Tag Archive: setting

Libelous Liabilities

LiableI’ve just completed a new project and something’s been niggling at me. It’s set in The Hamptons, a well-known playground for the rich and famous. Specifically, the town of East Hampton, generally considered to be the “Best Hampton” (Sorry, Southampton) as opposed to where I used to live, Westhampton, described on the TV show, Royal Pains, as the “Worst Hampton.” Yes, we were a little hurt, but I couldn’t really argue with the logic. Geez, I already feel like I’m walking down a libelous road and I haven’t even gotten to my point yet.

Anyway, I’ve been to East Hampton many times and am somewhat familiar with the geography and businesses, but not to the extent that I am in Westhampton. And since my project falls into the erotic thriller genre I’m a tad worried that nobody in East Hampton might want to be associated with a book of this ilk. I do not paint anyone or any place in a bad light, I get that if you say something derogatory then you might be headed for some serious trouble. But I did place a BDSM club in it’s midst and I’m not sure I can do that without negative repurcussions.

The book is completed and edited, ready to make the rounds, except for this one bit that’s holding me back. So I decided to do a little research to see if I was walking down Lawsuit Lane. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. It’s best to avoid specifics. It makes sense to use made-up names for streets and businesses even if you want to use a real town. If you place a murder in a real person’s front yard, they might not be all that happy.
  2. Product placement. Probably best to avoid brand names like Pepsi, Kindle, or Starbucks unless you want to promote them. This could go either way, but if you trash them, expect trouble.
  3. Know your stuff. People maligned E. L. James for not being accurate in some of her details about Seattle’s geography. I cut her some slack, however, since she’s a Brit and I know virtually nothing about Seattle other then the excessive rainfall and the Space Needle.
  4. Get permission if using someone’s name. If not, change it up. If you want to use Bill O’Reilly you could change it to Will O’Beilly and everyone will know what you’re going for.
  5. A disclaimer is always a good idea. “This is a work of pure fiction and there is no intent to purposefully, or accidently, malign or misrepresent any person, place, or thing.” Or something like that…
  6. It could be good for business. I know for a fact that the town of Twin Forks experienced a major boon after the spectacular success of Twilight. However, if you make a location the topic of a mass school shooting, you might not get the same response.

That said, I stumbled on this story on a NaNoWrMo forum. Hard to believe.

Disney sued Santa Claus recently. A professional real-bearded Santa Claus took his family to Disneyland in the summer. He was not in costume or playing Santa, however, being a real-bearded Santa, he had a very long bleached and permed beard, and children started following him around the park, telling their parents “It’s Santa Claus! I want to give him my list. Can we get his autograph? Do you think he’s here with Jack Frost?” Well, as it turns out, Disney owns the copyright on Santa Claus…Seriously? Disney copyrighted Santa Claus? Who copyrights Santa Claus? Anyway the guy and his family were kicked out of the park for “dressing up as a Disney copyrighted character” while not being an employee of Disney.

She went on to say:

Both the Mormon Church and Disney have reputations for being very overly sensitive when it comes to anyone mentioning them in anything, and both hire massive teams of lawyers who do nothing but search every nook and cranny of the globe in search offenders to sue. Disney has a habit of suing everybody who does anything without getting permission in writing first. The Mormon Church is especially notorious for suing authors, editors, agents, movie producers, directors, script writers, and publishers – they sue hundreds of people a year, and they always win. Of course, you are also talking about businesses that have enough money to not flinch at hiring billion dollar lawyers, so no one ever wins against these guys.

Although I doubt anyone would argue against Disney being particularly litigious, one must be attentive to detail when it comes to copyright infringement. Remember when I said the Santa story was hard to believe? Well, I researched further and it appears to be more of an urban legend. By all accounts, Santa Clause is public domain, so use him at will. But this sheds more light on the fact that it’s difficult to sometimes know what is free to use and what’s not. Check out Robin’s post on Trademark Use for more detailed information.

I don’t think there are issues with famous places the likes of Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. Letting your character sip a brand name wine in a swanky well-known restaurant says a lot about her without having to spell out all the details. Using real locations gives authenticity to a story and as long as you’re not using them in a negative context I think you’re safe. Of course, avoid copyrighted material like artwork, photographs, written works, especially song lyrics. But making your male lead a former Navy Seal, a dancer for the San Francisco Ballet, or a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers is probably okay if you don’t make him a serial killer or pedophile.

I’m interested in all the help I can get in this regard. So, please, write me!


