ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

JOIN YOLANDA RENEE ON HER BLOG TOUR!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Locale as Setting : J L Campbell's Jamaica

Today I welcome J L Campbell to my blog, to continue the discussion of how authors use their local settings for their novels or implement scenes from their travels into their stories. Jamaica is still on my To Be Visited list, so I enjoy my visits to Joy's blog where she often posts pictures of her island. Take it away Joy...


Denise, thanks so much for having me. 

As a traveller, Denise won’t be able to relate to my next statement, but I haven’t left the island of Jamaica other than a trip to Cayman years ago, however, I’ve been taking armchair trips since childhood.

Coast of Ocho Rios
Like Denise, I started reading Mills & Boon novels while I was elevenish and still in primary school. Boy, did I enjoy those stories about people living in exotic places. I also took trips to Greece and Africa via Gerald Durrell, who wrote My Family & Other Animals and other stories. 

Scotland was also wonderful to visit with James Herriot in the All Things Bright & Beautiful Series. Travelling with Mark Twain through Europe and the African continent in the Innocents Abroad was an experience I’ve never forgotten. China and Japan are also fascinating places I’ve only visited through books. 

I came away with visuals of faraway lands from the novels I read, which stuck in my head for years, but I didn’t realize the role and impact of setting/s in a novel until I started writing.

At the writing network where I was a member, people expected Jamaica to come alive as my stories unfolded. When I didn’t include enough of the setting, readers would ask ‘Where is Jamaica??’ That experience trained me to add Jamaica not only as setting, but as a character in each novel.  It also taught me that Jamaica made my work unique, although I’ve been told by a publisher that ‘Jamaica is a hard sell’. I believe I’ve done a decent job of fleshing out the island when I take a sampling of Amazon reviews for my books. 

For many, reading is about escapism and I also enjoy that aspect of literature. At the end of a book, I like to think I’m well acquainted with the characters and familiar with their corner of the world.

In my own writing, I try to capture Jamaica through all the senses. There’s the smell of the sea, the caress of the island breeze, the sparkling waters of the Caribbean Sea, the thunderous crash of water cascading from mountain to river and the taste of fruits such as Otaheite apple, Jackfruit and Ackee, which is one half of our national dish. 

Ackee & Saltfish
I sometimes include actual places (Dunn’s River Falls) and landmarks (the National Stadium), which add a dose of reality to my stories. And then there are the not so nice communities. The local language, Patios, can be hard to understand, I include it in such a way that readers won’t be drawn out of the story while trying to translate what’s being said. 
 
St. William Grant Park in Downtown Kingston

Coronation Market in Downtown Kingston

Old Court House in Half-Way Tree


Dunn's River Falls

Giddy House @ Port Royal after 1906 Earthquake
  
Rose Hall Great house a la Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall
 
Scene from Half-Way-Tree

 
Another landmark-St. Andrew Parish Church. Welcome to the 1600's
 And some places even find their way on to book covers. The shot was taken in Half-Way-Tree. The clock in the background is several hundred years old, but of course, it's been restored. 


 For me, the best novels include not only memorable characters, but interesting plotlines and a backdrop that comes to life as the story unfolds. Do you add your setting as another character? If not, how do you ensure your characters interact with your locale to enrich the tapestry against which your story unfolds?

Last time we checked, Joy was seen wandering off on the hunt for story-making material. She writes romantic suspense, women's fiction and young adult novels. Her website is here and her Amazon author page is here.

Thank you for visiting today Joy. And thank you for more scenes of Jamaica. Love how you've included a home shot on the cover of Don't Get Mad, Get Even.


  • How about you? Joy asks us whether we add setting as a character. How do you get your characters to interact with your locale? I, for one, wallow in wonderful books where the setting is a character.





43 comments:

  1. So Joy, now it's confirmed -- we didn't read Mills and Boon for the romance, it was all about the setting. That might explain why they sell more books than any other publishing company, lol!

    Thanks for your post!

    Denise

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can say that again. ;)
      Thanks so much for having me.

      Delete
  2. Wonderful photographs of Jamaica, Joy! I love to travel and prefer (demand?) books in which setting is a character. I certainly work to make settings a character in my own stories—very hard to do with physical description alone. I try to shine a light on what's unique about a locale while at the same time providing a portrait that engages ALL of a reader's senses. It's easier if I'm nearby and can visit sites for inspiration. I had a lot of trouble finishing my second novel in part because it was set in San Francisco, and halfway through writing the book, I moved from the West Coast to Atlanta.

    VR Barkowski

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. VR, the unique qualities will certainly stand out for people who haven't visited the locale of our stories. I do agree that engaging all the reader's senses is key. Visiting would be ideal to get a feel for the place you're writing about, just as you did. I read an article once about a famous male writer whose novel was set halfway across the world and all he used for research was the internet. I should be so skilled. :)

      Delete
  3. Great pictures and a very interesting post. I love to read historical novels (I write them, too), and much of what Joy said about local setting is true about historical setting. I liked her comment that she thinks of the setting as one of the characters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Elizabeth,

      Writing is lots more interesting when the setting has a role of its own.

