Saturday, 3 January 2015

Weaving Setting Into Your Story (Guest Post)

Hey there!

In this month of January I have five awesome guest posts lined up for you! We're going to be hearing from some of my favourite authors about different aspects of writing. I hope you find them useful as you get to working on your own novel and whatever projects you lot are up to. :) Today we have a guest post from Diana Stevan, author of A Cry From the Deep.

Synopsis: A Cry From The Deep - a story of a love so powerful it spans several lifetimes. Is it fate that we meet the right one? How do we know? And when we die, is it over? When Catherine Fitzgerald, an underwater photographer, buys an antique Claddagh ring, she is troubled by nightmares that set her on a path to fulfill a promise of love made centuries before. As she begins to unravel the mystery of the woman who haunts her dreams, she has to come to grips with her own struggle to find true love. Will it be her ex, psychiatrist Richard Egan, who still loves her, or Daniel Costello, the handsome but unavailable marine archaeologist on the dive team? Set in Provence, Manhattan, and Ireland, this romantic mystery exposes not only two women’s longings, but also the beauty of the deep, where buried treasures tempt salvagers to break the law.


Guest Post: Since I studied and wrote screenplays for a number of years, I naturally think visually when I write. I have to see where my characters are and what they’re seeing.  

I weave in the setting so that it’s not an add-on, but rather an essential  part of the story. Setting not only helps the reader visualize where they are in the story, but it also helps the writer during the writing process. Through creating place, the writer becomes immersed in the characters’ world. 

In my novel, A Cry From The Deep, I’ve been told by a number of readers that they felt  like they had actually travelled to the places I took them in my story—Provence, New York, and Ireland. Because I’ve been to all of them, it wasn’t difficult for me to paint the settings with words.

My story also involves underwater scenes. I’ve snorkeled, but I’ve never scuba dived. I relied on my joy of going underwater for some of what I depicted. For the rest, I used articles, photos and videos online to write what was beneath the sea, specifically the spots where my lead character, Catherine Fitzgerald, dives. I had to see what she, as an underwater photographer, sees, in order to do justice to the setting.

Writers are fortunate today with all the visual aids they can get for storytelling. My husband and I had toured the coast of Ireland, so I knew the landscape and could draw on both my memory and on all the photos we took, but when it came to finding the perfect base for the dive team, I needed to find a place that made sense for the job they were about to do. They were getting set to look for one of the lost ships of the Spanish Armada. My research online took me to Killybegs, on Donegal Bay, a place I’d never been. I found a photo and other references I could use. There was even a walking tour and some of the stops ended up in my story.                                                                                                       

Killybegs
Same with Provence. There’s a scene in Aix-en-Provence, where Catherine goes shopping with her 7 year old daughter Alex. I remember the sidewalk cafes she passes while driving down the boulevard. I put myself in her shoes and ideas of what she might be thinking flowed from there.

Setting is to story, like clothespins are to clothes on a line. Without a backdrop, the characters are nothing more than figures in space. Yes, we can get engaged with them by reading about their descriptions, interactions, and thoughts, but where do we put them in our minds? Who else is in the picture?

Let’s say your protagonist is crying. What difference will it make to your story if you put her in a crowded train station thousands of miles away from the man she loves, or with him in a cluttered bedroom, or alone walking in a forest.

But setting isn’t only a place, it can also convey a mood. Has the stormy day stranded the travelers in the train station? Are the skies grey outside the bedroom window or is it sunny, a sharp contrast to how she might be feeling? Is night falling in the forest and she’s a long way from the beginning of the path. Can you see the possibilities?

I’ll leave you with one of the settings from my novel. She has just landed in Ireland and begins to drive along its roads for the first time.  

“Though the skies were grey, the greens of the landscape were unlike anything she’d ever seen. It was as if God, the artist supreme, had selected every green paint available on the market and then some. There was kelly green, avocado, forest, willow, apple, lime, and mint. One green flowed seamlessly into another as it marched over the hills and into the beyond. She passed thatched cottages behind old stone fences, neon-coloured pubs by the roadside, and new mansions set back on large properties. She even welcomed the times she had to stop to let farmers cross the road with their flocks of sheep. The gentle landscape was a welcome contrast to the frenetic pace of New York.”