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Tips for Releasing Your Inner Poe

Edgar_Allan_Poe_cropGothic literature is delicious and deadly and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about it. It’s a literary form most people either love or hate. I fall in the love-it camp and I’m always hunting for great examples. I enjoy the old masters and finding new writers who rework the old tropes in fresh ways. I’m also thrilled when I find gothic examples on the big or small screen.

Gothic literature is a subgenre of horror. It’s categorized by strong setting, heavy use of metaphors, prose leaning toward a literary flavor and a tendency to glamorize dark and foreboding themes of death, madness and evil. It often has a romantic component which favors themes of lost loves, and misguided or perverted attractions.

Gothic is like a fine meal, rich like chocolate and complex like fine wine. It gathers nuance and beauty from the many layers of story detail and not necessarily through plot or character arc. I think it’s one of the hardest forms to write because it’s formulaic and people expect a writer to address the genre tropes. Yet, it’s also subtle and lyrical. If the writer goes too heavy handed the artistry suffers, and if they go too light they don’t invoke any reader response. Poe was a short story master, any writer could learn a lot from reading his work. However, he’s one of many fine gothic writers. For a well constructed list you can check Goodreads, I’ll add a link below. If you want to study gothic you need to understand the key elements.

These four aspects show up in almost every gothic work I can think of. So each one should get your full consideration if you want to craft a great gothic tale.

There must be a foreboding setting:Kenilworth_Castle_England
Many gothic novels take place in a confined area, a small town, a manor house or a graveyard. The world building can be lush and opulent, or war torn and decrepit, whichever suits the story best. However, in both cases the setting needs to make the reader believe that under the surface something is not quite right. Castles dominated the early gothic works, but modern gothic is much more creative with the use of setting. Think dark, foggy, shadowed places, maybe studded with gargoyles.

The protagonist should be in jeopardy:
Gothic favors woman or children in peril. The protagonist is often isolated and cut off from their support system making them insecure and fearful of the unknown. Sometimes the protagonist puts him or herself in jeopardy by acting irresponsibly. In all cases the reader must believe something bad could happen at any moment. The quality of fear and mystery needs to cling to the protagonist till it colors their whole world view.

The story needs a compelling backstory, evil runs deep:
Much of gothic literature plays off superstitions, urban legends, and folk tales. Some authors interweave historical facts into the story to give it a rich almost realistic feeling. There are omens, predictions, or prophecies that feed the current dilemma and the create a feeling of urgency within the protagonist to solve the problem. Especially if they must beat a ticking clock. Giving all the characters tortured pasts, and family histories drenched in foul play will help make for the perfect atmosphere for harboring evil.

The gothic villain is special.
Gothic loves big villains. They can be pure evil, a monster built for killing, or someone fighting his own inner demons. All the trope monsters are welcome in gothic, werewolves, vampires, and more. Or you don’t necessarily need a traditional villain, the story’s fear could be a product of madness, or some other misdirection of the facts. Sometimes the villains are just misunderstood and a few words can prove their innocence. Or the guilty party might be someone unseen until the bitter end. Gothic villains are often tragic, drenched in their own pain, and we can’t help but feel sorry for them and empathize with their plight.

Gothic fiction is a heavy subject, so it’s best done in small batches. Today I just wanted to introduce a few of the basic story elements and give some examples. Follow me over the next few week as I dig into gothic fiction.

Read Part Two of Releasing your Inner Poe here.

Looking for some gothic authors? Here are ten classics tales you can read right now.

 Or find just the right gothic novel at Goodreads.

Read more posts by Robin here.

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Friday Inspiration: Research Your Setting

UnderCovers Part I: Alyx

The old adage goes: Write what you know, and this is particularly pertinent in regard to location. There was a good deal of criticism about E.L James’ depiction of Seattle, WA, many saying she had some of the roads incorrect and the time it took to get her characters around was inaccurate. Of course, if you are using a fictional location you’re free to name and describe places with no restriction or fear of criticism. But when using a locale of fame you need to be accurate and respectful of the residents who know every road and hangout and you better serve them well or be prepared to suffer their wrath.

My first novels were fantasy and I had more freedom to be carefree and loose with my geography. Although, personally, I found it difficult to describe places that only exist in your imagination. However, in real-life settings, when using a location you’ve never been to, you need to rely on someone else’s pictures or video. But nothing is as good as actually walking the terrain, making notes, and taking your own photos.