      Delete
  4. BTW Denise, thanks for stopping by my blog. I so envy you your trip to Monet's garden! (He is one of my favorite painters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I went both in winter and summer and it was magical both times.

      Delete
  5. Amazing photos!
    The setting as a character is something I'm still working on improving.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I love about writing, we get better as we craft our stories.

      Delete
  6. I'm from Jamaica and those photos wowed me! Location is important and I'm J.L. is able to incorporate it in her novels so well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sheena,
      Thanks for coming over. It's been fun getting shots of different places. One of the last steps in writing each chapter for me is making sure I get the sensory details as well as the backdrop included.

      Delete
  7. I personally think you do a great job of breathing life into Jamaica through your writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Mike. That means a lot to me coming from you. :)

      Delete
  8. Setting is important and so it the way it's described. You know, either in detail or sparsely it adds to the overall character of the place and the people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True that. I tend to go a little lighter in YA stories, but the island is there in some form.

      Delete
  9. I think I don't give setting enough description when I write. It always comes in third behind character and plot, but I know how important it is. People want that escapism. Wonderful post that has made me want to go add some more descriptive details to my story's setting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. L.G., it does take practice to remember to get everything in and we all have our weaknesses. With me, it's getting the sensory details in and making sure people are where they are supposed to be as I work through each scene. That's part of what I do when I write and edit each chapter.

      Delete
  10. I love history and atmosphere and you've created a lot of it here just in this post! Excellent examples, JL Campbell :)

    Denise, thanks for stopping by! I just couldn't stay away from blogging any longer :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Words Crafter, definitely addictive, but in a good way. :-)

      Delete
    2. TWC,
      Happy you enjoyed reading.

      Delete
  11. I need to go to Jamaica! This post is fabulous! I can't stop looking at all the pictures and imagining what it would be like to go there. Thanks, JL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting Emily. D

      Delete
    2. Emily, Jamaica is a tourist's paradise. There are all sorts of interesting places to visit.

      Delete
  12. Hi Joy & Denise!
    As a teenager, I also "devoured" Mills&Boon books... just couldn't get enough of those exotic locations...
    I really love those pics Joy. Some scenic spots there.
    Setting as character - what a wonderful way of putting it... makes me think...

    Writer In Transit

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michelle,
      I think the surfeit (one of them Mills & Boon words!) of M&B novels might be why I hardly ever read them anymore. Maisey Yates, I like though. She's good.

      Naturally, you wouldn't get to put in much by way of setting because you write mainly flash.

      Delete
  13. Great interview Joy & Denise and a good question. No I don't think I considered setting as a character. Very thought-provoking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Madeleine,
      The setting is the same as the character for me. I like to meet new people and 'see' different places.

      Delete
  14. Joy, I totally agree that the setting can be integral to a story. In my second book, I used Texas as the setting and was amazed at how my beta readers responded to it, as if Texas was a character itself. I'd done it unconsciously but it's about what the character is experiencing and we can't go through life without experiencing where we are. It's fundamental to our story.

    Jai

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said, Jai. The setting definitely enhances story.

      Delete
  15. I always use setting as part of the story. My characters visit specific places that have meaning to them, and so should have meaning to the reader.

    This was a great post Joy. So beautiful.

    ......dhole

    ReplyDelete
  16. I do my best to make my Texas settings a character in my books. I use a lot of sensory elements, food, music, anything I can think that I can put a Texas spin on.

    Great post, Joy. Loved the photos!

    Hi, Denise!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well said, Donna.

    Carol, yeah, I pretty much do the same. Thanks for stopping in.

    Denise, many thanks for letting me take over your blog to share a bit about my setting.

    ReplyDelete
  18. J.L Campbell, what a fabulous post! I really enjoyed this virtual tour to Jamaica. The pictures are stunning but I also love how you describe the place. I can feel the breeze on my skin! Setting is vital to a story. My mind is like an IMAX theater. I need to imagine the setting of the story I want to write to let it unfold in my head.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True that, Julia. Just last night I wrote a note to another writer suggesting that she visualizes the scene and then write the description around that. Doesn't have to be a lot. Just enough to ground the reader.

      Delete
  19. great post Joy! I love all those pictures, and now I really want to go visit Jamaica:)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you make it here one day, Nutschell.

      Delete
  20. So pretty! I can't believe Jamaica would be a tough sell! I'm terrible at incorporating setting but with reminders from my crit buddies, I'm getting better! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good job, Jemi. I think that comment was another way of saying that my story didn't fit in with any of their lines.

      Delete
  21. Hi Denise!
    Love the photographs, Joy. I've never considered setting as a character before but I love the idea, and personally I don't think I put enough effort into my settings. This is definitely something I need to work on. (:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Elise. I love great descriptions of setting. Thanks for visiting. D

      Delete
    2. Glad this has given you something to thing about.

      Denise, thanks again!

      Delete

Please take the time to share! I love hearing from you! Hit me with your wisdom!