Today is also the Bombshell Launch Party for blogger Madeleine Maddock's ebook, Ultimate Sacrifice. I'll be doing an interview with Madeleine on Monday 6th August. For the full schedule, go here. Good luck Maddy!
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Today let's talk about creating a perfect story (I wish.) But at least we can try to get all the elements we need...
Stories we write are anchored in a specific time and place. That doesn't mean shutting your eyes and jabbing a pin on a map and deciding you'll set your story in the Arctic Circle. No, your story is an entity, and as well as having that story idea, those characters already popping up demanding to be included, you have to have your story and your characters set in the right place.
Think about some of our favourites...can you imagine Wuthering Heights anywhere else but on the wild gothic moors of Charlotte Bronte's 19th Century Yorkshire? Could Oliver Twist be set anywhere else but Dickensian London? Thinking modern now - can you separate Janet Evanovitch's Stephanie Plum from her Trenton, New Jersey roots? What about Alexander McQueen's lady detectives? Don't they just work in Botswana?
Now your mind is racing along and you'll be thinking of your favourite stories - yes, their sense of place is all-embracing. It encompasses not only the physical, but the socio-economic, the cultural, the physical, the language, the politics, the weather, the mood of the place. (And if you're writing fantasy and you're creating a whole world, you need to think about all these things too. If your world boasts triple sun, you've got to know how that affects the people, the seasons, how the shadows are cast.)
"Place...makes the characters real...themselves...[Place] never really stops informing us...it is astir, alive, changing, reflecting, like the mind of man himself." Eudora Welty.
Travelling helps to find that perfect merging of place, characters, plot. As we travel we see the unique, the ridiculous, the different, the quixotic...we see stories everywhere, at least I do.
While cruising the Fiji Islands (sorry, lovely image isn't it?) I came across this unique sight - Fijian locals serenading arriving travellers to their island, Mana Island. Amongst the melody-makers here's this white guy, terribly-bad sun-scorched skin. What's he doing here in this incompatible climate? He looks happy, joyous even. Great story. I've got to write it...And why don't the Fijians wear hats in the boiling hot sun? (Generally it's a cultural thing - insulting to the Chief. Once you could have been cannabilised for just wearing a hat or touching the Chief's head.) I'll tell you, I got quite a headache walking around a Village with no hat on...
- What about you? Do you think place in your stories is terribly important?
- If you write fantasy or sci-fi, do you spend ages world building, getting it right?
- Do you enjoy stories with a great sense of overall place, where it all comes together?