In my latest project my characters frolic in East Hampton, the playground of the rich and famous. Although I’ve lived much of my life in The Hamptons, it’s a broad area and the specific town of East Hampton is about thirty miles from my former home town of Westhampton. Thus, I’m not as familiar with every nuance of the geography and activities that occur there on a regular basis.

Main Street, Westhampton, NY

Main Street, Westhampton, NY

I intended to take a field trip to East Hampton this week. Unfortunately, I was derailed by back-to-back snowstorms. Instead I focused on Westhampton as this is my female protagonist’s home town and although she doesn’t spend any time there in the novel, the more detailed the backstory the more accurate I become in honing her personality and behavior.

My story, titled UnderCovers, is written with two protagonists, Special Agent Alyx Cameron and Dr. Daniel Taylor. This post is devoted to Alyx, next time to Daniel. So enjoy my montage of downtown Westhampton and look forward to my trip to East Hampton in a few weeks.

Obviously, my photography skills are lacking and I’ll try to get better close-ups for Part II. The Westhampton locals hangout out at the Beach Tree Cafe, the Post Stop Cafe and the Marguerita Grill–all on Main Street. Surfers and beach-goers frequent places like the Swordfish Club, Rogers and Lashley Beaches, the latter being billed as the beach for serious surfers. You’ll even find them surfing all winter! Although you can’t see it, the movie theater marquis says: Closed for the Winter. Many businesses are closed for the winter months and some right after Labor Day, which we’ve affectionately nicknamed Tumbleweed Tuesday.

Seeing the places my characters inhabit, walking their path with my own feet, inspires me to write with more detail and accuracy, and passion. So, I guess I’ll never write a story that takes place on the moon!

Alyx’s Childhood Home

Alyx's House


Here’s the way to the beach…

To Beach

The serious Surfers hang out at Lashley Beach

Surfing BeachBeach Club



Surfing Beach II





Swordfish Beach Club is members-only and has been around since the 1930s.


The movie theater and Performing Arts Center close down for the winter!

Movie Theater


Performing Arts CenterThe Beach Tree Bakery is the place to be before you hit the beach and when you’re done with throwing a few cold ones back at the Marquerita Grill.

Beach Tree Bakery








Marguerita Grill has great margueritas and Mexican Cuisine.

Marguerita Grill

The Post Stop Cafe is more serious fare…

Post Stop Cafe

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The Call of the Wild and How Writers Respond.

I’ve always felt the call of the wild, that deep magnetic draw to be outside. The feeling stuck with me even after bad times, days when Mother Nature let me know she held all the cards. Like when I lost my footing while backpacking and tumbled down an embankment, or when a Tarantula Hawk sting sent me to the hospital. I learned long ago that nature is the perfect antagonist, and she’s ready to strike without warning.

Sometimes in fiction nature plays the part of the accomplice to the antagonist, a component in their egomaniacal plan. Villains often unwisely believe they can master nature’s fury. Nature can give our protagonists the chance to brave something bigger, stronger, and infinitely more complicated than they are. Nature can become the protagonist’s best friend at unlikely moments, the river that allows the hero to escape, while whisking away the bad guys in a flurry of rapids. Nature can be the catalyst for a protagonist’s inner/outer development, the mountain they must climb, or the storm they must survive, in order to achieve their end goals.

Regardless of how you plan to use nature in your plot, this post will remind everyone that quality nature writing in either nonfiction or fictional landscapes takes on new dimensions when created with care. This is a subset of setting craft well worth learning. Not to mention a subset that holds a revered list of charter members. I’ve picked four, but they are by no means definitive, they are just writers who have influenced me.

Jean Craighead George: Many writers have authors from their childhood we credit with changing us. Jean is one of mine, best known for her Newbery winner, Julie of the Wolves, but my favorite is My Side of The Mountain. I wanted to be her character Sam, a boy who spends a year living alone in the mountains. I wanted a home in a hollowed out tree and a bird of prey for a best friend. So did millions of other kids. Including my own, who debate Sam’s many choices as if they are talking about a neighborhood boy and not a character in a book. Jean’s love of nature led her to write hundreds of books, and won her posthumously the US Department of the Interior’s 2013 Conservation Hero Award. If you missed reading Jean as a kid, it’s time to discover her. Maybe let her books work some nature magic on your own kids. Learn more about Jean Craighead George’s life and work at: http://www.jeancraigheadgeorge.com/J_London_writing_1905

