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Stories Set in Other Countries

Discussion in 'Research' started by MDragonRider, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. MDragonRider

    MDragonRider Dreamer

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    I'm writing a story half set in Iceland, half set in another world. Unfortunately, I don't live in Iceland and have never even been there.

    I want to make it seem as authentic as possible, especially since my protagonist, SigrĂșn, is a local so she'd know all about the place. I've done research, of course, which was very helpful and prevented me from making a fatal mistake in naming my characters (since names there are still patronymic/matronymic). But I still can't help but feel that it'll seem strange for any Icelandic locals reading because I don't have the first-hand experience.

    Should I seek out a local and ask them for advice? If so, how would I find one willing to help me? Or should I just keep researching as thoroughly as possible and hope that nothing seems out of place?
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  2. Thoras

    Thoras Minstrel

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    What exactly are the details you are looking for?
     
  3. MDragonRider

    MDragonRider Dreamer

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    I need a rather broad understanding, as well as a few obscure things for whatever situation the story presents. I can get a broad understanding with research using the Internet and books and such, but it's the obscure things that are the issue. For example, one of my characters constantly insists on only calling people with payphones (long story). Since my story is set in a small town, I'd need to know how many payphones there commonly are in a small town in Iceland. Unfortunately, the Internet isn't very helpful here and combing through books hoping to find the answer to my very specific question wouldn't be a good use of time.
     
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I think talking to locals is a great idea.

    So are expats that live near you. People love to talk, at length, about the old country.

    The internet can help, of course.

    The best is finding a local restaurant run by someone from the locale you are interested in. Then you can ask them tons of questions and d eat their cuisine!
     
    Thoras likes this.
  5. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Not sure how helpful this is, but one useful thing I've been using when doing stuff set someplace I haven't been is using Google Street View to, well, get a street level view, look around to see what the landscape is like, etc and so on.
     
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I've not visited Iceland but I wouldn't expect too many payphones on the street. For a good part of the year, it will be too cold and dark to stand and use them. In places like Norway and Finland, there used to be a lobby with a couple of phone booths inside larger buildings. You could nip in make a private call and then leave. I would also guess that in a world of mobile phone most of these lobbies and booths will be unused if not defunct and removed.
     
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  7. Thoras

    Thoras Minstrel

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    If you intend to continuously need help with small details it would probably be best if you get a hold on a local. You've gotten som good tips above already, finding an expat near you may be difficult though depending on where you live - but if you live in any major city it may be possible, I would look for expat-groups at facebook at first. Maybe look for a group of writers living in Iceland and asking there - wether on facebook or some other forum, perhaps they are glad to assist a fellow writer in need. :)
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  8. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Hello Dragon Rider, and Welcome to Mythic Scribes!

    This is my advice: It's alright that you want your story to be as accurately Icelandic as possible, but if you are not from Iceland yourself then you have to accept that you cannot be 100% accurate about Iceland. Now, even if you were a native Icelander there would still be at least some little parts of the culture and everyday life that would not be part of your story.

    I have lived in Mexico for quite some years, and even though I know them well by now I am still not quite familiar with the culture of Hidalgo state let alone the other states.

    Even then, I could write stories in a Mexican setting accurate enough to be convincing even to locals.

    I am not American and I have never lived in the U.S. and yet I have a few stories set in America with American characters. My knowledge of the setting comes only from movies, TV series and chat conversations with loads of American people, and American readers of those stories have not complained that I have been too inaccurate or wrong about their people and their country.

    The best option for you would be to have a native Icelander friend to correct serious mistakes, but you do not have to worry about little details.

    I would write the story anyway, especially if it really makes me happy and passionate. Little inaccuracies are not going to matter really if your story is engaging and powerful.

    I have moved this thread from Writing Discussions to the Research Forum.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
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  9. MDragonRider

    MDragonRider Dreamer

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    Thank you for all the responses! And sorry for the late reply.
    Unfortunately, I live in a rather small, isolated city. It would probably be hard to find an Icelander here, so the Internet is my best option. I'll try to look for those sort of groups - thanks for the advice.
    I've also been trying to read books and watch movies set in Iceland, which has definitely also helped. Street view seems like a good idea so I'll try it out.

    (Again, sorry for the late reply and any rookie mistakes I make... I don't use forums very often.)
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
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