Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Setting the Setting

When I pick up a new book, setting is one of the key ingredients that will keep me reading. It may be a slow story or one in which I haven't yet connected with the characters, but if it has a captivating setting, I'll keep going just to visit that world a little bit longer.

Some of my favorite authors are masters at crafting welcoming settings. L. M. Montgomery instilled in me a sight-unseen love for Prince Edward Island when I first read her books. So much so that fifteen years later my husband surprised me with a honeymoon trip to PEI one autumn. How's that for the far-reaching influence of an author's imagination? And every time I reread an Anne of Green Gables story, I want to skip on over to Canada for another visit.

As a fantasy author, setting is also a crucial component of my world building. It can be difficult to find the right balance between an overload of details and the one or two lines that will sketch the scene for my reader. I often have to tone down my over-enthusiastic descriptions when I'm revising. But when I'm writing a first draft, I let myself go.

My favorite way to get my creative juices flowing is to weed through my hoard of magazine clippings. Whenever I spot an eye-catching setting in a catalog or magazine, I tear it out and file it away. Sometimes, the picture itself is so inspiring that I want to create a scene around it. That's what happened with the dormitory in The Tale of Una Fairchild. In my mind, the students were housed in a wooded area, and I had a vague idea that there were giant trees involved. Then I saw these clippings:

I loved the fairy tale feel of the rooms,

the beds that resembled trees,

and the lodge-like decor.

What do you think, fellow readers? Would you like to wing over on a flight of imagination and visit the rooms above? Have you ever wanted to go and stay awhile in some delightful book world? What are some things you remember about the setting of your favorite books?

**To see more of this fabulous decor, you can find the article on-line from House Beautiful.**


  1. I've always wanted to live in a kid's fairytale. I just read The Hollow Bettle and I would like to live there. Not because it's a nice place (because it's not in the book), but because it's just so different.

  2. Gary said...

    So true. As a fantasy reader I find that you need to feel a comfort in the place and setting to fully enjoy the story, characters, relationships, etc. You need to feel part of it and want to be there.

    Loved your description and can't wait to "experience" the settings in Una.

    Who knows, we may even take our children (and grandchildren) to PEI someday!

  3. Tanya - Thanks for the rec - I'll have to check out that book.

    Gary - I think EVERYONE should go to PEI someday. ;)

    Hilary - I'm thinking writer's retreat at that lodge? Too bad it's a private residence...

  4. Lovely pictures! My favorite inspiration for how to write settings are the Mary Stewart Merlin trilogy, especially the first book. There's just something about the way she captures a King Arthurian England that always made me want to see it.

  5. I have a friend who honeymooned on PEI because of Anne of Green Gables. A wonderful setting truly can make a lasting impression...


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!