Jack London:  London’s home (and grave site) in the Valley of the Moon is just over the hill from me. It’s a place my guests always ask to visit, and why shouldn’t they? London, who wrote the book this blog shamelessly adopts as title, remains a best selling author nearly one hundred years after his death. Few writers grasp the role of wild nature in a story the way that London did. He did this by utilizing his journalistic skills of observation, with an impressive list of travel destinations. London often pits characters against nature; the struggle is personal, raw, and sometimes dark. Although it’s been at least ten years since I read Martin Eden, the ending stays with me. London finishes the book in a caldron of pain and pressure; he punches the reader in the gut until the horrible fateful moment when nature wins. Learn more about Jack London’s life and work at: http://www.jacklondonpark.com/

JohnMuir_sJohn Muir: Often called the father of the American conservation movement, Muir founded the Sierra Club. Muir drank in nature, he needed it to sustain himself, but lucky for us he could also translate that emotion into prose. His words lift off the page, they fuse into towering granite walls, and streams flashing with swift-moving fish. It’s hard not to love Muir. He always allows himself to be vulnerable and small, yet he’s never lost or cut adrift in the huge landscapes he writes about. Plus, Muir’s dedication to preserving wild spaces is unprecedented. After spending just three days with Muir in 1903, Theodore Roosevelt returned to Washington to push forth on sweeping US protection policies, safeguarding over a hundred million acres of wilderness for future generations to enjoy. Learn more about John Muir’s life and work at: http://www.nps.gov/jomu/index.htm

Henry David Thoreau: Walden! To say the name is to fill the mind with nature. It’s a book with the simple premises, one man will live alone in nature, making it his companion, his teacher, his muse. The book is at its heart practical, but also so much more. For Thoreau the journey is not in miles, but in spiritual evolution, he wanted to learn to live without regrets. Published in 1854, Walden‘s messages of self-reliance and purposeful living are still relevant in a modern society. Learn more about Henry Thoreau’s life and work at: http://www.thoreausociety.org/

I had trouble choosing my four authors; I considered at least a dozen others, all worthy of study. Twain, Hemingway, Whitman, Edward Abbey for his Desert Solitude. Or Rachel Carson who’s seminal book Silent Spring launched the American ecology movement in the 1960s. Because Carson is dear to me, I’ll include a link for those interested in her life and work: http://www.rachelcarson.org/

I’ll like to think everyone who reads this post will develop a case of wanderlust, and they will be packing up and taking to the wild in droves. If not, at least seek out a few of these gifted nature authors and give them a try. And if you do, please do yourself a favor, take my old friends for a nice long walk in the woods first.

Next up from Robin???

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Into the Wild: Creating Nature Settings

For urban dwellers, nature sits apart. Most of us only see the spare, diminished nature of city parks and backyard gardens. Even these natural settings we relegate to the rear of our consciousness as we focus on the conditions around us, the cars in the street, our work cubical, a much-needed trip to the grocery store. However, even if city writers never see much in the way of nature, we still want to write about it in our novels. Maybe we just want to show a simple slice of metaphorical nature, a gentle changing of the seasons. Or maybe you’ve learn the secrets of other great writers and you want nature unleashed, the stuff of major plot points, stunning story reversals and awe inspiring climaxes. Regardless of your fiction project, at some point nature will come calling at your literary doorstep. The question is will you be ready to answer?

Creative Commons by Nimish Gogri

Creative Commons by Nimish Gogri

As writers we’re always being encouraged to write what we know, so how can we hope to ensnare readers with believable nature settings without experiencing them? Must we abandon our stories if we’re unwilling or unable to cast ourselves into swift rivers, or storm heaving seas? Since I tend to gravitate toward climate extremes, and enjoy my alive status too much to risk it, I hope not!

I believe we can learn to write about any form of nature, from the benevolent to the catastrophic with a few simple exercises in observation.

Spend some time with Mother Nature’s bounty:

Nothing beats the real thing, so pick up a notebook and get outside. Even if it’s just your own yard at first. Feel the plants in your garden. Turn over bits of wood and find out what bugs crawl around on them. Try to notice nature wherever you go, trust me, it’s out there. If you walk by a huge red lava rock every time you go to the bank, next time touch the boulder. Record what it feels like. Try to describe the color of the rock. Think about where this rock came from, and ask yourself why is the rock here and how did it get here? Did the builder use the rock as a metaphor; maybe the bank wants to convey permanence or stability with this huge ornamental rock. No rocks in your town to study, try to sample strange seasonal produce in the grocery store, what about star fruits, guavas, or prickly pears? Find out where these items grow, what conditions they require. Look up interesting bits of food lore, or harvest festivals. Start thinking about what kind of nature you enjoy seeing. Think in terms of color and shapes, which plants invoke emotions in you and why. I love evergreens because of their smell. I have eight evergreen trees in my yard, and only two deciduous trees. However, I never miss the chance to take a drive to check out the fall colors. What will you see, taste, feel, or hear this week with your fresh perspective?

