Tag Archive: setting



“Welcome to Pointer, West Virginia”

 For those who have never heard of this place, do not fret. It doesn’t exist.  I made it up to be the setting for “The Vampyre Blogs”.  A good setting is extremely important to any story.  Your story’s setting can shape your character’s personality depending on how long they’ve lived there.  For instance, if they’ve been there a short time there’s the getting to know the place and the people.  Certain action sequences may take place in particular areas.  The town’s history may come into play.  If they’ve lived there all their lives, they should know a lot of people, have a reputation (are they considered cool, friendly, or weird by the other people?  Etc., etc…)  Already you can see the importance of your setting and you should know the place at least in your own mind, so you can convey it to the readers.  I don’t care if it’s a real place here on Earth or another world.  You need to become familiar with where your story is taking place.

I’ve touched on settings for stories in the past, but “Pointer, West Virginia” is very different for me. You see, I’ve never been to West Virginia.  I do not have any personal knowledge of what the place is like.  I don’t know how people talk there, what kind of accents they have, etc.  

Creating a fictional place doesn’t have to be super complicated, but whatever setting you build has to be believable.  In my case, I like to blend a bit of reality into my settings.  When I created New Swindon in Connecticut, for my first book “The Bridge”, I was familiar with the area where I placed it.  My grandmother had lived in Salisbury Connecticut for years and I became familiar with some of the other nearby towns.  I blended the characteristics of several of them to create New Swindon to make it seem more real and authentic.  I would refer to certain landmarks, roads and the things that actually do exist in real life.  This allowed me to make my town more believable and real.  

 In my second soon-to-be-released book, “The Ship”, I used an actual setting from real life that I was very familiar with.  However, I also took steps to make sure only my characters were fictional and that they blended right in with their real-life setting.  I had the knowledge of Santa Cruz and Seacliff to make this happen smoothly and very believable.  (Remember the old saying:  write what you know about).

So why am I using West Virginia, a place I’ve never been too, as the location for my third novel?  History!  West Virginia is steeped in it, especially when it comes to the Civil War, which is the time-frame my main character Nathaniel lived in.  So how did I approach this situation to so

So what did I do?  Simple, it was time for a little research on the internet and here is some of what I learned:

-West Virginia was created as a direct result of the Civil War.  Most of Virginia sided with the south during that turbulent time, except for the section now known as West Virginia.  They were not inclined to enforce slavery or returning runaway slaves, and decided to break off from the rest of Virginia.  There was a lot of tension when this happened, and there were a number of famous battles that took place within the newly formed state.

So right there I had a rich source of background to play with for my new novel.  However, I still had a number of obstacles to overcome for the story.  Where in West Virginia should I place my fictional town?  I checked over some county maps and saw where towns and cities were located and took notes.  I wanted an area that didn’t already have an actual town, so I could refer to the real places as being nearby.  Plus I wanted a location that was near the disputed Virginia/West Virginia border.  There were some hostilities there, and I had planned for my town’s history to include a bunch of raiders (southern sympathizers) who crossed the border and nearly wiped out Pointer’s population in one terrible “Night Of Fire”.  Could such a thing have happened?  Absolutely, because I checked up on atrocities that took place during the Civil War.  Both the North and South committed atrocities, some extremely barbaric.  So right there, I had foundation to create such a background history for the town.

I also, checked to find out what are the more prominent religions in the area, so I could populate the the town with a churches and denominations.  Plus I researched, what kinds of agriculture and commercial businesses are most prominent and where they are located in West Virginia.

 Now I know a lot of this sounds complicated and detailed, but I simply made a few notes to myself.  The object was to be able to make ‘general references’ to real aspects of the area, to make my fictional town blend in and seem more real.  That’s all.  I won’t be dedicating entire chapters to detailed descriptions, mostly it will be comments and points of reference made by the characters.  I even found where a community college is located in the county where I am placing my town, so one of the secondary characters can be an instructor there.
 

I know a lot of my readers may have never stepped foot in West Virginia, but there will also be some how do live there and I want them to feel like I treated their state fairly.  I try to make the settings enjoyable and fun to think about.  Who knows, some people may even want to visit them one day to see what it’s like for themselves.  It depends on the picture you paint, so to speak.

A few of your might be asking, how much time did I spend on researching the area?  Well, I’d say I spent a total of maybe 10-12 hours over a several day period to get my vision for “Pointer”.  I checked Google for images so I can describe buildings and streets, I checked maps for counties, I looked up the state’s governing body and typical law enforcement agencies, as well as the average population of towns so I could populate mine with the right number of civil servants and local government.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I checked out some of the state’s history.  Again I didn’t go into great detail, but simply made notes I could refer back to in order to make the town fit in and seem real.  Even the name of my fictional town comes from actual state history.  In May 1788 Fort Donally was attacked early in the morning hours by a group of indians led by Cornstalk.  The fort housed soldiers, wives and children.  One of the defenders who helped keep the gates blockaded and fired through a hole in the gate, was a slave named Dick Pointer.  For his courage and loyalty during the fight, he was given his freedom AND a piece of land with a cabin that people built just for him.  A rare honor at the time.  Upon his death in 1827 he was buried with military honors in Lewisburg West Virginia.

For my story, I’m going to have it that one of the children who saw him in action that day helped found my fictional town and named it after his hero.  A town named for a former slave would understandably be targeted by the raiders in my story and make it more believable.
So there you have it.  Here’s another one of my methods for making a believable fictional setting.  What are some of yours?  Please share in the comments below or give us links to a blog where you may have discussed your style of doing things.
I hope this entry has helped some of you.  And as always, take care and keep writing.

