Friday, July 09, 2004

Intricate Settings

While details are good for portraying characters, they are even more important for settings. This is where authors need to do much of their research. What exactly does the interior of a Navy ship look like? A bank? An upscale office?

With smalltown stories you can guess or make up many details, but plots set in actual locations need meticulous research. You never know when someone who's been there will pick up your book. Dee Henderson experienced this - before one of her Uncommon Heroes titles was published, her editor allowed someone in the military to read it.

Historical fiction usually is difficult in this area. History books don't always tell you what you need to know, and then you're up for hours of internet searching for one little scrap of information. And sometimes you don't find it at all. I spent many evenings trying to find out which version of the Book of Common Prayer was used during the American Revolution, only to turn up nothing. I had hoped to quote from it in a Anglican church service, but I had to skip it. (If anyone possesses this bit of information, please let me know!)

Fantasy requires many details, though in this case you can make them up. But they cannot contradict each other. To keep everything in order, you almost need to write your own history and geography books for yourself. The main point is to create a feeling of "otherworldliness" without confusing the reader. Make sure you give the big picture along with your details.


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