Need help with a story I'm writing

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by darksider95, Mar 31, 2017.

  1. darksider95, Mar 31, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017

    darksider95 macrumors newbie

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    #1
    Hey everyone,

    Apologies, but this is a very long post and has nothing to do with Macs, so I hope I've put it in the right section of the forum.

    I'm in the very early stages of planning my next writing project (which will be a graphic novel) and I have the story structure, character needs/ desires all set out. However, for weeks, I've been struggling to decide the location of the graphic novel itself. The two locations I am debating exploring are - the American West in an unnamed town following the Mexican-American War, or Paris during the German Occupation. Understandably, these are two wildly different time periods and would have a significant effect on the tone and feel of the graphic novel, not just in terms of narrative, but also from an art perspective.

    The American West is one of my favourite time periods and the narrative structure of my plot has many Western elements in it, including the hero riding off into the sunset by the end of it. Because of this, I am concerned my story will become just another Western (whereas if I chose the Paris setting I could disguise those tropes and present them in a new way).

    In contrast, the Paris setting would be much easier for me from an artistic sense as my art style has always had a noir aesthetic which works better in dark urban environments, rather than the open landscapes of the West. My concern with this location is that having the narrative set explicitly in Paris during the Occupation means I would need to get all the details correct and this would require extensive research. Additionally, using this setting would result in me having to accommodate the location by changing the third act of my narrative slightly.

    So as I said, I've been dabbling between the two over the last few weeks and I was hoping objective individuals on the internet might be able to help me. From the information above, which of these settings sounds like a better choice for me and also which one would you be more interested in as a reader if you saw it in a bookshop?
     
  2. Ulenspiegel, Mar 31, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017

    Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030

    Ulenspiegel

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    #2
    The American West is a very exciting place and period of time, nevertheless it can never come even close to Paris.
    The reason is obvious, Paris is history, Paris is art, Paris is excitement, Paris is where you want to be when you are happy and when you are upset. Paris has a special aura. Paris is always calling...
    Good luck with your book.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #3
    While - as a European - I tend to agree with @Ulenspiegel's post, and - personally - would prefer Paris, I think the advice of "write what you know and understand" - write about the world you "get" - makes sense here.

    Thus, then, the challenge is not the decision whether to set the story in Paris or "the American West", but, rather, how to find a way of telling a story that will make the setting of the "American West" fresh, and new and interesting to your readers.

    Oh, and - as a woman - do, please, try to make the female characters real, live, credible human beings with character and backstory and human motivations, not just something for the male lead to moon and moan over.
     
  4. decafjava macrumors 68000

    decafjava

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    #4
    Good advice from the previous two posters, good luck with your project and keep us posted on its progress!
     
  5. Jnesbitt82 macrumors 6502

    Jnesbitt82

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    #5
    Or he runs away from his past in Paris for the new world and finds himself confronted by his old life in the west?
     
  6. Scepticalscribe, Mar 31, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #6
    No.

    That is because this wouldn't work in the time frames under consideration by the author: Running away from Paris in the early 1940s, during the German Occupation (which lasted from the summer of 1940 to the summer of 1944) to the American West at the time of the Mexican-American War would involve a giant leap in time (backwards) of around a century, as the Mexican American War occurred between the years 1846-1848.
     
  7. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #7
    Your reading audience would likely be much larger if you set it during WW2 - If that's of any thought to you. But it would also require more history research I would guess.
     
  8. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #8
    It would - not least because there would be quite a few people alive who would immediately spot errors.

    Reimagining the American West intelligently - if done properly - could work well.

    In the world of cinema, for example, Clint Eastwood's stunning movie "Unforgiven" (and his earlier - excellent - "The Outlaw Josey Wales") reimagined the West, turning its imagery and standard tropes and settings (and characters) upside-down - while yet saluting the eternal elements of such stories, yet, by telling them in new ways and from new perspectives, (and being fair to his characters) he crafted two superb westerns from a genre that most people thought long dead.

    The American West as a setting would work because the OP 'knows' and 'understands' that world; but it will only sell if there is a new or fresh feature - or aspect - to the story - the "looking an an old story in a new way" approach.
     
  9. Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #9
    I like both locations however, I admit that the Western location tends to pop a preconceived picture in my head, usually stories like settling the wilderness, warlord style conflicts, Native American culture clashes and such. It might be interesting to use this setting for a different kind of story. However, I think either location could work with the right tweaking and the intended audience makes a difference too. :)
     
  10. darksider95 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 29, 2013
    #10
    Hey everyone,

    Thank you for providing your insight, it has been very helpful to me.

    As the plot is mostly interchangeable and independent to the settings, over the last two days, I chose to write and draw some very rough scenes and storyboards of what the graphic novel could ultimately end up looking like for both settings. I have ultimately chosen to go with Paris during the German Occupation for two main reasons.

    I feel that from an art aesthetic, Paris during the German Occupation is already more suitable to my art style. The setting will also provide me with a lot of opportunity to have the story take place in a "grander" setting, with locations such as Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, etc. all existing in the background to my story, which wouldn't be possible in a fictional town in the American West. As Ulenspiegel has said above "Paris has a special aura" that I feel will make the story feel more unique than it would in a Western setting, especially because I can present those Western tropes that are already embedded in my story structure in a fresh and exciting way.

