Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Story Settings That Tug Readers In

One long, hot summer I worked in a non air-conditioned dry cleaners. Around noon when the last cleaning loads finished, everyone left because of the stifling heat – except for me, the lowly counter girl. I sat on a stool and, to pass the time, read the owner’s paperbacks between customers. I remember being startled when a white-haired gentleman thumped the counter. I looked up from page 78 of The Wolf and the Dove and blinked. I couldn’t fathom what this man wanted until he thrust his claim ticket at me. Yes, I must admit: I was so engrossed in my book I missed the door buzzer and failed to notice my customer until his counter slap brought his presence to my attention.

I’d been transported to Darkenwald, in Saxon, England -- out of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ imagination.

Last night I curled up in my favorite armchair and let my present world slip away so that I could ride shotgun with Stephanie Plum. We cruised the streets of Trenton, New Jersey, in yet another ill-fated Honda CRV. Again I was transported. It was like experiencing a pleasant dream.

James N. Frey in How to Write a Damn Good Novel II says, “As a fiction writer, you’re expected to transport a reader. Readers are said to be transported when, while they are reading, they feel they are living in the story world, and the real world around them evaporates.”

I’ve often wondered how you cause your reader to slip into your story’s world? James N. Frey suggests using vivid details.

Chrystal McCoy says, “Setting is a great way to allow your reader to become part of your story.”

Janet Evanovich in How I Write gives these tips about setting:
· “Provide the setting and atmosphere information as close as possible to the beginning of the book.”
· “Place the character for the reader.” Mention the where and when of the character’s life.
· “Use your atmosphere to cause the reader to feel something.”
· “Engage all the senses when describing a place.”

Noah Lukeman in “The First Five Pages” agrees with using all FIVE senses to bring a setting to life. He also states: “Most importantly, have your characters interact with your settings. . . . The ultimate goal of your characters’ interaction with the setting is to have your characters actually affected by the setting.”

Summing up: An intriguing setting can be the launch pad of a great story. Here’s my list of some of the best settings I’ve read. Can you guess who created them? Give it a try. I’ll post the list of their authors in comments later this week.

13 Fantastic Fictional Places I’d Like to Visit (And some of the reasons why)

1.) Alagaesia. I want to find an egg for myself.
2.) The Land of Ingary in hopes of spotting a moving castle
3.) Bree, Rivendell or Rohan Who wouldn’t want to meet elves and hobbits?
4.) The Well of Souls, provided I could choose what creature I became
5.) Earth-Sea. I’ve wanted to attend Roke for some time.
6.) The Crooked Magician’s house in Munchkin County. The Patchwork girl, Ozma and I could be great friends.
7.) The twin cities of Reality and Illusion in the Kingdom of Wisdom.
8. Damar. I’m sure one of my long-lost relatives came from the Hillfolk.
9.) Angelshand or Kymil. I’m fond of wizards and mages.
10.) Ansalon. Flirting with danger, I’d like to study magic with Raistlin Majere.
11.) Hed or Yrye. I’m pretty good with riddles.
12.) TirAsleen. I’d like to help Thorn.
13.) The city of Hagsgate, to see how Molly’s getting along.

Happy Thursday!

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  1. Great list (and informative intro, too). Thanks.

  2. I don't read a lot of fantasy fiction but great idea for a list.

  3. great post!!

    my very first 13 is up ----

  4. That is sooo true...a really good book takes you to another place and time. If it's a great book, it means you don't want to leave that place when the book is over!

  5. I LOVE to write and read fantasy fiction, especially LOTR.

  6. What an awesome intro! For me, I would gladly be dropped into the Shire for Second Breakfast any day:-) There are lots of days where all I want is a cozy Hobbit-hole of my own. And I suppose this list is going to cause me to add even MORE books to my pile of things to read! Great post!

  7. Brenda-You're doing so good!!!!-debralee

  8. Here are my guesses to your places. I don't know the authors but I know the books.
    1 Eragon, 2 Howls Moving Castle,3 The Hobbit,7 The Phantom Tollbooth and 13 The Last Unicorn
    Good game!

  9. Here are my bids for the authors.

    1. Paplini, Christopher
    2. Jones, Diana Wynne
    3. Tolkien, J.R.
    4. Chalker
    5. I don't know
    6. Baum, L. Frank
    7. I don't know
    8. McKinley, Robin
    9. I don't know
    10. Weis, Margaret
    11.I don't know
    12. Lucas, George and Claremont, Chris
    13. Beagle, Peter

  10. Okay, here are the answers I promised.
    13 Fantastic Fictional Places I’d Like to Visit

    1.) Alagaesia-Christopher Paolini 2.) The Land of Ingary-Diana Wynne Jones 3.) Bree, Rivendell or Rohan-J. R. R. Tolkien 4.) The Well of Souls-Jack L. Chalker
    5.) Earth-Sea.-Ursula Le Guin 6.) The Crooked Magician’s house in Munchkin County.-L. Frank Baum 7.) The twin cities of Reality and Illusion in the Kingdom of Wisdom.-Norton Juster 8. Damar.-Robin McKinley 9.) Angelshand or Kymil.-Barbara Hambly 10.) Ansalon.-Margret Weis and Tracy Hickman 11.) Hed or Yrye.-Patricia Mc Killip 12.) TirAsleen.-George Lucas and Chris Claremont 13.) The city of Hagsgate-Peter S. Beagle
    Thanks for guessing!

  11. Hi Brenda!
    Just stopped by to escape the green-eyed monster that crawled into my seven-year old this afternoon, after a fun day of school-shoe shopping, bookstore crawling and custard at a local stand. Some days it seems are too much fun….
    Gleefully, I found a nice little puzzle on your table. Don’t tell the owner, but I can’t help but fill in the crossed words.
    Let’s see…#1 – nope, I’ll have to ask my friend, who I’m ashamed to admit, is more literary than me.
    #2…uhm…nope same thing.
    #3 – Uhm, Bree – uhm, is that like the cheese? Ok, I guess even my ignorance doesn’t stretch that far…Tolkien.
    #5 – AHA! The Earth Sea Trilogy by Ursula K La Guin, - nope I haven’t read that either.
    #6 Hm… (Wizard Oz! shouts out the seven year old)
    #10 Do I hear a distant roar?
    ….Good heavens! I think I’d better slip this little puzzle back under the ridge of the thick grease laden china plate and skulk back to my New York Times!


  12. Brenda, what about Anne McCaffrey's Pern? Not when thread is falling, of course. :)

  13. Edie,
    You're right. Pern is a great place. I'd like to visit Pern anytime, even during Threadfall, but then I'd want a dragon of my own.

  14. Owh,I love this post! Can I use the topic ideas for my next Thursday Thirteen? :D