Creative Commons by Frank Vassen

Creative Commons by Frank Vassen

Try to get into a wild space, overnight if you can manage it:

Call it simple genetics, a holdover from our years as hunter/gatherers, but being outside changes your body chemistry, and hyper tunes your senses. Your heart rate and breathing changes, you can hear everything around you. The scratch of birds nesting, the trickle of water, and the steps of other hikers scream across your eardrums like foghorns after a day or two of total quiet. Your taste buds will change after a few days in the wild. Just a few sun warm berries will explode in your mouth, and you will feel an intense bite on your tongue from a sprig of ice-cold watercress. I’m lucky, I’m surrounded by protected wild spaces and the right weather to enjoy them year round, but wherever you live find a place to soak up some raw nature. Go to the beach and watch waves pound the tide pools, or park yourself by a pond and watch the bird migration through binoculars. Find your spot and just sit quietly for at least an hour. While I do this exercise, I can almost feel the trees growing. My youngest son says he can feel the earth turn in those rare idle moments in the wild. What do you feel in wild?

Get some training from a professional nature observer:

I recommend you let an expert show you around. Most preserves, even ones dead center inside a city have a nature guide who leads walks. They may even have some designed for those with limited mobility, so do some research and book a spot. Let the guide tell you about the geology of the site and the native plants and animals, the big picture of the area, while you also focus in on the details. Know what you’re walking on, get down and pick up rocks. Try to spot animal trails by the crumple of branches and leaves, look for paw tracks in the soft earth or piles of scat. Look at the plants. As long as you’re not in a protected space, pinch off some leaves and rub them between your fingers. Smell them, if the guide gives you permission, taste them. This week my family ate pickleweed for the first time, not a recommended form of nutrients, but wild foods are always memorable experiences and relatively safe when sampled under the supervision of a trained professional. What wild food will you eat this week?

Buy a field guide and hit the path. Before you know it these exercises will help you learn to see nature and give you all the skills you need to write simple nature settings with confidence.

Next week I’ll show you some tips for creating extreme nature settings.

Up Next from Robin… Into the Wild Part II

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Navigating Architectural Spaces in your Fiction: From Apse to Ziggurat:

I happen to love architecture, I always have. I’m one of those strange people who measures time by my landmark acquisitions. However, I believe anyone can learn to write about structures (from castles, to space stations, to huts) by asking themselves a few simple questions about how they want to use the building in the setting.

  • Think about the building’s purpose.

Your primary building will most likely be housing. So, how long has your character(s) lived there? How do they feel about the house, sentimental or resentful? Make sure you give your building enough square footage to meet the demands of your story. Did you write about a huge extended family smashed into a few tenement rooms, or about a single person rattling around in a huge empty nest of a chateau?

image: IvoShandor

image: IvoShandor

  • Give the structure a basic shape and composition.

Please, don’t restrict yourself to squares or rectangles unless the story calls for it. Think about giving your building curves and angles. Is your building made of bricks or maybe wood? What about the roof? Is it covered in grass, perhaps with a few goats nibbling on it? If you’re writing fantasy, you can use influences from a few different cultures to invent something other worldly. If you write historical fiction and don’t want to use a real structure, combine elements from several structures to create something fresh.

image: Kjetil Bjørnsrud

image: Kjetil Bjørnsrud

  • Use regional details.

Building influences come out of the availability (or scarcity) of local materials and climate considerations. Wraparound porches, screened sleeping rooms, matched windows and doors for cross ventilation are all common to warmer locations. Think about your character’s needs. What would make them comfortable or uncomfortable? How would they interact with nature, on a patio, or buffered from the outside in a solarium?  

  • Work your five senses on the space.

Think about what your old house smells like, the flowers in the yard or the food cooking on the neighbor’s stove. What does your house sound like? Most wood houses creak, but houses set on adobe ground often pop. What about street noises? Do the doors and windows scrape as they stick? And what sort of windows are they, big glass walls that flood the rooms with light? Or are they small dirty windows that let in almost no light at all?

  • Create a blueprint of your building, if not your whole world.

