Good morning, all! I trust everyone is feeling chipper and regret-free after National Singles Day? Good! We hosted a double birthday party for two of the grandkids last night, so I’m not getting anywhere near a scale until at least Sunday.
So, today I’m going to look at settings, the reasons that they come about, and the uses they can be put to. Many, maybe most, indies don’t understand the importance of the where and when that they place their stories. They seem to feel that with a few words about weather and the surroundings to establish the location, they can then launch into their story without paying it any further mind. And it’s largely true, you can do that, but every time you do, you are squandering a priceless opportunity to enrich your story. Setting can be used to challenge a character, to highlight a skill or quality, to set the mood of a scene without overtly saying a single thing about it, and a host of lesser impacts too subtle and numerous for me to list here. You might think of it as a print artist’s equivalent of a movie’s mood-music.
It took me a while to get the concept of Beyond the Rails to gel in my head. The idea came fairly early for a small group of people fighting for a living on a rugged frontier. At the time, I was laboring under the false belief that the main component at the heart of all steampunk was its Britishness, so that ruled out the American west from the get-go. That wasn’t any great handicap, as I’ve always been an Anglophile, and the British Empire covered half the world, so there was plenty to choose from. But where, specifically?
My first concept of this crew was that they were basically criminals, smugglers most likely; “any job, anywhere, no questions asked.” This would have them matching wits with the cops of one sort or another, most likely a recurring character, so naturally, they’d need to be out on the fringe somewhere, some place where the Old Bill or its colonial equivalent couldn’t bring its full weight to bear on them. That ruled out metropolitan Europe of course, India, South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong, and the middle eastern colonies out of hand. What remained was Canada, where I didn’t like the weather as a venue for the adventures I had in mind, and the Caribbean Island colonies.
I had settled on the early 1880s as my time period, as it gave me far more leeway with the technology than the 1840 period my friend and I had originally discussed. Fairly early in the process, I decided not to make my crew criminals, because that’s not the way that I personally approach life, and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to do my best work if I was struggling to make a group of criminals sympathetic to a reader, so they became honest people eking out a living away from the restraints of civilization. So I wanted more land that was less thoroughly explored than the Caribbean Islands.
Kenya met my requirements perfectly, with a port city, an inland trading center, and oodles and oodles of unexplored territory where, in a work of fantastic science-fiction, literally anything might be encountered. It had escaped my initial attention, because the British East Africa Company didn’t establish an outpost there until 1888, and the British government didn’t get serious about colonization until around 1900. Once it dawned on me that I was writing a fantasy, I just changed the timeline, and loosed the hounds. It all came together perfectly; an unexplored area the size of Texas, a thousand-mile border with a hostile Prussian colony, and an utterly inadequate garrison just getting its feet under it, and beginning to take stock of its surroundings and the problems inherent with trying to manage such a vast wilderness. It was gold, and the plots began to develop almost faster than I could write them down! Though I haven’t returned to this particular world for a year, the pot is still simmering, and more meat might be scooped out yet.
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Why, you might ask, is nothing being produced yet? Well, it is. I have just begun this, my “professional” author site. I have fooled around before on Blogger, on Writing.com, on Weebly, and a couple of other places I don’t even remember right now, but every one of those sites has gotten diluted as I’ve taken side trips to things that have nothing to do with writing. This site right here will be my “official author page,” whatever that actually means, and on this site, nothing but writing will be discussed. As this is its first week of existence, I have determined to blog every day for the first seven days to get some momentum up, establish the feel of the site, and make my presence known. Beginning next week, I envision a 3-1 ratio in which I spend my mornings working on writing projects, then service this site every fourth day instead. I realize that no plan survives contact with reality, but at least I have an idea of what I want to accomplish this time.
Now, with that settled, let’s have a look at what some of my friends are up to today.
Sarah Zama, a roaring twenties yarnspinner, has chosen to take a good look at one of the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, Murder in Montparnasse. She is of the opinion that it is one of the best in the series, and includes a trailer for that episode of the brilliant Australian television adaptation to illustrate her point. Very entertaining…
S.K. Anthony and Raymond Esposito, the Writers After Dark, have listed the winners of their Chapters of Excellence awards. Be sure to explore their site while you’re there; they offer more cool stuff than you can shake a stick at!
Lynda Dietz, a professional editor, has posted part three of her in-depth look at how-to-write-books books; my personal “bible” was featured in the second installment, but unlike most of my friends, who are authors, Lynda makes her living telling authors what they’re doing wrong. Very much worth getting to know!
And that will do it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with something… Well, I have a couple of ideas. I’ll make a decision sometime today, and get busy on it. Have fun, be safe, and read more indies!