    More importantly, from a narrative perspective, I have found a way to interlink the thematic progression that my protagonist goes through over the course of the story with that of the Parisian setting and the challenge occupation brings to the inhabitants. My aim is to develop this stronger connection between the character and the setting in the aim of essentially turning the city itself into a pivotal character, which I hope, if done successfully, will help the reader be more interested and invested in the narrative itself.
     
  11. macmesser macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    The WWII Europe setting has been extensively exploited by many films in Noir and Neo Noir genres, some classics and some recent or contemporary. There are war movies based on true and fictitious characters/events, mysteries, romances and all possible permutations thereof. The history is somewhat familiar to most who read for entertainment. I'd go with the old west and Mexican War. While most of your potential readership will have some inkling that the US and Mexico have come to blows several times, few are very familiar with that history. Since you will need to do research in either case, why not get the added benefit of greater novelty? For instance, there is the story of the San Patricios which offers some great opportunities for plot twists.
     
  12. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    #12
    Time travel? A French resistance fighter steals a time machine from the Nazi's and travels back 100 years (and due to the rotation of the earth) ends up the American West. Works for me.:) He'll have weapons technology 100 years more advance than anyone else. What's he'll gonna carry back with him? An M1 Garand? A tommy gun? No it's has to be an MP40 he takes off a Nazi guard.:cool:
     
  13. yaxomoxay macrumors 68000

    yaxomoxay

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    #13
    When you close your eyes, and think about your main character doing something simple - let's say, eat something sitting down on a table - what do you see?
    That's how you determine it.
    You have to know your main character(s) so well that you know all of their habits. Their personality, their friendships etc. will also depend on the setting. Yes, the story/plot might work on both settings, but your characters won't.
     
  14. macmesser macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    Nice idea. Whist fighting evil amongst a village of friendly Mexicans he could come to the realization that he has a mission to seek out the ancestors of Hitler and prevent the monster from ever being born. One could weave in an evil syndicate of proto-Nazi philosophers, occultists and eugenicists who are on to him and trying to stop him. Wait a minute, I think I'll write that one...
    --- Post Merged, Apr 4, 2017 ---
    Sounds like you have thought it through pretty well. Please post details upon completion.
     
  15. Scepticalscribe, Apr 4, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2017

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #15
    Now, that is an extremely good suggestion for a mental exercise when determining the tone in which the story is told and placing the characters in that setting.

    You are quite right; sitting in a French café plotting resistance does not really translate to the searing arid plains of Mexico; where would such a person sit - indoors, or outdoors? Would they be drinking coffee, let alone the acorn coffee of wartime coffee deprived France?

    Where would you do your thinking and mulling over of things? What would you be drinking? Who would you be drinking with? In Paris, in 1940 (or 1944), nobody would bat an eyelid at a a man and a woman sitting, chatting and having a coffee (even an acorn coffee) together.

    Could such a scene take place in the Mexican desert? Where did men and women meet in 1840s Texas, or Mexico? The different social classes (and races) socialised differently, as did men and women.
     
  16. vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #16
    It really depends on how picky your audience is going to be.

    Setting a story in a recognizable time and place (ie. Paris between June 1940 and June 1944) is going to present you with some constraints. There will be German soldiers and Gestapo agents walking around. There is a war going on. Whereas a generic "Western" setting gives you much greater latitude OK: You can't have your characters using Smartphones and dirtbikes. But besides that?

    Plenty of writers have placed their stories in specific historical locales, and haven't gotten every detail right, and still had great success. I just finished reading an early Len Deighton book ("Goodbye Mickey Mouse") about a group of US fighter pilots in England in early 1944. About halfway through, I realized that Deighton got his dates wrong: He has pilots flying P51D airplanes (the one with the bubble canopy) when that model wasn't introduced till much later in 1944.

    I'll guarantee you most readers would never notice. And even those that did, don't really care that much.

    Pick the location that works best for you as a writer, and that you think will add the most to your story. Do as much - or as little - research as you think you need to make the story interesting, and to add color and texture to it. But don't sweat the small stuff. If you get the price of Gauloises at the Tabac wrong, your readers will forgive you. If you don't know what Gauloises and a Tabac are - then stick with the Western location. Or not.
     
  17. Maccster macrumors newbie

    Maccster

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    #17
    Good advice above, personally I would go with Paris.
     
  18. flyinmac macrumors 68030

    flyinmac

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    #18
    Personally, I tend to go to the other side of things.

    I don't limit things to known locations or time periods.

    There are basics of life and interactions with others, and of course basic needs and desires.

    Those characteristics can play out on any theoretical world, town, or time period.

    By limiting yourself to known locations, and very established time periods, you limit your options and force yourself to accurately depict what others might know better than you.

    By avoiding a named place and time, you can develop the scene any way you like. Describe the setting to be whatever you want. And let the reader make their own associations based on what may be familiar to them.

    But, if you focus more on the development of the scene, and describing the setting, does it really matter exactly where and when it is? Does it matter if it's even planet earth?

    Perhaps it's some other unknown place where people still have the usual needs and desires and problems. But perhaps it's a place that has similarities to things we are familiar with, while also being very unique.

    You could fashion the setting to be similar to any place and time you like. Or, it could be a blend of various qualities. Or, it could be unlike any place we may know.
     

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