Friday, May 18, 2012

Settings

Settings




As I was thinking about my next blog post I was thinking about what I had been doing over the past few months.
The answer was TRAVEL. I travelled from the bottom of New Zealand to the top and many areas in between. Over my short life I have travelled through many states in Australia and lived in three, which gives me a range of places I have seen.

When writing I like to have a setting for my novel. I have used NSW, country Victorian/Melbourne. As I write contemporary novels I can use places I have been.

How do you get your ideas of places/settings? I may use fictional towns but think of a place I might have been. Do you use real towns, or do you make them up?
In one of my novels it is set in Victoria but I needed a town and a fictional town was the only way I could see getting the town I wanted. I have read a few books where they may have a map, and they point out that the town they are using is fictitious. So I made up the name of the town my characters grew up in.

Do you feel like you have to have been to the place to write it into your story? I co-wrote a story with a friend of mine, she lived in USA and she used to travel with her hubby so she had been to the places we used. I used a little bit of Australia and hoped what I wrote would sound all right and she said it did. I have never had to the chance to travel to the United States, but would like to one day, if only to see those towns my characters were in.
I really get immersed in my characters’ lives (or them in mine). I like to be able to see the setting. Like something in Melbourne wouldn’t be the same as Sydney (ie. Trams). I see a church and it was the church I was a member of. I even used the idea of their being two exit doors like this church had. I think it does help if you have been in the same setting/situation.

I use Aussie terminology in my stories so I think most of the times I will set my stories in Australia. The country I love and live in. Maybe if I ever lived somewhere else ….. But that doesn’t seem all that likely.
Settings are important, because you want to have readers want to see what you see, at least partly. Will my readers understand mountains and hills? I know if I say hills to people in WA will have a completely different idea to those who live in the Eastern states. So I try to use something that I may have seen, I can imagine things, but I want them to be realistic to a point.

13 comments:

  1. I agree Melanie. I think it lends authenticity to your writing if you've actually been there. Even with a lot of research, you can't get the same kind of intimate details of a place as well as actually being there. Thanks for sharing. :)

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  2. I like to make up places, that way they can be exactly how I desire them to be.

    However, in doing so, I do tend to incorporate snippets from towns I've visited, it makes them that touch more real. :)

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  3. Hi Mel, I've heard readers are quick to contact authors to point out setting and historical detail errors. I agree it's wise to know your setting well, do your research and maybe have someone who lives there check your story to make sure the details are correct. I've set stories in Sydney (where I grew up) and a fictitious country town in regional NSW in an area I've visited many times to see my husband's family. My current story is set in Canberra, making research very easy :)

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  4. This is an interesting one that I sometimes wrestle with. In the story I am writing, I use several settings around Australia.

    One of these is Quirindi NSW. I have visited this town - in fact I got married there, so I had a reasonable picture of the place in my head. Another location was Cobar NSW. I used Google Earth to research this town. In each location I referred to real buildings.

    Later in the story, the characters go into the outback, toward a top-secret facility. From here on it was all fictional.

    Google Earth gives you a brilliant tool for researching places that you could never visit - the only problem is building interiors. I've used some artistic license for this. I hope that's okay.

    Using real places can give extra realism if you get it right, but then it can totally break realism if you get it wrong, so it's a hard one. I remember watching the Beaconsfield movie recently. They had a brief scene in the Launceston General Hospital (obviously filmed somewhere in Melbourne). Suddenly my immersion in the story was broken because I knew that's not what the LGH looks like.

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    1. I used to watch Blue Heelers and so many of the locations were only an hour away from where we lived. And we would say "we know that"

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    2. That would have been cool. Good old Blue Heelers.

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  5. I prefer to walk a place, live it and breath it if I'm to write about a real location. But sometimes that isn't possible. I once wrote about a third world red light district, but had never been there personally - I used video footage and my imagination to write the setting.
    Fantasy is lovely though, or fictional places based on but not exactly like real life towns, you have the luxury of making up all the details. It's important though to keep the details recorded so it is consistent throughout the story! To do this I draw maps of my made up lands and keep details recorded on file etc.

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  6. As a writer of historical novels, I have to depend on heavy research and word of mouth from old timers. Even so, I still like to visit these places if possible. But if you're a contemporary writer, maybe we've got a lot of people on this blog who could really help out if you're stuck.

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  7. I had to invent a town for my first novel, but it was really a pastiche of extant places, none of which quite had all the attributes my story required of it. I still researched those towns just so my hypothetical one would seem credible. I still felt vulnerable because I was writing about a coastal region whereas I've never lived near the coast. It was tempting to write off some holidays to the beach as research-related tax deductions.

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  8. you are so fortunate to travel...we are still in the dreaming about the stage...same place i am with my writing.

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  9. Some great thoughts here Melanie. I usually start with something I know and fictionalize it. It is easier to describe something you've experienced
    Xx

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  10. Hello Melanie, I agree with you, I like to know the places I write about. Americans love to learn about Australia because they know very little...and there are not enough world wide books with the story line situated here. Thats what inspired me to write in the first place. I wanted to get out country our there. Blessings to you.

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  11. I have used real places like Parramatta and Granville as I knew them well and lived in Western Sydney for many years. Howver when I wrote Streets on a Map, although it was set in the Central West of NSW, I chose to make up a fictional town in that area. This was so it would not be too closely allied with any one place and have people looking at the village where we used to live, speculating about which person was a certain character when that was not the case.

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