Well folks the response from my question about posting more about writing, and the different aspects that make up a story,  was overwhelmingly positive.  So here is my first posting in that vein.  Today I’m talking a bit about “settings” for your story.  Now settings do more than just give the reader a location where the action is taking place.  Settings do much, much more to the story.   They can be a mere backdrop or they can have a definite impact on how your characters are shaped.  How they become the people they are when we meet them in your story can be very much affected by their settings.

For instance… where does your story take place?  In Heaven?  Hell?  Another planet? This world?  If it is this world, what time frame?  Middle Ages? The future?  World War I or II?  Another time entirely?  And how does that setting affect the rest of your story?  Does the environment your characters are living in shape their personalities or how they get by in life?  Are they isolated with few friends because of the terrain or location?   Are they considered the outsider by the rest of the population who has been brainwashed to fit in and act a certain way by a higher authority?  In Frank Herbert’s “DUNE”, the setting of Arakis had a major role in shaping the main character Paul and his mother.  From leaving a world of splendor with water and lush vegetation to going to a barren desert planet, where water was more valuable than money or any riches.  The dangerous and harsh world re-shapes Paul from pampered youth to hard-bitten leader of the desert tribes of Arakis.  He learns hard and fast how to survive the threats of the planet itself, along with the political backstabbing that led to his father’s murder.  Setting can create a great tension that helps drive your story.

A setting can also be the major plot of a story as well.  In Ray Bradbury’s short sci-fi story “HERE THERE BY TYGERS” a planet itself is the main plot point.  A survey team for a mining company arrive on a planet that is sentient.  It offers them anything they could ever wish for: food, lush vegetation, water, even companionship.  It is a living paradise with the most gigantic and caring hostess you could ever meet.  Unfortunately, through the actions of one of their team, they learn the price of disrespect.  He is killed after purposely trying to hurt the planet by drilling samples in a savage manner.  He hates all planets and feels they must be beaten down and tamed.  In the end, the rest of the crew decide to return home, all save one member who has fallen in love with the planet. The others learn of his departure AFTER they have left and envy him.  They know the planet will take care of him and even maybe extend his life in a lush world that aims to please him.  But they can never return.  Even as they look back on the world it now ‘appears’ as a violent raging world of molten lava and volcanic eruptions.  They realize that the world was in a way a woman who had offered them everything.  But they had scorned her and now she is furious and will not let them return to her surface.   A truly brilliant piece.

So what kind of setting are you aiming for?  An inner-city ghetto?  A desert where an army is trying to deal with survival in more than one respect?  Or are you creating a  quiet suburban town where ‘nothing seems to happen’.  In each case your characters must interact with their surroundings.  That setting should shape your character’s personality and development before and during the story.  In that quiet suburban town where your lead is bored, what secrets lie beneath the ground or behind those seeming bland windows of the cookie-cutter housing that lines the streets.

Settings are powerful tools and not just backdrops.   Keep this in mind as you write, because you never know.  The setting you create may be one that you’ll want to return to again because there are more tales to be told from there.


Good afternoon everyone.  I have a question or two for you all.  I noticed one of my recent posts really seemed to resonate with a large number of you.  Specifically, it was the post about Press Release Kits.  I got a lot of feedback and thanks for sharing that information and was really glad so many found it helpful.  

 
After seeing that response and hearing back from so many it got me wondering.  Would you all like to see some more articles about writing (character development, plot, setting, self-publishing, etc.) on this blog as well as updates on my work?  I’ve already been adding some reviews and have been thinking about having guest blogs or interviews here as well.  How do you all feel about me adding some of these to the blog? 
 
If I do go this route, it will be one of each throughout the month along with my regular postings.  So, let me know what you think and what else you might want to see here.  I strive to be informative as well as entertaining.  
 
I’m looking forward to your responses.  Thanks and take care.

I created this video with the YouTube Video Editor because my cell phone will only allow me to e-mail videos only once and I accidentally lost all of them on my laptop. So I just sent all the vids to YouTube and edited the puppy here (http://www.youtube.com/editor).

Anyway, this is the finale about my setting changing. I know you all have been supportive and maybe wondering a little bit about why I chose to do this series. Well here’s the answer, setting affects people. Especially it affects your characters. Their drives, dreams, motivations, how they feel (excitement, boredom, anger, resentment, etc.) And changing settings can have a huge impact on them and what choices they make with their lives and how they react to it. You’ve seen me go through a range of emotions and seen some parts about me I’ve never revealed to you before (like saying goodbye to a place and thanking it for all it had done for us). Can a place be sentient or aware? I like to think so. But you would’ve never known about it until this video. So give more thought about the settings in your writing and how it affects your characters and their world views. And make sure there is some interaction between them and their setting you can wind up with some powerful ideas you never thought about before. Thanks for watching.

My next video will be about my new setting and the joys of unpacking. And trying to find where some of our stuff landed up when we need it. Take care and thanks again.

 


Here is the 3rd installment of my 4 part video story about me and my wife moving away from Santa Cruz to the Monterey Bay Area.


Just uploaded a new video on my Vlog/YouTube channel about “Setting”. This is the first of a few installments about how a person’s setting can affect them, whether they are a character in a story or an author in real life. Please check it out and leave a comment either here or on my YouTube channel underneath the video. Thank you.

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