For today’s Fiction Friday, I’m not posting any original work.
Instead, I’d like to talk about a very important part of your fiction writing – Setting.
Setting – where your story takes place – can make or break your story. Where the characters are, how they interact with their environment (or if you write fantasy, how the environment interacts with the characters) and consequences of their actions – all can make a compelling story and, if you’re detailed enough, can immerse your readers into a believable world that will keep them turning pages.
I was discussing with my wife the other day about the various incarnations of the Star Trek shows and told her that my favorite show was Deep Space Nine. Here’s a brief synopsis of the series, lifted from Wikipedia:
The show begins after the brutal occupation of the planet Bajor. With the Cardassians gone, the Bajoran people ask the United Federation of Planets to help run a Cardassian built space station, Deep Space Nine, outside of Bajor. After the Federation takes control of the station, the protagonists of the show discover a uniquely stable wormhole that provides immediate access to the distant Gamma Quadrant making Bajor and the station one of the most strategically important locations in the galaxy. The show chronicles the events of the station’s crew, led by Commander (later Captain) Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, and Major (later Colonel) Kira Nerys, played by Nana Visitor. Recurring plot elements include the repercussions of the lengthy and brutal Cardassian occupation of Bajor, Sisko’s spiritual role for the Bajorans as the Emissary of the Prophets, and in later seasons a war with the Dominion.
What makes DS9 really stand out from the other Star Trek series is its setting. It is the only show whose setting is a stationary space station while all the others center on a ship as it travels about the galaxy. What this allowed the writers of DS9 to do, was that they were able to have multi-episode story arcs – some spanning an entire season – and they were able to explore in much more depth the regular characters as they interacted with each other, the one nearby planet (Bajor) and the immediate threat (Cardassians).
This unique setting of a space station let DS9 stand out among the other Star Trek shows. The writers could now explore themes that until this point (the Original Series and Next Generation were the only shows previous to DS9 – I don’t count the animated series) Star Trek had avoided – such as conflict within the crew and religion.
That’s what makes DS9 my favorite Trek show. The setting allowed so much more character exploration and that’s what I like in TV and books. Setting can give you so many opportunities to explore characters – how they grow and the relationships they have – and that’s what drives a good story. Compelling characters.
For instance, in DS9, there is a bar/casino called Quark’s. It’s run by a Ferengi by the name of Quark and his brother, Rom. Ferengi had made a few appearances on Next Generation, so the race and a bit about their culture had been introduced into the Star Trek universe.
Ferengi are very business driven, ruled by making more money. In TNG, they were mostly portrayed as comedic buffoons, but in DS9, we get to see so much more of them. Their capitalistic nature is explored as well as their sexist culture (female Ferengi are no more than slaves). Quark becomes a central character – much more than just a bartender. He plays informant to Commander Sisko and fall guy when his mother marries the Grand Nagus (the ruler of the Ferengi) and she leads a women’s revolt against the Ferengi sexist norm.
The Ferengi also play a part in dual coming-of-age stories as the series unfolds. Jake Sisko, the Commander’s son, and Nog, Rom’s son, become good friends and we get to watch them both grow from children to young adults as they both try to deal with stereotypes and racism (as much as Star Trek was willing to go into). It was a great way for the writers to drive home the point of how these various species, all gathered together in one place, will face those types of difficulties. Eventually, Nog enlists in Starfleet – the first Ferengi to ever do so.
So many other themes are explored in DS9 that none of the other Trek shows touched because of the setting of a mobile ship.
- RELIGION – Commander Sisko is chosen by the Bajoran Prophets to be their savior. Sisko has a big problem with this (at first), but the writers delved into what religion means, how it works and what effects it can have on people.
- WAR – The on-going struggle of the Bajoran people against the Cardassians is played out and we get to see the long-term effects of war in a variety of ways – economically, mentally, politically, etc
- FAMILY – There are so many family driven stories in DS9 – the Worf’s family’s redemption by the Klingon High Council, the shape-shifter Odo’s discovery of who he is and his desire to join his people, and even the bizarre family of the Trill people as told through Jadzia Dax’s history.
- POLITICS – How the Federation presence affects Bajor and it’s people, the Cardassian reactions to it and the eventual introduction of the Dominion – all contribute ways for the writers to explore the various aspects of politics.
I hope you can see how setting can effect your story and that choosing the proper one for your story can open up worlds of possibilties in your writing.