I’m passionate about many things, but writing and traveling top my list, and I find myself combining them all the time. Need a location for a story? Hey, that place I saw last summer would be perfect. Need something more exotic ? Maybe something surreal? Combining and creating comes into play. Today, our guest blogger, Natacha Guyot, is talking about just that.
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.
#MondayBlogs: Writing About Real and Imaginary Locations
I have loved imagining worlds and stories since I was a kid. I think I was a storyteller even before knowing how to write. From a young age, my passions have been Science Fiction and Fantasy. These remain my favorite genres to read and write. Even my nonfiction projects often focus on these genres.
I wrote my first novella and novel when a teenager. Even during my ten year break from original fiction, I still took notes about new universes. I love world building although my stories most often start with one or more characters when I only have a vague idea of the settings.
I still write about imaginary locations but end of 2014, a shift happened. I started writing a short story collection, which will be the first of a series. It is a Supernatural / Urban Fantasy universe. Most of the events take place in the UK. While all locations in the stories exist, I decided to focus a lot of my characters’ lives in the London area and Oxford. In 2008-2009, I lived in London and it has been my favorite city since then. As for Oxford, I visited it in 2012 for two conferences and fell in love with the place too.
I make sure to look up for some details (without getting lost in them) even for real locations I am familiar with. One of the funniest things about the scenes in London was using Google Maps to check on some streets and places. One character lives near where I used to and I was shocked finding out that my student residence had closed!
This experience made me want to write more stories in places I love, regardless of how many Science Fiction and Fantasy universes I’ll keep creating! My home town still has a special place in my heart, so I decided to write a series about vampires taking place there! I am only at the note taking stage now but am excited about “Vampiric Versailles” (very tentative title). I studied in Paris but I am not a big fan of it. I have always preferred Versailles and its direct area. Most tourists come for the palace, but I like its gardens better. I hope to include lesser known parts in my story.
If it wasn’t enough, I am currently developing the early outlines for a YA Fantasy trilogy which will take place in Perigord, where I spent most of my holidays when in high school and a few more years afterwards. I will create imaginary castles that are related to families in my story, but I am looking forward to blend made-up and real places.
What about you? Do you prefer writing imaginary or real places? Do you include a mix of both?
Natacha Guyot is a French author, scholar and public speaker. She works on Science Fiction, Transmedia, Gender Studies, Children Media and Fan Studies. She is a feminist, a fangirl, a bookworm, a vidder, a gamer and a cat lover.
Her released titles include Feminist Bloggers: The 2014 Collection (editor), Before Mako Came Yoko: Comparative Study of Pacific Rim and Yoko Tsuno and La Cité de Sharianth. She is currently working on a revised version of A Galaxy of Possibilities: Representation and Storytelling in Star Wars with additional content and other nonfiction titles
She also writes Science Fiction and Fantasy stories.
Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, I just turned 24 yesterday. That means, I’m 113 in cat years (according to this calculator.) Since I’m 113, I thought I’d share some of my personal, cat lady wisdom, and by “personal” wisdom, I mean self-awareness in regards to my writing style. (Plus, a good portion of you have let me know you’d like to hear more about my writing and what goes on behind it, so I thought this was a good excuse to share some information about how I’ve gone about writing novels . . . a little extra insight, so to speak.) That’s why I’m going to splurge a little bit. While this looks like a long post, it’s really divided into two parts: Finding Your Style and Aspects of my Style that I Figured Out
Feel free to read one or both.
Finding Your Style
This July, my first novel—November Snow—was published eight years ago. Eight years. (49 years in cat years.) I’ve definitely learned a lot since then, but one of the things that took the most time was figuring out my “style.”
We hear that word a lot. STYLE. It is normally followed up with “finding your voice.” And all those years back, this entire conversation would’ve freaked me out. It made me feel inadequate—mainly because I could not pinpoint my “style” or “voice.” Now, that I’m a couple novels deep, I get it, and I’ll tell you a secret.
It will happen naturally—so naturally, you won’t even realize it—so don’t worry yourself silly. (Us authors are good at that.)
But here’s the other side of that token: Not only is it different for everyone but also discovering it is different for everyone. It takes a level of self-analysis, but that’s just my little opinion. For me, it took a couple of novels and a large amount of readers to point out a few reoccurring themes for me to realize that there was a pattern to my writing. That pattern was my voice and style. Basically, pay attention to what beta readers and reviewers are saying. You might learn something about yourself. But it’s also important to decipher that pattern:
What is you (your voice and style) vs What is other (maybe the genre, for instance)?
