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.
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!
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Olivia's Question: Do you find setting to be important in a novel?