Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Exploring Setting - Swamps vs Marshes

So I had to revisit the geography for the continent that I'm currently working in.  One of the major portions of land I had thought would be more of a marsh or a swamp, but that got me thinking, what's the difference?

In an attempt to answer just that I looked it up.  Long and the short of it?  Marshes seem to be much more shallow than swamps, though both are generally the result of constant flooding in low areas with lots of river overflow.  Swamps are generally deeper and have many more trees, as my husband says the swamp is more like a flooded forest where the Marsh is a flooded meadow.  Not totally accurate but pretty close.

This brought to me the importance of research.  I also learned that not all swamps have to be brackish and stink (which I thought was part of what a swamp was) it can be fresh water, salt water or the brackish water that is one of the things I thought was inherent in swamps.  Now this works really well since it LOOKS like it's not good, even with fresh water, because algae tends to cover the surface.  So if you want to find what works the best it's really worth it to pop out and look, researching something like your settings really help to ground your work and give you a good idea of what can happen where you're writing in.

One of the things I learned from my anthropology classes is that geography can influence the development of people's cultures by quite a bit.  My decision whether to make the area a brackish swamp verses a fresh water marsh will seriously influence the type of people who live there as well as the culture that they will develop.  The sad thing?  i had to look this up while redrawing the boarders for my countries due to the geography and for that I had to decide what geography works.  When they say you need to have more reality in fiction than in non-fiction these days I see where they're coming from.  You've got to set the rules and the stones before you can break them.