When the action in a story takes place at an unspecified time, in an unspecified place, under unspecified circumstances, it is probably taking place in a Generic Setting.
If a fic takes place in a generic setting, horrible writing is probably involved, because any well-constructed story needs a properly defined setting. Because of this, invocation of Generic Settings is a common charge.
Aspects of the Generic SettingEdit
The generic setting is often a product of inattentiveness or laziness: common causes are forgetting to mention the setting or simply assuming that the audience knows where the action is taking place without sufficient cues. There are three aspects of Generic Settings that may or may not appear together in every instance:
Generic Locations are relatively unspecified settings that appear in badfic. They usually are the result of poor description: describing a room only as 'room' without giving us any setting cues or reasons to assume we know what the surroundings are like may indeed relocate the action to an utterly generic room with no defining features. Such places are often constructed of Generic Surface.
Several classic examples include the generic forests where Sues appear and interact with canon characters who have no reason to be wandering forests, the locations of uncanon vampire clans/wolf packs/secret schools of Sues, and the places where Fire Emblem characters suddenly decide (against all evidence in canon) that they're in love. Uncanon Death Eaters and other antagonists often congregate in poorly-lit Generic Locations.
Probably a specific instance of temporal distortion, it's fully possible to never say when a story is happening in relation to the canon's timeline. Or, even if it is specified to start with, if the canon's storyline progression is never referred to again, that can shed doubt on the timing of events as the story goes on. A badfic that takes place at a generic time can happen anywhen, and may even be happening everywhen: confusing enough to make even a Time Lord throw down his hat.
In canons where the passage of time is important (such as some installments of The Legend of Zelda, or Doctor Who) this can play havoc with who the characters are, or where they should be at the moment, or even how old they are at the time... which can lead to squick. In other cases, generic times may be specified simply as 'after the canon' or 'before the canon' without ever being clear what that entails.
While time and place are the biggest parts of setting, circumstances should not be dismissed; the setting 'a tavern at closing time' is very different from 'a tavern at closing time while a brawl is breaking out.' Generic circumstances are often flat and lifeless, springing from a lack of description or even lack of interaction with the environment on the part of the characters. Background extras may appear to be doing unobtrusive tasks in a mechanical manner, simply walking back and forth for no reason, or even standing around doing nothing at all. When a badfic's setting seems to be a lifeless backdrop, despite a specified setting and a timeline being mentioned, Generic Circumstances are probably involved.
Specific Generic SettingsEdit
This may seem like an oxymoron, but it is perfectly possible to define what a setting is, yet fail to properly describe it and thus make it generic. Simply specifying 'Rivendell' as the location of a fic's action is not enough: WHEN is this happening in Rivendell... WHAT PART of Rivendell... WHAT IS HAPPENING in that part of Rivendell... these are questions that even providing a rich location such as the Last Homely House cannot answer without the help of good writing to back it up.
Often, badfics will briefly define a canon location, expecting readers to know exactly what is going on. As a result, some canons actually have predefined generic settings simply due to the frequency that they appear:
- Rivendell, Arda: during or a few days before or after the Council of Elrond;
- Hogwarts Great Hall: a generic feast;
- Redwall Abbey: also a generic feast (a charge in and of itself in this continuum);
- Pirates of the Caribbean: aboard the Black Pearl, or in Tortuga;
- Sherlock Holmes: at 221B Baker Street;
- Narnia: a generic forest;
- Star Wars: a generic planet or spacecraft;
etc. It should be notes that continua with movieverses, games, or TV features get this treatment more than text-only mediums because the audience is often familiar with images that the visual medium has already shown them. Bad writing will use these images as a sort of shorthand to get away with not describing the setting.
Generic Settings and the PPCEdit
As Generic Settings almost always contain Mary Sues, Sue-wraiths, temporal distortions, and bad geography, agents following canon characters through Generic Locations are advised to be ready for an ambush or general trouble.
Anyone with any creative inclination can make changes to a Generic Location. This includes PPC agents on a mission, often to the annoyance of their partners. Agents who deliberately look for something in a Generic Location will probably find it quite quickly, as long as the item in question is within reason for the canon (it is unlikely that one will find a pizza in Rivendell, no matter how hard they focus—but, given how badly canon can be warped by badfic, it's still possible in the right circumstances).
- In A-Team 2, Agents Allison and Trent portaled into a Generic Location.
- In Of Glitter and Men, Agents Miah and Cali encountered a setting so generic it was made completely out of fluffy purple glitter clouds.
- In their second mission, Agents Lore and Aster navigated a Suefic beige enough to limit an entire canon fortress to a single cell block.