Monday, November 5, 2012
The Mystique of Setting
When I was 5 years old, my uncle gave me a dollhouse for Christmas. From that point, I was totally hooked on giving my miniature people all the advantages of a real home. Little children played in the nursery, while Mom cooked dinner. They had a stage for their activities.
My larger dolls didn't escape my vivid imagination either. When my cousin was born, my aunt passed her outgrown baby clothes on to me. I preferred them to the flimsy doll clothing available in stores. Real sweaters, hats, and booties adorned my darlings.
Along with the clothing, came the bassinet, the real wood crib, highchair, and doll carriage. At one point, my room had a fully-decked out bassinet, a crib, and a doll bed made out of a Penny Playpal box. (She was the older sister.)
A character without a setting is like a doll without the trappings of real life. Who can forget the curtains Scarlett O'Hara made for Tara? Authors like Cathy Gohlke, Tamera Alexander, and others draw us into their worlds with sweeping vistas and realistic details of bygone years.
How can we create a stage for our characters that doesn't resemble a cardboard backdrop?
1) Research, research, research. I know authors, who read books, newspapers, articles, visit museums, and travel to absorb the flavor of their characters' era.
2) Word choice. We would not use King James English in a contemporary novel. Neither would we resort to modern terminology in a historical romance.
3) Interview experts. While working on my first manuscript, I relied on a friend to give me cultural input. On TV, the character, Richard Castle, hangs around a real-life detective for inspiration and accurate details.
P.S. DON'T FORGET - TOMORROW IS ELECTION DAY IN THE U.S.!
Photo Credits: Dollhouse by melodi2
Fashion by Ayla87
Writers: What techniques do you use to produce great settings?
Readers: What does a stunning setting do for your reading experience?