energy production of the engines if you don’t want to.
    Mainly, we understand speed from the time involved whether in cryo or playing cards and eating while waiting.
    Note, scientists have a fusion machine working now (2009), but it is stationery and sends an earthquake through the surrounding area each time it is fired.

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