In order to explain what I mean, I want to share what I learned personally over the last eight years. Since a lot of what I learned came from beta readers, many of the works I’ll reference aren’t published yet. While I will refer to my published works as November Snow, Minutes Before Sunset, Seconds Before Sunrise, Death Before Daylight (The Timely Death Trilogy), and Take Me Tomorrow (The Tomo Trilogy), my unpublished works will still go by their abbreviations. If you’re a beta reader, you’ll recognize the titles: HBBL, TGO, D, TMG, S.
What is other?
These are themes that happen because they simply work for whatever reason. For instance, there are dances in both Minutes Before Sunset and Take Me Tomorrow, which caused a few readers to think I have a thing for dances. I do and I don’t. I mean, who doesn’t love a good dance scene? (Insert my love for a cheesy trope.) But while it’s cheesy in Minutes Before Sunset, it’s rather chaotic and uncomfortable in Take Me Tomorrow. There isn’t a single dance in November Snow either. (Sorry.) But there is one in HBBL and in TMG…but not one in TGO or D or S. And all of the dances happen under very different circumstances. That being said, there’s a larger factor to consider here. The characters’ ages. Most of my characters are young adults. They are in high school or some form of high school, and high schools—more often than not—have dances. So, it’s not just about me liking them. They happen naturally. They work with the story and with the lives of the characters. This isn’t technically my voice. This is the genre or the setting. It happens, not because of me, but because of the circumstances.
What is you?
These are themes that happen because of me being me (or you being you). These are your life experiences, your character, seeping through your words. For instance, in many of my novels, you’ll probably always see a character who struggles with memories. Mainly because I struggle with memory loss, although I’m not quite to the point in my life where I’m very open about that. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve publically stated I struggle with memory loss. But it is a part of my identity as a person, so it will more than likely be seen in my novels one way or another. For instance, the second book of The Timely Death Trilogy, Seconds Before Sunrise, has A LOT of memory loss. It’s practically the central theme. The Tomo Trilogy is that way to some extent as well, but you don’t see the effects of it until the second novel, Take Me Yesterday. That being said, memory loss doesn’t appear in anything else. Not HBBL, not TGO, not D, not TMG, not even S…okay, wait. No. S has a stupid amount of memory loss. But you get my point. Even when some themes come from my personal struggles, they don’t always show up in my work. But here’s the difference: memory loss affects the voice of the character. It affects the vocabulary used and the emotions involved. It develops everything else and with everything else. The difference with “other”—in my opinion—is “other” just happens. (The dance discussed above, for instance, was an event in the novel that pushed the novel forward, but the dance itself did not affect the character’s overall personality.) The “you” is your style because it is your unique voice, your vocabulary, your way of explaining.
The “you” is the way you write about the dance; the “other” is the dance happening.
Aspects of My Style I Figured Out:
Now that that has been said and done, I thought it would be fun to show three other ones that I’ve realized about my style. This is really just for my readers who might want to get a larger grasp on who I am as a writer and what future novels might entail, as well as why current novels are the way they are:
While I generally write my novels in dual first POV—like Eric and Jessica telling The Timely Death Trilogy or Daniel and Serena telling November Snow—I do have exceptions. For instance, the only POV in The Tomo Trilogy is Sophia Gray (although I have admitted changing that in a possible future rewrite, but I probably won’t.) This happens because I love writing in first POV and I love writing from both a male’s perspective and a female’s perspective. Fun fact: I actually prefer writing from a male’s perspective.
Family structure: I grew up in an unusual household. At first, it was the “normal” household: two parents, two kids, one dog. All-American, you know? But then my mom died. And then I had a stepmother and three stepsiblings. And then my father divorced. And then it was just my brother, my father, and I. So, you’re going to see a lot of different types of families in books, but I can also admit that you’ll probably rarely see a mother-daughter relationship. Not that I can’t do it. I can. But I would rather explore other relationships in fiction. In fact, I remember as a reader after my mother died, I wished there were more novels where daughters were close to their fathers or brothers. So, you’ll see more of that in my work. But there are exceptions. On a side note, I also write about orphans a lot, mainly because my mom died and my dad traveled, so I was often alone as a kid. I find a lot of comfort in writing about characters would had to be independent.