From A Cry From The Deep.
Happy Reading and Happy Writing!
-Diana
 
Buy the book from Australia, UK, USA or Canada!
 
Click here for ongoing and international GIVEAWAY!
 
Olivia's Question: Do you find setting to be important in a novel?
 
Olivia-Savannah x

34 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great book. Lovely guest post.

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    1. I am glad you liked it. And yes, I really enjoyed reading it :)

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    2. Thanks, Jennifer. Happy New Year.

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  2. Hi Olivia - Olivia's Question: Do you find setting to be important in a novel? I do. However, sometimes it is overdone and I'm anxious to get back to the action and conversation of the characters. :)

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    1. Yes, I agree. If the descriptions run on for too long it isn't appealing, but especially in fantasy novels it is fairly necessary.

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  3. This blogpost is such an amazing idea! I love it! I do believe the setting is important because it's how us, the readers, get into the story. We need a setting whether is big or small. The problem is that sometimes is not well done or it's too heavy and the plot drags because of it, but without it there will be no story for us to enjoy.

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    1. It's something that is hard to get just right, but can be done well if perfected! And yes, it is very important :)

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  4. don't really care about settings

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    1. It's a shame you don't :( It could drastically change whether a novel is good or not.

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  5. Great post. The writer definitely has the skills to take the reader to another place.

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    1. She does, which is why I love her book so much!

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  6. Thanks, Olivia, for giving me the opportunity to write a guest post. As a reader, I agree with both Diane and Noelia about some settings dragging the story. I have at times skipped through ones that are too wordy and yet, without context and place, we are left hungry for those details. It's all a matter of balance. .

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    1. It was my pleasure to have you here. And as you said, I do believe you have found the good balance in your writing.

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  7. What an amazing post! Diana really showed and explained why the setting is so important to a story. Weaving the story in so that the reader is engaged and able to visualize is so important. The internet is a huge help in helping us create settings that we aren't as familiar with (or ones we know, but can't go back and visit).

    Thanks so much for sharing!
    ~Jess

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    1. Yes! Which is one reason why photos and Pinterest are so helpful to me because then we can visualize places we haven't been before.

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  8. Jess, when I ventured into the realm of screenwriting, I recall a screenwriter who wrote a whole series based in Africa without setting foot on the soil there. As you and Olivia underline, the internet makes us all armchair travelers.

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  9. Love the cover on this one! And love the post -- yes, setting is such an important part of a book and often underused.
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

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  10. That is so cool to feel like you actually traveled. This would be a good book for the Around the World Challenge
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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    1. Yes it would be! I hadn't thought of that before.

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    2. Missie and Olivia, what's the Around the World Challenge?

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    3. When you read a book set in every country.

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  11. Mmm. I love settings! They really can make a story so much fuller, especially when they're done right. Great post! Glad I stopped by and Olivia - Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    Tressa @ Wishful Endings

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    1. Thanks Tressa! And yes, settings do matter a lot when it comes to a novel!

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  12. It's weird that I always take into account settings when reading but then find I've missed those descriptions in my own writing! If done right though it works well with a story, but if it drags on or has little use I find myself skimming those paragraphs. Great post, and I'm intrigues at checking out her book :)

    Most recent post: http://enchantedbyya.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-taylor-swift-book-tag.html

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    1. It's always something worth trying to remember when you are doing in your own writing! Especially when you do recognize it in other novels!

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  13. I love when the writing is vivid and I feel like I have actually been to the places the author describes. Great guest post and I am intrigued by the synopsis.

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    1. Yes, a good setting always sets the way for a great story ;)

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  14. Great guest post! I completely agree that the setting of a story can dictate the mood of the characters and the readers.

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  15. Olivia, thought you might want to know there's an article in The Irish Times today on what inspired me to write my novel.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/a-debut-novelist-tries-to-fathom-the-elements-that-inspired-her-work-1.2065889

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    1. Thanks Diana! I will definitely go and check it out.

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  16. Great guest post! I used to write a lot when I was in my early teens, but I haven't tried in a few years. I was always terrible with setting, so this has helped me a lot.

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