If any of you follow along with the Writing Excuses podcast, then you probably know that this week's episode was about stories where the setting is an antagonist in your story. This is most common in survival stories, but sometimes also shows up in disaster or apocalypse stories as well (which tend to have some overlap with the survival and horror genres).
And thinking about this "setting as conflict" concept, it made me wonder if this isn't an element I might be able to integrate into my dragonrider story (which is going through so many revisions right now, you have no idea).
Here, let's see if I can explain why this makes sense to me...
This is one of many versions of the map of my world, and though the scale is inaccurate, the concept is more or less what I was going for.
In the South there's a ginormous forest, where the elves have been forced to retreat after warring with the humans for way longer than anyone wants to think about.
In the East we have a coast that's isolated and protected by a small mountain range. Most of the precipitation is sea fog, which makes agriculture uncertain, but not impossible.
In the West, the peninsula protects the sound from ocean storms, but that means the peninsula itself, already naturally swampy, is plagued by regular storms. Seafood and hydroponic gardens for the win.
In the central plains, it's nothing but prairie, which would be awesome for traditional agriculture if it wasn't already dominated by herds of buffalo and warmongering centaurs. Humans have taken some of the prairie for farming, but they suffer from seasonal raiding.
And in the North, the mountains contain many springs and a sizable underground reservoir, in addition to the snowmelt in the spring, but the land north of that range is arid and better suited to nomadic herdsmen than yielding a consistent crop.
Any story in which a character needs to travel across this land would be naturally inclined both to conflicts with other cultures and conflicts with the land itself, as the water sources are concentrated in three major areas, and that makes watering horses or other beasts of burden difficult on a long trip.
Eventually, I'll make myself a better/more accurate map and share it with you guys.
My problem with the first draft of my novel (which is now almost completely moot) was that it was a story in which the main character travels the length of this entire continent, but I skipped over most of the traveling bits to focus on four locations - a city in the south, a city in the north, the dragons' island (off to the northeast), and a tiny farm on the east coast.
My world felt empty, and the pacing seemed very stiff, because skipping days at a time because I don't want to develop all those other places makes things seem stilted when I can spend an entire chapter on describing the people and appearance of a single castle.
Maybe someday, I'll be able to actually make up my mind what this story is actually supposed to be about.