Violence vs Romance: I’m a violent writer. The Timely Death Trilogy is actually my least violent work, and if you get a chance to read the first few chapters of Death Before Daylight, keep that in mind. It’s still lighter. November Snow is often seen as my most violent. Why? I used to wonder about this myself, and I think I just realized why recently, but that’s probably for another post in the future. (Hello, July.) In contrast, I find romance difficult to write about. I dread writing kissing scenes. I think I get weirded out because I feel like I’m being a Peeping Tom on another couple . . . and I’m being a Peeping Tom who is writing about it. It gives me the heeby jeebies. That being said, every single one of my novels have a romantic factor in them. HBBL is probably my only romance-romance, and I doubt that I’ll write another novel that is just romanced based again. I like dystopian. I like sci-fi and fantasy. I like the plot to be character-oriented and action-orientated and in a new world. Love just falls into the slots.
I know this post has been longer than usual, but I’m trying to listen to what you all have expressed wanting to see! I hope you enjoyed seeing a little more in-depth information about my life and work. Maybe it’ll also help you analyze your own writing to see if there are certain themes that correlate with your voice as a writer. Or maybe you’re just a reader and learned something new about my stories. Either way, thank you for reading!
Over the past two (almost three) years here on www.ShannonAThompson.com, I’ve shared numerous writing tips. I love writing tips. Even though everyone’s approach to writing is different, I think there is a lot to be benefitted from exploring new options by seeing how someone else does it. That is why I am so excited to have author Inge Saunders on today. She’s sharing her favorite writing tips, and you can share yours too! We all know there are some great ones out there. And some bad ones. Feel free to discuss them both, but be sure to welcome Inge Saunders!
Writing Tips: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly by Inge Saunders
My name is Inge Saunders and . . . I`m an author. ::waves:: Now that my AA-like intro is done, I`m going to jump right into it, because let`s be honest, you didn`t come here for the coffee. ::wink:: You want some writing tips. And I have to add, these tips I go to every time I`m in the process of starting a new story or am in the self-editing phase.
I`m a romance writer, so a lot of my writing tips I got from the different groups I form part of, like ROSA (Romance writers’ Organization of South Africa), my Facebook Hearts on Paper group (we formed after all of us entered Harlequin`s SYTYCW), Marketing for Romance Writers, and my publisher (Decadent Publishing).
One of my favourite tips for writing is this: #1. Read. Read EVERYTHING.The good, the bad, the ugly.::laughs:: Not only will you start to recognise what`s good but you`ll also know what doesn’t work. And hopefully, what`s working for you and against you in your writing. Study the books as you read. I`m the youngest of three, and according to psychology, I learn best through hands-on mentorship. Which means, if you`re going to teach me something, show me how it`s not done and how it should be done. So this principle works for me. I`m naturally inclined to understand it, and I hope this tip works for you too. ::smile::
In January, I did an interview on writing for beginners on a fellow ROSA`s blog Ylette Pearson and she asked me, “If you have to choose only one element (setting/character development/structure/conflict/ etc.) that is absolutely essential to every novel you’ve written, what would it be? Why?” I chose conflict. Why? This brings me to #2. Conflict makes the story interesting, keeps you and the reader interested. When there`s no conflict or it can be solved with a simple conversation, it`s not enough. I`ve dropped many a project because there wasn`t enough conflict. Suspense is power. Use it, enjoy it!
I love what Christina Dodd said, and it`s my #3.“Torture your hero early and often; it develops his character, sort of like roasting nuts brings out the flavour”. I don`t think this quote needs anything added. ::wink::
I have a WIP I completed during NaNoWriMo last year, Elastic Heart. There was a moment where I struggled writing my main characters and I discovered this nifty tip from WritersWrite.com #4. Write 20 things your reader will never know about your character. This will naturally bleed into your writing and provide richness even though you don`t share the detail. Another bonus is this; your characters will become alive to you. They`ll literally breathe on the page. When you meet someone for the first time you don`t know their back-story, but you know they have one. The same principle counts here.
The next tip I always, as in always, apply because if I don`t I might as well give up writing #5. Write from the heart and write the story you would want to read. Both my novels at Decadent Publishing are stories that came from ‘selfishly’ writing stories/characters I wanted to read more about. It`s not vanity. It`s not saying, “Hey, only I can write a story that involves ‘this’ and ‘that’.” Uh . . . no. You are the first audience you’re writing to; why are you writing, if you yourself aren`t interested in it? See where I`m going with this? ::smile:: I`m sure when you`re done, someone else would want to read that story too.
