Also, I'm over at the IWSG Website with a cover reveal for our short story anthology from the IWSG contest, so don't forget to pop on over.
And check out our new IWSG Badge!
Do you ever feel insecure when you’re developing your setting in your stories? Do you set your stories in places you’ve lived or visited? Or…do you take risks and set your story somewhere exotic?
That old adage ‘write what you know’ has been discredited. Now it's ‘write what you’d like to know’. But there’s something to be said for setting stories in places we know. Readers somehow feel its authenticity and dive right into the story.
Here are a couple of examples from the myriad I can think of...
Did Harper Lee know her Maycomb County when she penned To Kill a Mockingbird? Did her local knowledge of the setting lend authenticity to her powerful story which still resonates with readers today?
Jump to today.
I’ve just finished reading the second in the series by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), set in London, and can’t wait to grab the third which I see is out. Well I daresay JK knows London like the back of her hand. You can hear the jackhammers pounding away in the streets and cough up the dust in your throat; you can feel the chill air; slip in the murky snow; drink in the pubs with the flawed aristocracy, the twits…all as you follow her Private Investigator Cormorant Strike on his mission to solve the crime du jour. It has authenticity. It has a I-live-here-and-this-is-my-London tone.
I’ve always been a champion of the authentic setting, so for my novella, Under the Tuscan Moon, I recalled trips to Italy. Those medieval towns haven’t changed much since back in the day. Walk in those forests surrounding these towns and you could be back in the 1700s, the time my paranormal series is set. The wild pigs still hunt for truffles and other delicacies, the crumbling villas tower over the villages like vengeful giants.
This is my Italy...
Here's the blurb:
Within the velvety Tuscan sky, a harvest moon glows like liquid amber. Mysterious shadows seep noxiously through the unsuspecting forest, preying on the vulnerable, whose blinded gaze mocks their senses.
Forever locked in a sensual embrace.
A werewolf howls…
A cloak swishes…
Alabaster flesh waits to be torn.
Timing is everything in the Danse Macabre.
On this night the nectar of revenge is at its sweetest.
Just ask Vipunin…
“Who is Vipunin?” you ask.
A tormented soul, longing to recapture the life stolen from him a century ago. His wait is finally over. His love, Ciassia, has returned and she will be by his side for eternity…
Or so he thinks…
Thanks so much for having me, Lynda!
Under the Tuscan Moon
A paranormal romance
Book One – Cassia
Denise Covey hails from that land Down Under, where she publishes flash fiction, short stories and travelogues in Australian magazines. When not writing, she teaches English Lit to her rapt senior students who think it’s way cool to have a writer as a teacher. Under the Tuscan Moon is her first, but not last, paranormal romance. Denise has decided it’s way cool to live in a world of vampires, angels, demons and werewolves.
Join Denise on Blogger, Word Press, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Wattpad.
The IWSG newsletter is going to be a real boon to writers everywhere!
Thanks so much for letting me onto your blog today to talk about my novella!
Thank you mate,
If you're going to write about a real place here on earth, it's important to know it well. And the best way it to go there and walk the streets.
I've never been to Cassa, although that would be really cool!
Thanks for hosting Denise today... I'm very excited about the cover reveal for the IWSG anthology. I was privileged to create the blurb for Yolanda Renee's story.. WHAT A STORY...AMAZING. Can't wait to read the others. And looking forward to the first newsletter, too!
YAY DENISE. LOVED Under the Tuscan Moon, as you know.
Like you, I am a firm believer that when it comes to settings having visited them does make a difference. HOWEVER a talented atmospheric writer, with the proper research, can set the scene equally as well... As long as there is a passion for it!
I'm looking forward to seeing how the first newsletter turns out! Seeing a place in real life can definitely give you a taste of the nuances that don't turn up through other kinds of research.
Thanks Michael. I know your blurb for Yolanda is wonderful...as is your blurb for UTTM. Nothing like really knowing your setting. Thankfully, travel is such a large part of my life!
I think so L.G. Although I've enjoyed TRYING to set stories in places I haven't yet visited, but want to in the future. Not so successful...
I think it's why I keep going back to the places I've been. Why Alaska resonates with me, but I too will use the maps and pictures on the internet to visit a place I haven't been. Imagination can create any thing, any place and sci fi writers do it well.
Your book is resplendent. I applaud your skill! And yes, even envy it. :)
Ditto on the blurb, Michael - perfection as always!
Denise your book has me very intrigued. I got chills! Yeah write what you know is so old hat but if you wear it right it's vintage. Thanks for the info Lynda I might submit something to the newsletter either this or next month.
That's good Sheena-kay! Nice to be intrigued!
And I love how your love for Alaska shines through in your stories, Yolanda!
I think so Alex. Of course if you're going to create a fantasy/sci-fi world, you have to know that well, too!
