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Setting as "bulletproof kink"* in fiction.

This is so me, and I didn't even know it until I read the article (or at least couldn't have put it into those words). Setting makes a big impact on me in fiction, and makes a huge difference regarding whether I'll even enjoy a particular work. I'll be drawn to or violently avoid stories based on whether their setting appeals, and some of my best-loved fictions became that way almost solely based on their setting (e.g. Secret of Mana). I think part of it for me is that ever since I was young, I've had the unshakeable feeling that I'm Looking For Someplace, and fictions that tap into elements of That Place will become fast favourites because they help me feel closer to this nebulous thing that I'm searching for, and because I think that if I collect enough strands of the concept, someday I'll be able to assemble a complete enough picture of what I'm looking for that I'll know what it actually is. But equally, my revulsions towards certain settings feel just as intense; and they don't seem to be related to any particular experiences I can remember. I can't exactly explain it, but I know it matters a lot to me when I engage with fiction.

I can't even coherently describe the settings that will do this for me and the settings that won't. There are some "generic fantasy" stories that I absolutely adore the setting of, and others that seem completely banal. It can really turn on a few descriptive words, a particular narrative thread, whatever the author does to impart a sense of place. It's the reason I can never reliably tell whether I'll like a story just from people's descriptions of the characters and plot, and why I'm almost always surprised by the things I end up falling for (or loathing): a lot of it hangs on such a difficult-to-pin-down aspect of the fiction. It's also why I love worldbuilding, and was a huge fan of the sites that people commonly made in the early 00's to describe their sprawling fantasy worlds; often I don't need a plot or a set of characters to care about a place, and sometimes I'm even happier without (though I do value character attachments dearly, and if character attachment is strong enough I can love a fiction without loving its world. It's best when they correlate, though - which they rarely do, even in my most beloved fandoms).

If I ever do get around to authoring that "little snippets of videogames that deeply appeal to me" blog, it'll be largely about placefeel, I think.


*Not of the sexual kind; link is completely SFW. "Kink" = a general term often used in fandom to describe "thing that really grabs move/moves me/pushes my emotional buttons in fiction". There's no other succinct word for it, currently.

Comments

( 11hp damage — Attack! )
heron61
Apr. 18th, 2008 04:59 am (UTC)
Setting makes a big impact on me in fiction, and makes a huge difference regarding whether I'll even enjoy a particular work. I'll be drawn to or violently avoid stories based on whether their setting appeals, and some of my best-loved fictions became that way almost solely based on their setting

Dear gods yes, I'm exactly the same. One of the reason that P.C. Hodgell's novel Godstalk and the subsequent books in the series are my favorite novels (despite my usually preferring SF to fantasy) are that the setting is vividly real and highly exotic. It's a world where magic isn't just something people do, it's a vividly real and present part of the geology, the botany, and the physical and cultural setting in general.
eclective
Apr. 18th, 2008 05:58 am (UTC)
omg, am so all over this. Worlds where magic isn't considered just a tacked-on element but something that influences culture, language, various kinds of progress, and the very structure of the world itself... that appeals to me. Far too often fantasy settings are just like, "...it's medieval Insert Country Here, but we have magic". A world that's actually shaped by that magic, where it's an everyday part of people's lives, as much as gravity or the wheel influence our lives today... that's something I'd love to read.
heron61
Apr. 18th, 2008 06:11 am (UTC)
Coolness. I hope you enjoy the first two books, they should be arriving at your place soon. Happy nothing-in-particular-day :)
eclective
Apr. 18th, 2008 06:25 am (UTC)
...whoa, wow. Thank you! That was totally not expected, and much appreciated! I'm touched by your generosity, and feel honoured to know such awesome individuals. :)
mousse9
Apr. 18th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
I don't even know where to start. I'd say "Word.", but that isn't enough in this case.