And last but certainly not least is this wonderful quote I found #6. Don`t worry. You`ll figure it out—you always do. Just keep writing. Which if you really think about it as a dedicated writer, you really do figure it out. Even if it means calling that friend up to chat through a plot, stepping out of your writing cave to breathe in the autumn air (here in SA) or doing some research on the internet. You do figure it out and you do keep on writing.
Thank you, Shannon, for having me today, and thank you for allowing me into your head space for a moment. ::waves goodbye::
Inge Saunders fell in love with books when she started reading romance novels with her grandmother. Intrigued by the worlds books unlocked, it was inevitable that she would take pen to paper.
At age fourteen she wrote her first novel that wasn`t such a roaring success according to her brother. Not discouraged she realized something fundamental. As a writer you can only write about what interest you, a principal she still upholds in adulthood.
With a Honors degree in Community Development and Learning Support, she`s a former high school teacher who now`s a partner in a small décor business. And for someone who never thought they would ever wear the ‘label’ entrepreneur, she`s proud to be known as one. She`s active in her community-involved with local NGO`s – and her church. When she`s not writing she`s reading, spending time with friends and family, taking long-long walks in her town`s Botanical Garden (Karoo Park) and losing herself in a storyline.
You can find Inge`s latest release, Falling for Mr. Unexpected, here:
Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at email@example.com.
Wow! If you’ve been with me just these past two months, you already know how much of a whiplash session I’ve lived through recently. Thankfully, February brought great news, and I am expressing my gratitude to you all once again – for helping me so much through so much by continuing to support me. This is the summary post of the past month.
For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up”. At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog post, my top referrer, SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.
Thank you for being a part of my life this February!
After you showed a tremendous amount of support and love, I signed The Timely Death Trilogy with Clean Teen Publishing. I truly could not have done it without all of your support and love, so please know that you all have all of my support and love, too. I look forward to sharing the new covers with everyone as well as the brand-new interior! I’ll give you hint. They’re both beautiful. :]
My first piece of nonfiction, Nowhere, was published in the literary magazine, Fine Lines! It was a personal essay about growing up on the road. I even added a Nonfiction page to this website.
In other news, I moved to Missouri, and I continue to be a full-time editor, social media marketer, and book review helper through my Services page. I even received a wonderful review from a writer I am positive will get published soon! I am eternally grateful for all of the authors I’ve been working with recently.
Thank you so much!
Top Three Blog Posts:
I Have a New Publisher: This is still so surreal, and I will always (and forever) remember the outpouring support everyone showed. Thank you for continuing to be my friend as I continue this writing journey into the future!
At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you would like to review my novels or interview me, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! And I will share your post on all of my websites.
Monday has reached us again, and today brings us another guest blogger. Today, I am pleased to announce Tara Mayoros, author of Broken Smiles. This well-traveled writer has written a wonderful post about the importance of setting in a novel, and her writing tips are sure to stay with us the next time we pick a location for our stories.
The Importance of Setting in a Novel
Write what you know. How many times have I heard that? Oh man, probably at every conference I have ever gone to, multiple times.
I know setting.
Long before I was ever an author, I would surround myself in settings which filled my soul with wonder. I would cover my limbs and face with autumn leaves to feel the smell. I would spend many nights under the stars, listening to the scurrying of little animals and the sounds of wind applauding my appreciation through the trees. The stillness would settle in my heart and when I began to bring pen and paper with me to different settings, my world became magical.
To me, setting should breathe like a character. It isn’t just streets, buildings, and names of towns — it is the lifeblood which weaves your characters and plot together. It shouldn’t be tacked in, but rather an integral part of the story. It grounds the reader.
It should also ground the author. The author carries the responsibility to bring details that are often overlooked. Especially, in my opinion, when it comes to nature.
Recently, I returned from a long trip through Montana and Yellowstone. I have visited many times and even lived there at one point. Those wild, rustic places are some of my favorite spots in the world and I felt the heavy burden to show my love for it in one of my novels. I hadn’t been up there for over a dozen years and I started creating the setting for my novel through memory. When I had finished my book, I was satisfied. But something tugged at me to visit those places again. Either my wild heart, or the pull to immerse myself in those mountains.
Arming myself with laptop, pens and journals, I was ready to take my story to battle and add details that were missing and change a few things. I was surprised when I came home and realized that I had never even written one word when I had surrounded myself in the nature I so dearly love. Why? It wasn’t a conscious decision by any means, but looking back, my body and soul yearned to feel the lifeblood of the setting. I didn’t need to muddle it with words, I needed to experience it and let the setting wash through me.