I mostly write stories set in my home town - but even those may not always be accurate, because I'm recalling a past time. For instance, the few books I've written that are set in high school, I set them in my school I went to - which no longer exists, as it was merged with another school, and the original grounds converted into apartments and houses. But I still keep it alive in my books. ;)
Hi Trisha. It'd be more alive because you've walked those halls and can recall it as it was.
Congrats to Denise on her book!
I set my contemporary novels in Michigan, my home. Easy to explore. My sci-fi romances are another story. I build that world so I know it well. :)
All of my fiction books were set in places I'd visited often enough to know the layout and feel. And what I didn't remember, I researched. Plus Google Maps is a Godsend.
I do tend to world build from where I live. Especially in my Wickedly Series which takes place right here in Buffalo. Except for my dystopia series, but I did some research for that area.
I love Denise's cover and I'm wishing her much success!!!!
I have written about places I've never seen, but only after about 4 months of research. I once asked a VN vet to read my assassin story. He read it then asked when I'd been in-country. That was the endorsement I needed. Writing about places that you've never been shouldn't be taken lightly, but it can be done. Great post, Denise!
Hi Lynda - great you've featured Denise - she brings her settings to life ... and we all need to feel we're amongst reality and not a botched up writerly mismatch.
I imagine JK would describe things accurately ... but it's good to feel the draw of the country - Italy, Australia, the American east coast, little old UK! .. Cheers Hilary
Great introduction of Denise.
All of my books are set in Europe and Northern part of the African continent, because as an ExPat American living in Europe ,these are the continents I visit frequently.
I agree--write what you want to know. There are so many ways to research settings without the expense of living there--or visiting. Google Earth is a favorite of mine.
I worry about setting, while I prevaricate about place to use in the story, even my made up worlds for fantasy. My favorite writer of setting is L. M. Montgomery whose setting pop, live and are almost a character in her books. I once planted silver bushes in my back yard, because I loved her story Pat of Silver Bush so much--I could see it so clearly from her words.
Juneta Writer's Gambit
I want to visit that Italy!! Sounds like a fantastic story, Denise.
Paranormal and romance. A winning combination.
The setting of a story can make so much difference, whether a real place or make believe. I like both.
I've always felt that "write what you know" was a bit of a loaded term. I prefer write what you'd like to know:) Especially for historical authors like myself, we often write about times and era that no one knows much about anymore.
I do write "what I know" but I've lived so many cool places, it just works for me;P
That's why I make places up, haven't lived in many to know them that well haha
"write what you’d like to know" - I love that! I tried writing what I know and found it boring. Now I'm setting books in cool and exotic locations that I've never visited, and I love it! Great post, Denise! :)
I love that idea "write what you'd like to know," too. I struggle with getting setting descriptions on the page, but it's something I'm working on building in my next project.
I love reading books that make the setting come alive. It sounds like Denise knows how to do that.
I love great settings that enhance a story. Haven't read Rowling's newest, so will take a peek and revisit London through her words. It sounds as if you do very well with that setting in your book.
Rowling's detective series is awesome!
Those are the books I love too Susan.
I love finding out new things...and with settings, Google certainly adds to what we know.
Sounds like you're on the track that works for you Lexa.
I hope not Pat!
It's great that you can translate those cool places into your fiction Jennifer.
There's a lot of research in historical fiction Mark, but there needs to be research no matter what our story world looks like.
Thank you Julie. I hope you do get to that Italy!
Settings win for me every time Beverly!
I like writing - and reading - about real locations.
That's wonderful Juneta. My favourite for description of setting is Pat Conroy...Beach Music and South of Broad thrill me each time I re-read!
It's great that you have those 'settings' to call on in your writing Pat!
Thanks Hilary. If you like detective stories, you'd love J.K's series.
A story setting will always sing louder if you do your research. Even though I've spent quite some time in Italy wandering around, I still needed to research more of the 1700s.
Thanks for liking my cover Cathrina! And sounds like you have a solid basis for your world building!
Love Google Maps. I also love how you can take virtual tours of places.
We have to know our world, whether real or imagined Diane!
I set stories wherever. Places I've been, haven't been, and completely fiction. I love e working with all 3 and reading stories set in a three different settings. I love JK as Robert Galbraith!
You are most welcome
Google maps is pretty good too, but you don't get the smells, sounds, vibe of the place...yet I do feel like I've been to Petra, lol.
Yes, JK's Galbraith is awesome!
They often resonate more don't they Patsy?
Hi Dezzy :)
You've got to visit Petra via Google Maps...it's awesome!
The sign of a skilled writer.
Google Earth is brilliant.
yeah, I like making places up too, but I usually draw from somewhere else I know.
Great post on setting, Denise. I love settings in my stories and in the stories of others but I noticed that sometimes, there could be too much of it. When that happens, the story becomes boring. It's not only important to make your setting authentic, or at least believable, but also to have the right balance between setting and action. That is a challenge in itself.
