Wednesday, June 25, 2008


So I'm working on this story. [headdesk] It's a contemporary, and if I ever get it finished and if it gets accepted it'll be my first non-magical contemporary to be published. It'll also be my first BDSM story to be published, although it's just light bondage -- very light -- so that's not a huge deal.

The problem is that I looked at the finished story and needed to change the setting, which was a movie location, which was just too... too. :/ Of course, setting sets the tone for a story and there are some things your characters can do in Setting A that they can't do in Setting Q, so I couldn't just reach into a hat and pick out a new setting; whatever I chose had to fit the plot and the circumstances. Specifically, I needed a setting where the characters could've known each other for a while, and might've been together to know each other for a while some time in the sorta-recentish past, and are now together again, but where they don't live near each other to see each other regularly, or at least between Last Time and This Time. That gap is important.

I pondered for a while and discarded some possibilities and finally came up with an SF convention. You can run into people once a year, or even less often depending on which cons you go to and whether you're a regular or just show up every now and then. I figured I could make them both pros -- one a writer and the other an artist, so a lot of it would depend on where they were invited as guests any given year; if they didn't actually live in the same area, it could very well be years between the times they saw each other. It'd be hard to stretch out the individual meetings for more than a few days each -- maybe four max, unless I wanted to make it WorldCon or something similar, in which case a week at the outside would work -- and that was a bit problematic, but it seemed I could make it work well enough. Okay, cool, convention it is.

Ever torn out a setting and installed a new one...? It's sort of like jacking up a house, jackhammering the foundation completely out, then pouring a new one with a slightly different layout here and there, then trying to set the house back on it while remodelling said house enough so that the walls actually match up with the new bits of the foundation. [headdesk] I did it, though, went through the story and rewrote a lot of the beginning where things were set up and established, changed bits here and there throughout the rest, smoothed it all over with sandpaper and tah-dah! Done!

Except not quite. :/ I kept looking at it, reading it over, and it just doesn't work.

I mean, the story works for me, but then I'm intimately familiar with SF conventions. I went to my first one as a teenager and was a gofer at that first con. I've been on staff I don't know how many times, from mid-size conventions to a couple of WorldCons, and was on the staff of a professional conference for just over ten years just for variety. I even chaired a major regional twice. But what's incredibly familiar to me is still an exotic locale to most people, and in order to make this work I'd have had to insert a lot more description and explanation.

Which I could've done, certainly, but when you get down to it, the setting just isn't that important a part of this particular story. I mean, yes, it dictates some of the plot points (which was why I couldn't just grab any old setting in the first place) but aside from that, it's not all that important for the reader to focus on the setting, beyond just being aware of where the characters are. Heck, somewhere between half and two-thirds of the story takes place in a bedroom and that could be anywhere. :P If I'd given the SF convention setting as much description and explanation as it would've needed, the sheer verbage involved would've given the readers the impression that the setting was a lot more important than it really was. The whole story would've felt unbalanced. [headdesk]

I do love conventions and I'll probably set a story there eventually, but this isn't the time to do it.

Back to the jacks and cranes and jackhammers.

I thought about it a while longer and finally came up with another possibility. I'm going to put the story in a much more mundane setting -- it'll start out at a local high-end gym (which everyone's at least reasonably familiar with, even if they've never actually been to one) and have one of the characters be a regular there (so he's been there all along) while the other worked there evenings and weekends through high school and the first four years of college, then moved away to go to grad school and such. That gives me the separation over time that I need to make the story work, and by the time the two characters hit the second guy's house (and bedroom) it'll all be basically the same from there on.

I'm pretty sure it'll work this time. Really. Now to go do the heavy lifting. Again.

Angie, rolling up her sleeves


Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like a lot of work, but I imagine you can pull it off. I once read a couple of mysteries set at an SF convention. The titles were better than the stories, alas. "Bimbos of the Death Sun" and "Zombies of the Gene Pool."

Angie said...

Charles -- Thanks. :)

I remember we talked about those books once. [nod] At least Bimbos of the Death Sun actually needed to be set at an SF con. I'll save that setting for a story that needs it, and in the mean time I'm still working my jackhammer. [wry smile]


writtenwyrdd said...

Sounds like you are working out the kinks. When you were talking about the sort of situation that you had, a con sounded like the best place.

Angie said...

WW -- thanks, it's starting to come together, I think.

The convention setting sorta met my requirements at first, yes, except the short duration made the protag look like an idiot who couldn't stand not to have someone in his bed for four days. I mean jeez, dude, maintain! LOL! [facepalm] The new setting I chose eliminates that point entirely, which I'm happier with.

And then there's the problem of most readers just not being at all familiar with SF conventions, so I'd have had to devote a lot more verbage to setting the scene and describing what was around them and what was going on and how it all worked than the setting really warrants in this story. The greater setting only shows up for the first chunk of the story; once they hit the bedroom (the bulk of the story) they could be anywhere that has a bedroom and the larger setting becomes irrelevant from that point. So all that descriptive and explanatory verbage would be completely irrelevant to the bulk of the story, and would've made it feel top-heavy.

Reworking it so the story takes place at home (or at least in the same town where they both live) but one of the characters leaves for a few years and then returns, rather than having everyone go to some remote location, then leave, then return a few years later, is a lot simpler. And setting the story somewhere readers will be familiar with lets me get away with less descriptive verbage, giving the larger setting the amount of attention it deserves.

I do like the SF setting; I'll just save it for a story where I can justify emphasizing and making full use of it.