WHERE OH WHERE WILL YOUR STORY TAKE PLACE?
Where will your story take place? A real place, or a fictional place? Your opening line could set the scene and let the reader know where it takes place.
For example, the opening line in ‘Scattered Scones’, my current book I am working on is;
Penny stared blankly out of her kitchen window, squinting hard as the scorching summer sun pierced its way through the branches of the enormous gum tree that towered over her backyard. She glanced down at the mixing bowl on the bench, and studied her sticky fingers. What the hell is the next ingredient? This was happening all too often and it was beginning to worry her. Penny was only fifty-two.
I let the reader know the story is set in Australia by referring to the enormous gumtree in her backyard. I am an Aussie and it’s easy to write about what you know. So, what if you are writing about a place you may not know much about, or are writing historical fiction? With historical fiction, you want to ensure you have things such as dates or events accurate.
When writing about a real place, you are not overly familiar with, again, do your research. This will avoid possibly offending any readers, or even worse, a whole town or country. You may choose to mix it up by writing about a fictitious town in a real city or country, in a real time period.
If writing about a real place, you should be able to describe that place well enough, that the story seems authentic and believable to someone reading your book, who happens to live there.
If your character was to stare out their window, what would they see? The beach, snow-capped mountains, or rolling hills? Get to know the landscape of where your story is set, so you can describe it to your reader.
‘Scattered Scones’, features a road trip between Adelaide and Sydney. In different parts of the book, I describe the surroundings to my reader;
Penny enjoyed the wide-open space of their one-acre block. The Adelaide Hills are beautifully breathtaking. Being less than an hour’s drive from The Barossa Valley was an added bonus. She admired the curve of the rolling hills and the invigorating aroma of eucalyptus in the morning. The familiar sound of a kookaburra’s chuckle echoing through the trees always made her smile.
It was a truly spectacular day on Sydney Harbour. The Opera House Foreshore was a flurry of activity. Mark watched the Manly Ferry dock at Circular Quay and ordered himself a glass of wine. ‘Beautiful isn’t it mate?’ Mark was in a complete state of day dreaming when the waiter spoke again. ‘The Harbour, it’s lovely isn’t it? I never tire of this view.’ Mark apologised and thanked the waiter. ‘Yes, it most certainly is.’
A small boy stood by the water with his mother gazing across the Quay towards the huge cruise ship docked at The Overseas Passenger Terminal. The little boys sweet face was filled with wonder at the sight of the magnificent ship. The ship was pulling away from the dock, heading out on its voyage with excited passengers visible on all the decks. The little boy waved as the ship’s captain sounded the horn.
When thinking about a setting, it’s not only the town or city, it can also be a character’s work place, or home. A factory processors place of work would be very different to that of a lawyer. Does your character live in a quaint little cottage by the sea, or a high-rise apartment in a busy central business district?
One of my main characters in ‘Scattered Scones’ works for a high-end fashion house in the heart of the city. I paint a picture of her work place;
Emma reluctantly got up from her desk, yet again, needing to pee. It was the third time in a space of half an hour. She tried to take her mind of her rattling nerves as she watched the people scurry about outside. The bus terminal at Central was always busy and the workers looked like stressed out mice making their way through a laboratory maze.
The office was twelve stories up and Emma’s desk was right by the expansive window. This gave her a bird’s eye view of the bustling streets below. Thanks to her prime position, Emma quickly worked out the best time to duck out for her morning coffee. The queue at the funky little café across the street would start to dwindle somewhere around nine, and would start to pick up again around eleven.
Not only could she easily glance out the window, she could also see if her boss Caitlin was coming. This gave Emma time to log out of her social media accounts before she had the chance to hear Caitlin’s signature stiletto wedges making their way down the marble floor.
This is not about place, but I think it’s worth a mention. If you are penning a memoir, ensure anyone being mentioned in the book gives permission for you to tell their story. You don’t want to be sued by Aunty Jean, because you told the world about her drinking problem.
If your book is fantasy or science fiction, let your imagination run wild. This is your fictional world, your fictional characters, and you can do what you please.
So, if your setting is not fictional, be careful not to get it wrong, and if your setting is purely fictional, have fun with it.
If you would like to know more about getting your first book written, click on the link below.