It has saved me any number of times.
Congrats to Denise. I have a copy. I always have New York and South Florida settings since I've lived in both places. An authentic setting jumps out at me and digs into my brain.
A setting done just right really does add to the story. Definitely worth the effort. :-)
Anna from elements of emaginette
True Olga. That doesn't happen too often thankfully. Balance is key.
Thanks Medeia. That's what I look for and try to create.
It definitely is.
Nice to hear from Denise! Wishing her well. Thanks for hosting, Lynda!
I don't feel particularly insecure about my settings. My insecurity comes from trying to describe those settings using words that don't sound trite or "told."
For some reason, world building is hard for me. I see it all, I just don't get it to the page.
Thanks Karen. Long time no see.
Everyone has different talents S.P. No doubt you're awesome at something else.
That's often a starting point Ken.
I go for a little of both for settings. Sometimes its great to be a world traveler and be able to write out those famous places, and equally it good to LIVE in a great setting. One of my novels is set in and around my home town, but dang it, I'm no travel writer and it just doesn't have the same intrigue as London, Paris, or even San Francisco.
But, I'm working on it. Good thing I'm more of a character writer, lol.
Hi Lynda *waves* Love the new badge.
Using your home town as a setting will give it authenticity. Linda's new badge does look good doesn't it?
Great post. That old adage about writing what you know works for me in my stories because I write about small towns and I am a small town girl. Seeing it, feeling it, living in a small town adds authenticity to my descriptions and emotions. Thanks for sharing.
Hi JQ. Ditto above.
Oh what a great post. Loved the blurb! I write both about places I've been and places I want to go, not always exotic, but I try to give a sense of realism to a place/scene. Google earth is good for seeing a place, and so are friends who live there and love being asked to describe things! Came over from Denise's site, thanks for having her here!
Nice to see you here, Denise! Oooh, Italy as a setting, with authentic details. Nice. Best wishes for UNDER THE TUSCAN MOON!!!
Good luck to Denise with her latest and greatest! And that is a spiffy new badge for IWSG.
Thanks Stephen. And it is spiffy!
Thanks Lisa. What a sweetheart. Friends are a good resource too! Thanks for pointing it out!
I do sometimes feel insecure about setting, so I research a lot when I'm setting my story in a new place.
Mostly, though, if I'm not as familiar with the setting, I make sure to divert reader focus to other writing strengths I have. :-)
Thanks Linda and Denise! I am looking forward to the newsletter. It sounds exciting! And thanks Denise for those wonderful thoughts on settings. I write a lot of science fiction, so I am a world-builder, but whenever I am writing other fiction, I tend to write about places I have explored mostly in Virginia, Oklahoma and NYC. I need research to write about other locales. But that is also half the fun in writing! Cheers all!
Sorry about the mistype on your name Lynda!
That's what we do...work with our strengths and weaknesses.
Thanks Ravyne. Research is fun and knowing your settings is solid to build on.
Thank you for this post. I like writing about places I know and combining my interest in travel with writing.
Like me, Rhonda, you're a traveller, so quite easy to 'know' lots of places!
"Write what you'd like to know"? Okay. Then I need to investigate Google Earth. I haven't used it.
Denise's Tuscan setting is...atmospheric!
I still need to post a review for UTTM. I'm so behind with reviews. *sighs*
Thanks Lyn and Denise!
Great to see you here Denise. And loved this post on settings. All the best!
Hi Lynda :)
Google Earth is amazing Michelle. I'd love that review when you can!
Thanks for your good wishes!
Hi, Lynda! I signed up for the newsletter. Denise, I LOVE the blurb. It's so evocative. Thanks so much for this post on setting. I agree that the reader must feel as though she is a part of the setting, together with the character[s]. Congratulations, Denise, on your new book. All the luck!
Thank you so much Victoria. That's so kind of you.
Congrats on the IWSG group for the newsletter!
Mmm. It's true. Nothing is quite so awesome as an authentic setting you can feel. There are stories I have on reserve to write one day, after having visited or lived in certain places because I want that feel. Regardless, having a local who will consult and straighten you out on details can definitely help when you can't visit a location.
Denise, the premise and setting sound lovely!
It's all good. I'm used to it. I get everything from Linda to Lydia even.
While there is nothing quite like having visited the place and soaked it in, there are definitely other helpers too. Like you said, talking with someone in the know is priceless.
Hi Lynda :)) How's life been treating you? Meh but let's pretend it's yay? Or yay and there's more where that came from?
Can I say a little of both? ;)
Because I want both the cake and the joy of eating it too. I'm greedy like that.
I'll have to take a look. Thanks.
Agreed. Even having lived places, I'm planning on finding a consultant when I go to write some works. The only real way to know a place is to spend a lifetime there.
And each person will pick up different things too. I find if you live in a place for a long time, you start to take those little things for granted--those things that make the place unique. So it's good to get a different perspective.
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