Please join me in welcoming Veronica Lynch to Discover yourself. One lucky person will win a handcrafted tote if you leave an email address with your comment. So read on and be sure to comment!
As an author we can write dialogue, so clear and snappy, the reader knows exactly who's speaking without tags. That's a gift none of us should take for granted. Likewise, we might create characters so real, so intriguing, the reader invites them into their lives and hopes they'll stick around for awhile. Also a gift.
Great dialogue and intriguing characters won't keep readers' attention if the setting is blurred or worse, glossed over. Even worse, so unrealistic, the reader throws it against the wall because they cannot relate to the location. If they can't 'see' it, 'smell' it, or 'feel' it, the story will fail. You don't want that.
The setting [or world] must be given the same care, in terms of development, as you would give any of your characters, lead roles or supporting. Think of the Alaskan town in the Sandra Bullock movie “The Proposal”. What made that small, out of the way town stay with me as a viewer? Three distinct scenes stick with me: the bedroom, the bar where the waiter/religious person strips for the screaming women and the clearing in the woods where Betty White dances in homage to her Native ancestors. It is the details, using all five senses, which make those stand out in my mind.
Since this is an audience where I might find a few writers of fantasy, paranormal and science fiction, I need to start with the World.
Where is it? Is it real or imagined? Based on something real or imagined.
Make sure you define the infrastructure: language[s], education system, the philosophy of medical care from birth to death, the political system[s].
If you're creating your own planet, like Star Trek or the Kurt Russell Stargate movie, the sky's the limit for you. Personally, I'd make it as close to Earth as possible--for your own sanity and that of your reader. Think JD Robb's In Death series. The basics are still the same but man, she has hyped all the amenities to the max. If Earth isn't your bag, and you want to do something totally new, keep this in mind: if folks need anti-gravity shoes to walk around or wear oxygen masks to breathe, how do they make love?
If there are other life forms, as in the Star Wars movies, is miscegenation allowed?
What is the climate? Does it change with the seasons? Do they have seasons? Is this mostly rural and agrarian or is it urban/suburban?
What are modes of transportation?
Are there animals [as in the zoo or on farms or family pets]? Tamed or wild?
What is the expected life span?
Let's break it down a bit further into the City/Town.
Is it well built, well planned or is it post-apocalyptic? Is there a system of roads or highways? Are they maintained, how well is it done and who pays for it?
If electricity/gas/fresh water doesn't exist, how are those nitty gritty things supplied?
What is the political infrastructure? Is there a clearly defined class system? Are there distinct neighborhoods? How about laws and the enforcement of same. Is there a criminal justice system? What is the quality?
Does an educational system exist? What is the quality? Are there institution of higher education nearby?
How is medical care delivered? What is the quality of that care?
What are the geographical formations [lakes, mountains, deserts]?
Leisure interests, arts, sports?
And now we get to the Hood.
If we're in the country, the individual farms will take the place of the hoods, abutting the next farm or small town, the center of social life. If we're in the city, what are the dwellings like, well built or fabricated as in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or homeless communities beneath subway stations? Are your characters part of the In Crowd or on the outside margins, looking in?
Is this a single family unit or a multiple dwelling like a high-rise apartment building? How is it maintained? The same questions asked before this apply here. Is this a glum and dreary place or is it bright and inviting personal exploration. Are the individual rooms different from the whole? Throw in something unexpected, something romantic. Surprise the reader. It keeps them turning those pages.
Don't try to do this alone. Use your writer pals or critique group. It is clear when imaginative people come together, any number of wonderful things can happen.
Excerpt from Hauntings in the Garden:Caper Magic coming from The Wild Rose Press, Oct 27, 2014
Hank let out a holler just before a huge toothy grin spanned the borders of his gaunt cheeks. “Top o' the marnin' to ye, Missus!” he cackled to someone exiting the front door of the stone cottage next door.
Taking the concrete steps to the sidewalk in two lithe moves, a woman in a slinky dress the color of ripe tomatoes glanced their way and responded in a distinct Irish brogue. “And the ass end of the day to ye, Mistur Pierpont.”
Intrigued by rich tone of her voice, Nick craned his neck and found one of the witches from yesterday's parade—minus the droopy velvet hat—passing within steps of Hank's porch. A bulging garment bag hung over one arm; she looked headed in the direction of the pier at the end of Vincentian Lane. Damned if right then a wind didn't jump up off the lake and mold the filmy length of scarlet against each curve of her body. Long black hair—and there seemed to be a good ten pounds of it—flowed over her shoulders, caressing her body like a lover as she marched toward Dingle Pier. As his heart bumped into a trip hammer beat, Nick reminded himself to breathe.
“Ferget yer broom, Missus?” Hank called out to her retreating back.
“In the repair shop,” she replied over one shoulder, winging that glorious onyx hair away from lips painted to match her dress. “Gettin' fitted with a couple of those fancy turbo boosters, it is.”
Hank chuckled, then went back to his coffee. “Turbo boosters. That Nunie Doyle; sure is a pistol.”
An invisible fist reached down to grab Nick's gut in a vise. As recognition flared, long buried rage took a slow crawling path up his spine.
Writing under the names Kat Henry Doran and Veronica Lynch, author Kathy Cottrell uses her experience as a nurse, victim advocate and insurance investigator for background in her award winning novels and novellas. Her stories are set in her favorite places to visit: the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains as well as the Saint Lawrence River in the historic Thousand Islands region of Upstate and Northern New York State.
When not writing, or chasing grandchildren, Kathy spends her time designing and making tote bags and aprons to custom order.