Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Settings

In the wonderful book of essay in the Writer's Handbook, I came across one by Norah Lofts talking about setting. There have been timew when I've been reading a story and I wonder when the author visited the place. The details seem so right. Questions often arise. Do they live there. How long was their visit? Then I go on to see that they've never been to the place thay have made me believe I've visited with them. Writing about a place familiar to you is easy. Well, no kind of writing is that easy. Placing characters in a setting and making the reader believe they are there.

Now if the writer isn't writing of a place they've been, research is the answer. But how much is enough and how much is too much. I have lots of books on my shelves collected over the years that are travel books and show a land. I also have friends who travel more than I do. How does the writer know if they've created a place the reader may recognize. One way is to invent a setting and to put elements of a place you know or a place you've visited or read about. Feeding in the details can be easy or hard.

I have a village invented for a mystery series that's based on the village where I live. I've combined three villages and just picked out the parts I want to show. I've sued this place as a setting in a number of books by changing details and throwing in imaginary elements, I've also written fantasies where the world is invented and bears some resemblance to places I've read about in some of the travel books. I often use recreations of ruins of houses, temples, castles to make these seem real. Most of the time I succeed. A friend saved me from making an escape and forgetting or not realizing that evening comes differently when one is nearer the equator than where I currently reside. She also reminded me that it's hot about eight months of the year so the seasons are different from the ones where I reside.

So when working to create a setting, walk the town if you're using a familiar one, visit the house you've chosen to add to the story. I have books of house and apartment plans on my shelf and there are the ones I've visited or lived in. I also have the internet and friends who have traveled. Visit the places in reality or from plicture and once you've selected the few details you need, use your imagination and place your characters there.

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