One setting that will almost universally appeal to me, is a world where there are virtually no humans (or sentient life). Just a wide, empty world, where nature has taken over (or always ruled), and there's only small pockets of humanity, in the form of small communities.
This is one of the reasons why the Mana Holylands in Secret of Mana had such appeal to me, as does the Final Fantasy 6 world. The feeling of a big, wide world when you first set out with Terra and Locke is fantastic. I have that with most of the Final Fantasy games I've played.

One book series stands out to me in that matter and that's Earth's Children, by Jean M Auel. It's about Cro-Magnon people during Earth's last Ice Age. It's an incredible setting.

And what is almost the opposite, I like science fiction settings. Where mankind is colonizing the stars and outer space being the final frontier. Yes, "to boldly go where no man has gone before".
llieno
Apr. 18th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
Of course, setting is really important. I have huge respect for writers and creators who make worlds that are Worlds, and not merely backgrounds. It's why when I try explaining why, for example, I prefer FF7 to 12, I will at some point talk about how the world works so much better...especially Midgar. I love experiences that really make you feel the world around you. 'Stimmung' is a good German word for the more mood-based aspects of setting, and I find that is also important.
luna_manar
Apr. 19th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Almost everything is place, for me....not that I can't have plot, and character is just as important, but place is definitely more about what drives me than anything. And there's so much of it...SoM reflects a lot of it, as does Breath of Fire...FF7 and FF8, Myst and Metroid and Might & Magic...
luinied
Apr. 19th, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
Myst & Metroid & Might & Magic sounds like such a wonderful crossover. Where by wonderful I mean awful yet hilarious.
prophetic
Apr. 19th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)
I can't even coherently describe the settings that will do this for me and the settings that won't. There are some "generic fantasy" stories that I absolutely adore the setting of, and others that seem completely banal.

Yes, totally. It's funny to hear that connection made especially in video game worlds. There was a game a long time ago--Faery Tale Adventure, for the Amiga (yes, that ancient)--that was nothing but generic fantasy, yet something about the world of it had SUCH an impact on me. Even to this day, I can still see scenes in the real world--where setting sunlight hits green mountains just a certain way--and I am totally transported, because it reminds me of that game. It was partly the graphic rendering (so much better than anything else in the computer world at that time) and partly the music, and it combined to create this sense of place . . . it's still hard to articulate, but something that stays with you nonetheless.
sholio
Apr. 23rd, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
I'm glad that my post could launch some thinkiness of your own! :D

I'll be drawn to or violently avoid stories based on whether their setting appeals,

Yes, and this is something I didn't really get into in my post, but just as some settings are a powerful draw for me, others exert an equally powerful repulsion. I'm that way about most generic pseudo-European fantasy settings, for example, and about "high society" settings (like Dynasty, say). Just seeing on the book jacket that it takes place in such a setting is enough to make me put the book back down unless it comes *very* highly recommended by people who know what I like.
auronlu
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's so true!
That must explain one of the reasons I'm so in love with Tolkien's descriptions, which other people find dreary. It's why the first LOTR film worked so well for me, despite flaws: the SHIRE was so vividly there as imagined, Rivendell sang a fading song, Moria's majesty was endless, the pillars of the Argonath overmastering -- Lórien was like a nightmare version of the wood I knew, but it still felt right.

The third film skimped on scenery and went for recycled sets. (There were other problems too, but I won't dwell on them here.)

It's also why I love FFX and the MYST series best of all the games I've played, which admittedly isn't many. Both have worlds so beautiful and tactile and textured. When MYST was remade with 3D, I had to get it, just so I could watch the sunset over Myst Island and hear the crickets in the forest. Nevermind there was no one there at all.

Even if you've never seen MYST, I think you might enjoy the old RealMYST Trailer, which has another element I adore: a strong woman's voice. This trailer makes me ache. It shows clips from the original 1993 game's opening (is MYST that old now?) and segues into the same scene in the 1999 remake.

And beyond the physical setting, having cultures, a history, languages, taboos, rituals and writing vividly realized lets you "live" there in your own mind, instead of just passing by like going to a country but never leaving the airport.

Edited at 2008-06-11 04:12 pm (UTC)
( 11hp damage — Attack! )

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