In this world where setting and placement are so often overlooked or replaced with handheld devices that capture our attention, authors need to work harder to ground the reader. We need to scream at our readers to notice detail. It breaks my heart every time I see someone surrounded by stunning scenery and their faces are aglow with the pale light of a handheld device.
Here are a few ways you can bring your setting to life in your novel, followed by some examples I have written.
*Be specific – it isn’t only a flower, describe the details. example: The vibrant purple petals stretched beneath an indigo hat which drooped over a white lip and a yellow bearded pouch.(Calypso Orchid)
*Sprinkle in similes and metaphors to connect – example: His temper was like a loose cannon. It could explode at any given time and I would be the set target.
*Use the senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, feel – This one is huge! I love to incorporate the senses. – example: My stomach was empty, which was good, because the smell hit me, and I heaved once more against the vacant remains of my belly. The putrid, decaying stench of rotten flesh made my eyes water.
*Show, don’t tell – instead of stating that its raining, describe the dripping trees, the puddles gathering in the crevices of rock, and the pattering on tin resembling tinkling bells.
Here is an excerpt from my novel contemporary clean romance Broken Smiles. The setting is in China, another one of my favorite places. I hope you can feel my love for it as you read my words.
Here and there rocks were covered with ancient moss. Orchids blossomed spontaneously upon the trees. Vines hung like ropes and twine, twisting upon the rubber and the banyan trees. Bamboo stood proudly against the moonlight, casting shadows that had been the same for thousands of years. Away from big city lights and pollution, it was easy to be transported back in time to ancient China. This land had managed to remain untouched throughout the different emperors and dynasties. As they walked, they passed a small ancient graveyard built against the hillside. The limestone shrines glowed mysteriously in the moonlight. Chinese characters and mini-sculptures were carved in the pale rock. Incense smoldered on the top of an old gravestone…
Thanks for stopping by –
As a child, Tara Mayoros moved to Asia with her family where her love of different cultures and travel began. In college she satisfied her wanderlust by moving back to China, filling her head with countless stories, and occasionally writing them down.
Years, marriage, children and many adventures later, she picked up her dusty pen and paper (or laptop) and realized that writing took her to different worlds and gave her the experiences that she yearned for. As an author, artist, baker, music teacher, gardener, and nature lover – she sees the beauty in the process, and the miracle, of creation. The Rocky Mountains are her home and they call to her whenever she finds herself in need of inspiration.
Want to be a guest blogger? Wonderful! I am accepting guest posts that focus on reading and writing. You are allowed a book link in the post as well as in your bio. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at email@example.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!
With the release of Seconds Before Sunrise only one week away, I have been thinking about how much The Timely Death Trilogy has changed from the original version to the published novels. Since the second book isn’t released yet (but is available on Amazon) I thought it would be neat to share some of the major changes that happened in Minutes Before Sunset from the original version to the final publication. That way, when the second novel is out for a little while, I can share those changes, too.
Now, as many of you know, there are many drafts of one novel – sometimes a lot more than what writers want to be reminded of. The changes you are about to read about happened over a series of rewrites and edits, so that’s why there are so many changes. If I had to guess, there was one absolute rewrite and an uncountable number of edits. I had about six beta readers on the original versions of the trilogy, but I had three on the version read today. This isn’t my norm. This just happened because I wrote the novels between 2005 and 2009, so Minutes Before Sunset had seven years between writing and publication. I had many opportunities to refine it both as I was writing the last two novels and when I went back the last time before its second version was published. But – alas – here we are:
Length: Be open to cutting it down (or even expanding it!)
For me, most of my novels are 136,000 words, but I almost always cut it down to 80,000 by often combining scenes and characters or by cutting them out completely. Minutes Before Sunset was my first instance where this happened, and maybe I’ll share cut scenes one of these days, but they might not even work anymore with the current storyline. I actually love cutting down the word count. It challenges me to create more meaningful scenes, and it definitely forces me to push the plot forward with numerous reasons (like action and detail) rather than having separate chapters for everything.
Character names:(It’s okay to change names. Just have a purpose)
I’m sure why this one stuck out the most to me, although my guess would probably stem from the fact that I still see them as their original character names. So why change them? I’ll get to that in a second. Below you’ll see a small list of original character names followed by their publication name.
