Friday, 11 April 2014

Setting the scene - part 2

Last time I talked about setting the scene I asked the question whether it was important to have actually been to the location in which your story is set, or if it doesn't matter.

I have always believed in the importance of knowing the place as much as you can, although as previously mentioned, my friend Nalini de Sielvie writes very successfully of places she has never visited. But then Nalini is not only a writer, she is painter too and has a wonderful eye for things.

Recognising this fact, I embarked on a furious debate with myself -I was beginning to doubt my own doctrines. Perhaps it wasn't necessary to have visited a place first hand after all.

Taking this thought process to the next level, I don't suppose Tolkien actually visited Middle Earth, did he? He had a map of it - true. He knew the language ... okay, perhaps he did visit on some level - who of us can honestly claim to understand the workings of Tolkien's imagination - I mean, really?

In any case, writers of sci-fy, fantasy, even speculative writers make extensive use of their imaginative skills. I guess that's why I write historical fiction - I'm not very imaginative, not in that sense anyway. I can imagine houses, parks, gardens, scenes between characters, dialogue and clothing because I've researched them and have been fortunate enough to have visited some very lovely old houses and strolled through some of these magnificent parks and gardens.

England is a breeding ground for historical fiction - as I imagine many parts of Europe are too! But if travelling to these places is not on your agenda right now, we have an endless supply of research material at our very finger tips.

Hands up all those who love the History Channel? ME!

When I insisted that our household subscribe to Foxtel (that's Australia's version of cable or pay T.V.) I had two criterion: 1. - We must have the Australian Rules footy channel, and 2. we must ... MUST have History! I can't tell you the number of hours I've spent in company with Tony Robinson, Neil Oliver, Phil Harding, et al.

Truth be told, I love all the documentary channels - except those ridiculously puerile ones featuring hunting shows and big tough guys shooting defenseless animals.

Television docos can be very well researched and a fine source of information, and you name it, someone has a created a documentary about it.

If, however, you don't have access to Foxtel, your local library is a great place to go. Most libraries have a dvd section that contain documentaries and informative, educational television programs.

There's one other simply brilliant, but rather obvious, thing you can do to place yourself in the scene and that is to read. It's often said - I've even said it - that you need to read the genre you plan to write.

Pick yourself a writer whose style you like. Make sure they know their stuff - Google can help with that - then get yourself to your library.

Philippa Gregory is a perfect example. I've read just about all her books and I have learned so much from her about history - she is, after all, an historian of some note.

If you find a writer that particularly appeals to you, get onto Google and check their credentials.

Some of the reviews I received from Torn included comments about how well researched my books are. One reviewer even said of Torn, "The book made me think of Downton Abbey ..." 

Well, that's really cool!

So, going back to my initial point about setting the scene. I have not lived in the 1920s when Downton Abbey was set. Nor have I lived in the early 1800s when Torn was set, yet my research has enabled me to convey the sights, sounds, the look and feel of a bygone era.

I will be the first to say that when setting your scene it certainly helps to have visited the place in question, but in the course of my discussions with myself, I have decided that it's not mandatory.

We are very fortunate these days to have the answer to just about every question in our own homes.

Oh - just one word of warning though - if you are using the internet for your research, make sure any facts you discover can be supported by at least one other site - preferably two.

Not everything you read on the 'net is a fact - cross-check your research and create an accurate scene for your readers.

Ciao for now- writers.

No comments:

Post a Comment