You don’t need great art skills to create a template of your building, a basic layout will do. Record all the details. You may not use them all, in fact, it’s better if you don’t. When your character stumbles on the front steps you’ll know if he falls down two steps or ten.

  • Give your character some social standing.

How does your character’s structure relate to the other buildings in the area? Is your protagonist’s shop the smallest store in a fancy resort town? Or the grandest store in a crime ridden ghetto? No structure exists in a vacuum; they’re always influenced by the surrounding land and the other buildings. By paying attention to this detail, you can create a sense of community and the illusion that you’ve described a real place. 

  • Show us who lives there.

Are they concrete thinkers, people seeking to bring order to everything? Set them in a white house with symmetry, and long linear lines. Are they free spirited people, with an arty style? Set them in a home with lots of color and jutting greenhouse windows. Even small details can tell the reader a lot. Remember don’t be afraid of mixing it up, everyone loves a maverick, someone who defies convention because s/he can.

If you learn to write about structures with skill they can become a huge asset to your story, as much a part of the work as any of your characters.

 Happy house crafting everyone!

Up next from Robin… Into the Wild: Creating Landscape Settings.

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Misty Moors and Bloody Battlements: The Rules of Setting

256px-Warwick_Castle_-mist_23o2007The principles of choosing and researching a real world location for your fictional setting follows the same rules regardless of the genre. So contemporary writers listen up, someone out there knows more about the downtrodden civic center you’ve picked as the setting for your new novel than you do. So if you don’t want the negative comments, follow these rules and reap the rewards.

Travel to the setting.
Imagine you’re the location scout for the movie version of you story. Where would you go? Nothing beats that first-hand multi-sensory experience of running your hands over the stone blocks of your building, or walking the twisted cobbled roads of your cityscape. However, it’s not always practical (or possible) to see the real location. If you can’t, you must collect data and lots of it. Find maps, guidebooks, information about the city’s public transit system and population demographics. Immerse yourself in the landscape. You should feel confident enough to give tourists directions, if not keep… researching.

Pick locations that trigger an emotional reaction.
As you travel your locations, look for ones that spark your creativity. If you fantasize about living in the old mansion on the edge of town, or panic every time you step into a certain dense grove of trees, chances are you can translate that emotion into a captivating setting. Can you see your characters inside those spaces? If you can’t, you should keep looking for a better setting to use as your model.

Look for an expert.
Documentaries, guidebooks, computer generated reconstructions, photos, maps, and diaries are wonderful things, but nothing beats finding an expert, particularly if you can’t travel to your site. Look for historical societies, university scholars and websites devoted exclusively to your place. Make sure to check the credentials of your expert, check out any books or articles they’ve published. Talk to the local papers. Newspapers often have one reporter who acts as historian. The newspaper may also have records about your site, or know who does. While you have the reporter’s attention, gather weather data and information about local events, or culinary traditions. Most experts would love to help you for a small donation to their museum, or mention in the book.

Try to understand the basic nature of the site and its real history.
Yes, of course you’re writing fiction, and everyone expects the author to adapt the sites to fit their needs, but when you pick a well-known site it comes with preexisting considerations. If you want to change the site’s fundamental nature, you need to give readers a reason to believe in your change. I like to think of this in the same way I do physical laws. Can characters defy gravity? Sure, as long as you give readers a reason they can. It’s the same with recognizable real world locations. Use them for any new purpose under the sun, but be prepared to create a back-story.

Include only the settings that relate directly to your plot.
Caryn has already reminded everyone of the dramatic principle of Chekhov’s gun. So don’t spend a page describing a castle on the hill, unless you plan to drag your protagonist inside it, and throw them face down on its filthy stone floor. Any setting acting as window dressing must go. Include only the places you’ve woven into the plot, or help define your character’s ethos.

Don’t add setting that sits apart from the action.
The exposition can’t read like some endless monotone from a cheap tour guide. The moment a writer drones on about geological features, and architectural details, readers start to skim. Just because you know everything about the Vatican, even down the last doorknob, doesn’t mean you need to tell us. Unless, of course, your character is OCD about doorknobs, and trapped inside the Vatican, in which case, please, carry on.

Double and triple check the details.
Another good reason to have an expert is they can help cut down on the last-minute fact checking. Make sure you have everything based on real world locations perfectly researched.The little things matter a great deal to some readers, so don’t diminish their enjoyment with mistakes.

Few things excite me as much as a wonderful setting. Please share with us a bit about your setting, and what makes that place special to you.

Up Next from Robin… From Apse to Ziggurat: Navigating Architectural Spaces

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