Colton changed to Noah. Brent to Jonathon. Jonathon to Pierce. Brethan original had both a dark and a human name, but now he is only referred to by his Dark name. Jessica had a Dark name as well. And Eric’s previously girlfriend is almost impossible to remember how many changes she went through.
These changes happened for many reasons, but they mainly happened to keep a character distinct from one another. I couldn’t have a “Brent” related to a “Brenthan.” I mean, I could…at first, I wanted it that way because they were brothers, but I realized I could play on identities in a more psychological way rather than physical name. In the future, I will write more tips on naming characters, since I’ve done it before. Fun fact: a lot of editors/publishers changes character names to be more memorable. My publisher didn’t do anything like that, and I’m really happy I got to keep my “common” names for my human characters, like Eric, Jessica, and Teresa – because the normalcy of their names was intentional, allowing their paranormal names to be more effective, like “Shoman” “Bracke” or “Eu.”
Location: It can be really hard to change this, but it can also be worth it.
Kansas – Originally, I wasn’t going to have a town at all. (Of course, there would be one, but it wouldn’t have a name, and I definitely didn’t want to mention the state.) At first, I wanted this town to seem like it could be anywhere, but then I realized it could seem that way while still being physically located somewhere, so after much consideration, I went with Kansas for many reasons, mainly because I don’t feel like many novels take place in the Midwest, especially paranormal or YA books.
Events: Don’t be afraid to add or take scenes away.
The Naming – the ceremony at the beginning of Minutes Before Sunset was actually added last minute. It was in the trilogy, but it was shown much later. I decided to show it in the beginning because I realized it could help ground the rituals of the Dark while also showing where the identities happen.
The ending – I actually don’t want to spoil too much, but the actions Jessica took in the final scenes with Darthon originally didn’t exist. The way to kill him wasn’t in it either. But she’s a fighter – more than most characters actually – and I knew in the editing that I had to include her in the fight. Plus, it allowed a foreshadowing for the third novel I’ve been dying to add without changing the story too much.
Other than that, a lot of dialogue changed and a few character appearances weren’t originally there. I even flipped a few chapters around and cut out other chapters completely. But it all ended up being the same story – I just needed to edit it to find out where certain scenes actually took place.
Perspective: Another difficult area to change.
At first, I showed Jessica’s shade side, but in the rewrite, I choose not to show her paranormal perspective in the first novel. She originally was named at the end of the first novel, too, but it didn’t feel right for reasons that will be explained in the third novel, Death Before Daylight. (Dun. Dun. Dun.) I also wanted to show a few scenes from Darthon’s perspective, but I never wrote one, because he’s a loud mouth. His identity would’ve been revealed in seconds. That doesn’t mean I didn’t consider it during rewrites, though. It just didn’t work out.
Other: Have fun with the small stuff, but it can shape a character.
I already wrote about cars, but Eric originally drove a 2009 Charger instead of an older version. Mindy had a more important role (I even considered having her completely aware of the Dark and the Light) in the first novel. And some of the characters’ descriptions changed. Surprisingly, the attitudes of the characters didn’t change a lot through the first novel, but they do later on! In my other novels, I have found that my characters have chanced dramatically from one version to the next, but this trilogy is an exception, probably because I wrote the second book first.
My changes in the first novel actually heavily impacted the changes in the second novel, and I am looking forward to being able to share that with everyone once the second novel has been released for some time. In fact, I think most manuscripts change a lot from the first draft to the final piece. I actually had to look a lot of my changes up in my notes from the first draft because it becomes difficult to remember everything that you discard or morph into something new.
What about you? What has changed from your first draft to your published work? I feel like this has an endless array of possibilities, but these are just a few of mine. I would love to hear about your novels and manuscripts. Share below!
Before I begin today’s post topic, I have two things to address:
First:Special thanks to Nicole Lee at “Ennlee’s Reading Corner” for reviewing Minutes Before Sunset: “…The book alternates between the point of view of each of the main characters without a set pattern, and Ms. Thompson should be commended for her ability to create two characters that are similar enough to keep these sections from being disjointed, but different enough that the reader can tell in an instant who is speaking…”
Second: As many of you know, I held another contest where the winners receive a free account at Happify, a website dedicated to bringing happiness to social media within a great community of encouraging peers. The winners are:
Based on status, you’ll receive a confirmation. (If you don’t fell comfortable sharing your email on my comments, please send an email to ShannonAThompson@aol.com identifying yourself, so I can send the invite) Follow me here, so I can find you, and I’ll be sure to follow back!
Now, onto today’s post:
I wanted to discuss “setting” in a novel, but I specifically wanted to share websites where you can find more information on your place (or perhaps browse the world for inspiration, even if your setting is in another world entirely.)
I think your background is a great place to start. Everyone has heard “write what you know,” and there is truth in it. Placing your novel in a place your extremely familiar with is the easiest route (not necessarily the right route), and this can make descriptions easier. For instance, Minutes Before Sunset takes place in Hayworth, Kansas. This is not a real town. It’s actually a play on Hays and Ellsworth, both towns in Kansas. I haven’t lived in these locations, but I have been to them, and I currently live in Kansas, so I am very familiar with the culture, layout, and how the weather works. Plus, I wanted an ironic name. Since the novel is about a dark fate, it only seemed appropriate (and humorous) to have a name that suggested the town was worthy.
In regards to familiarity, another thing to think about is your basic settings. By this, I am referencing your rooms. I’ve discussed interior maps before, and every house in Minutes Before Sunset is based off of a real house I’ve lived in (aside from Eric’s. That’s my dream home.) And the maps are available on the Minutes Before Sunset extra’s page.
Back to location:
If you’re looking for a place you’re not entirely familiar with, I wanted to give a great website out there for beginning, especially if you’re not positive on what you’re looking for.
Earth Album Alpha: This is a slick flicker collection of photos, virtually capable in regards to clicking anywhere on the map just to see an arrangement of pictures from the specific country. This can be very broad, but it can also help narrow down what you’re looking for. As an example, the picture below is of Serbia. (I clicked randomly.) You’ll see a collection of tiny pictures at the top, which you can enlarge, that will show the region. In particular, this country has a lot of beautiful fields, so you may not be interested in Serbia, but you might realize you want an open space, and you can go from there.
Weather Base: This website helps summarize what happens in regards to weather in the average year based on the location you choose. This is actually a traveling website, meant for tourists to figure out ideal weather to travel in, but you can learn whatever you want all over the world. I really recommend checking these things, because fallacies can happen in location, if you’re not familiar with how citizens live beneath the weather clouds. A good example of this is the famous young-adult novel, Twilight. Although Meyer set it in a rain-prone state, the amount of rain she used was very unrealistic to the location. In an interview, she even admitted that she visited for weeks without rain and was quite disappointed with her lack of research. However, she was delighted to bring tourism to the city that wasn’t known before. So there are pros and cons to everything.
American Culture: If you want to stay in the states, this blog is full of information about history, culture, language, education, and more. It even includes family arrangements, death rituals, and relationships to other countries where these things may have taken place originally. This won’t only help your setting; it can help your characters round out as they’ll have a family background stabilized within reality. For instance, it may remind you of the variation in language used across certain areas. An exact quote: “Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog due to immigration from the countries where those languages are spoken, and to a certain extent French, primarily in far north New England, due to the Acadian-Canadian influence, and in Louisiana (Cajun).”
My hopes is that sites like this will help the initial process of choosing a location you (as much as your readers) feel connected to as much as your characters will be grounded in it.
If you have any other sites, comment below! And, as usual, if you have a topic you want to hear about, let me know, and I’ll credit your blog for asking the question on that post.
I hope everyone is having a great time! (Paperback news is coming soon!)
Goodreads Quote of the day: “I was falling in love with her, and she was falling in love with me. It was fated, decided before any of us were born, and I hated it as much as I loved it. I could barely stand it.” (Eric, Minutes Before Sunset)
Website Update: April 3rd: I switched some posts around; sorry for the inconvenience if you were waiting for the publishing tips on April 4th. It will now be on April 6th.
So this is my 100th post, and there’s 29 days until the Minutes Before Sunset release. (Obviously, numbers excite me.) And I’m celebrating by posting two writing tips in a row :] Hope you enjoy!
The believability of your novel is going to reside on many factors: characters, plot, language, etc. But these are the obvious reasons, and many writers forget that the smallest details can also make or break your credibility. I’ve talked about this before in Writing Tips: Keeping Track of Time on March 11th. I described the importance of tracking every minute, day, month, and even moon cycles of your novel, and now I wanted to discuss the physical world you also need to track.
When I write a story, I always draw maps–both of the exterior and interior of places within the story. I even draw a much larger map, showing how the story moves. But that’s for another post. Today, I’m strictly clarifying the importance of a floor plan. Where’s the living room, kitchen, and bedroom? How are these places laid out? Where do your characters stand? What would they be near? These questions are important, because you can easily contradict yourself from scene to scene.
For example: In chapter one, you may describe Person A walking through the living room to get to the kitchen. THEN–ten chapters later–you write about Person A (or someone completely different) coming out of the kitchen into a hallway that leads to the front door next to the living room.
These little mistakes, even if the reader isn’t consciously aware of it, can upset the flow and take them out of the story. In other words, they may feel as if something isn’t quite right.
We can avoid this with detailed maps. (Even if you base your places on real-life, because you’re bound to change something.)
I really recommend drawing the map before you write a significant amount of your story. In my opinion, you can wait until that room appears in the book, describe it naturally, but then take note on EVERYTHING you said. That way, when you come back to the scene, everything is in place.
Another way to record it, however, is to physical draw or use realtor websites that allow you to create a room digitally.
I really like RoomSketcher, because you can morph the walls, stack floors, and even add furniture. I wasn’t able to use this while making November Snow in 2007, but I did make two with this website for an example:
The first drawing is of the first floor of the Northern Flock’s home. If you’ve read November Snow, you know many of the scenes take place here, so making sure my characters’ movements were flawless was very important. On the left, you’ll even see the lamp by the stairs, because it (and I don’t want to spoil anything) becomes very important at some point in the novel. This is just another reason to guarantee that I knew where it was. Other furniture that I used was a couch, desk, T.V., dining room table, and everything in the kitchen–the fridge, oven, and sink. The doorways are also very important, because it shows how the characters could leave and enter while also reminding me what would be in front, behind, to the right, and left of them as they did so.
As a comparison, I also created Calhoun’s house.
I did this to show how RoomSketcher can allow you to create your own floor with walls, carpet, windows, and stairways. It’s very easy to use, and there’s even different kinds of furniture you can choose from. (Notice Daniel’s room–the blue one–has a different colored bed than Calhoun’s.)
I’ve had these maps drawn since I began writing, and it allowed me to be confident that my book could correlate with such pictures. I have no doubts that, if you read November Snow today, you could follow my maps along with the characters.
I have to admit that some rooms, homes, or even streets are very clear to me, and I very rarely have to go back to my notes. However, when writing the smaller scenes, the ones that I probably do struggle with, I often go back during revisions and use a pencil to trace the movements. This may seem tedious, but I feel as if it is necessary, and I have found mistakes before.
Plus, it’s fun to take a break from writing and editing to create something else. And you can share it as an extra with your readers & fans! I know I’ll keep spending more time on this website. I love how easy it is to manipulate the walls, the furniture, and recreate something without losing what I’ve already made. (I’m a pen addict, so that’s really hard to do when I draw on paper.)
I suggest you guys try it out too! And if you don’t like RoomSketcher, I remain loyal to the dedication of drawing a physical map. In the future, I will expand on how to draw an exterior map and/or trace the movements of characters in specific scenes along with overtime in general.
Good luck & have fun! (I also have Interior Maps for “Minutes Before Sunset” coming April 4.
9:00 a.m. update: I’m in the University Daily Kansan!Read this article about my experiences here.
I REALLY wanted to record a video of me reading what I read at the Undergraduate Reading Series (that way, you could experience what the audience did) but, just as I said on the 9th, my camera isn’t working.
So what do I do?
I’m uploading PDF files of what I’ve read :] If you click any of the links below, it will open, and you can read that particular piece.
At the event I read nonfiction, poetry, and fiction. I did this, because I love experimenting in genres outside my norm (so anything that isn’t sci-fi/fantasy YA fiction.) I think trying new genres is really important for learning, and, because of this, I’ve studied nonfiction, poetry, fiction, and screenwriting at the University of Kansas (and in my free time, of course.)
But, without further my rambling (because I could), I’ll introduce my nonfiction piece:
From my memoir “To become a (woe)man” I explain how being motherless since 11 years old has effected my life up until now. I’m really excited to be sharing this piece, because it’s currently competing in a publication competition, not to mention some of the most important moments of my life. This particular scene is the day after my mother died.
After poetry, I read from a fiction piece of mine. In reality, this fiction piece is from a fantasy novel, but, from the excerpt, you will not be able to tell. I did this on purpose. Readings don’t always give you enough time to explain the setting or the characters, so you have to adjust to your audience. I decided to read a small romantic scene–one where my protagonists are looking at the stars. Read it here: FictionExcerpt
I hope you enjoyed reading my pieces as much as I enjoyed sharing them!