It’s All In The Mind’s Eye

“The world only exists in your eyes – your conception of it. You can make it as big or as small as you want to.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Great words from a great writer, but the question is, how does a writer create a pathway from our eyes to the minds of the readers of novels?  Fortunately, archived records and the Internet can bring history of centuries ago into an author’s hands, allowing us to recreate a world long gone, in order to give the reader some sort of anchor as they turn the pages of our novels.  With a little imagination and fantastic writing skills, many authors transport us back to a time none of us have experienced first hand (at least not in this lifetime).

If the setting of the novel is in the present, we have access to maps, photos, and transportation to get to wherever the story takes place so that we may get a first-hand accounting of the sights and smells of the area.  Though some novel settings are loosely based on a certain locale, the authors are still able to give the reader the same flavor as if that particular imaginary city actually existed.  And those novels that are grounded in an actual place?  That could be a lot of fun for the readers as well.  Just ask Tamie from Bookish Temptations.  She recently toured Toronto in search of the offices, restaurants, museums, and streets that Sylvain Reynard fleshed out in Gabriel’s Inferno.  In reading her blog, you can feel her excitement as she was able to “be” where the characters were.  What a cool connection, right?

In my upcoming novel, Souled, the characters are firmly rooted in Sandpoint, a small town in North Idaho.  Because I am very familiar with the area, I was able to write from first-hand experience.  I’ve posted on my website and on Pinterest, pictures of where some of the scenes take place, so when the novel is released (weeks away), the readers who cannot actually visit the area, can at least “see” where it is that the characters live.

EFX bowling alley

Zero Point (stone shop)

In the case of futuristic or high fantasy, a writer can create an entirely new world, or they can do what Angela Peart has done for her soon-to-be-released novel.  (By the way, she filled me in on the details of her story, and…yeah.  This one is going to rock our socks off.).  So, rather than me trying to explain her method of creating setting, I’m going to let Angela do the talking because you just need to experience it.

Take it away, Angela!

“The story of my upcoming Young Adult paranormal novel, Greed (this is a “working title”), takes place in Seattle—the city that I have been calling home for many years now. But because the plot contains elements of high fantasy, some of the scenes happen in imaginary places. I will introduce those amazing places in another post. Today I want to share with you a very special spot from my novel. It is Queen Anne Academy of the Arts and Sciences in the Seattle’s picturesque district of Queen Anne. No, the school does not exist in reality, but the area is 100% real.

The Seattle skyline viewed from Queen Anne – photo by National Geographic

All except one of my teenage characters attend this prestigious private school. The Georgian architecture building and the surrounding grounds are not based on any real location. Only my imagination and the knowledge that I have obtained, studying interior design at the Art Institute of Seattle, are responsible for the creation of this intriguing place.

I am not ready to reveal my characters’ names just yet. There will be a special blog post in the near future, where you will learn more about them. For now I am simply “coding” them as X, Y, and Z. I know, not very creative, but try to overlook that and only concentrate on the descriptions of my dream high school.

Here are two excerpts from my novel. Enjoy!”

1.      He looked up at the ceiling, his eyes tracing the acanthus leaf castings clustered in the corners and along the sides. An enormous antique chandelier hung down by thick chains. A ring, covered in intricate patterns, encircled a massive hand-painted globe. The pale colors of the land and surrounding oceans looked subdued like on an antique map. Twenty-four sweeping, rounded arms reached out from the metal ring and curved up and out, ending in elongated candle-shaped electric lights. The sphere rotated lazily, as if imitating the real Earth. X gazed at it, transfixed, wishing it was dark outside and the whole thing would light up like it always did in the evenings.

2.      He shook his head, smiling to himself, and then walked toward the massive double front door. The door was two stories high, set between two flat columns protruding from the walls on both, interior and exterior, sides. A semi-circular intricately-carved arch encased the top of the door.

Y opened the door and stepped outside. He shaded his eyes with his hand and, squinting, looked at the cloudless sky. The door closed with a dull thud behind him, as he started down the wide stone stairs. Strings of green ivy clung to the solid-stone balustrade on both sides of the steps. The stone was aged, its natural color richly variegated. Two huge urns flanked the staircase, their color scheme identical to the balusters.

So, can you see it?  Can you feel it?  Thanks, Angela, for a sneak peek into your novel and giving us a great example of how an author’s mind works.

How do you feel about settings in the novels you read?  Do you like detailed descriptions or minimally-there descriptions?  Everyone’s preferences are different, but then again that is why we have so many types of authors and novels!

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About Diana Murdock

California-grown, writer of contemporary and YA paranormal with enough energy to write, raise two boys, run, and dream.

Posted on May 22, 2012, in Paranormal, soul attachment, Souled, spiritual attachment, Tattoo, Uncategorized, YA Novels, Young Adult and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Hi Diana! Way cool post, and thanks for the mention ❤
    BTW it was years ago but I have actually been to Sandpoint, Idaho so high fives. It does add something when you can visit real places from your favorite novels.

    • Hey Tamie! Again, I’m amazed at how many people have either visited Sandpoint or have heard the name. Such a blip on the map, but the town does tend to leave quite an impression. That is so cool that you’ve actually been there! I hadn’t really thought of what the impact would be on a reader to actually walk the same streets as a character until I read your post. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. It’s so good to see you back, Diana! Can’t wait for you new books. Isn’t that part of the fun in writing fiction. Taking places that are real and adding to them and if people follow through to see if these places are real– then you know you did a great job.

    To paint a picture of a real place and then make a convincing story is a thrill. And the best part is you can make little changes and make it more exciting.

    Wonderful post, Diana!

    • Yes, Dannie, I’m back in the game. Authors talk about finding that balance all the time between work and family and I just couldn’t seem to do that unless I pulled back.

      Writing with real-life locations was fun. I’ve even convinced myself that my characters have come to life when I look at the pictures. I’d love it if readers could actually visit and shake up this sleepy little town…

  3. Great post, Diana. I love that you quoted Fitzgerald who is one of my all-time faves! You have already intrigued me about Sandpoint and Angela’s setting descriptions drew me in immediately. We’re all on the same wavelength at the moment because I included an excerpt, with photos, about a setting in my WIP on my blog last week too. I’m waiting patiently for “Souled”!

  4. Beautifully done, girlfriend. I love the quote – how fitting. Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors.

    I must be in the minority since I’ve never been to Sandpoint. But Idaho is so close, that this little problem will get fixed in the future, I’m sure.

    I’m going to read Patricia’s and Tamie’s posts now – somehow we got ourselves a wonderful blog hop 🙂

  5. I think it’s important to anchor the reader in “place” to set the scene. The more senses the better and that can be done with minimal or lots of description. I don’t like description for descriptions sake it has to serve a purpose in the story. I also like books that use the location as a character all of its own. Great post ladies!

  6. Nice to see you back!

  7. Amazing post and LOVED Angela’s excerpts – can’t wait to read the book!
    I think setting is important but it’s just as important to not bog down a reader in details all up front. I think scattering descriptions throughout to create a balanced visions that grows and deepens rocks!

  8. Love the idea of Pinterest for locales (and just followed yours, Diana). Urns, acanthus leaves, everything about those items breathes “old and prestigious,” Angela. Great post, ladies!

    • Thanks, Debra! I’m just figuring out the whole Pinterest arena, but someone wrote it’s like Facebook without the drama. I love visuals. Such a good feeling thing.

  9. Very vivid descriptions from Angela!

  10. Visiting by way of Angela’s blog. Description is fascinating and the excerpts today really helped show why. It’s so cool to visualize a setting, see it take shape in the mind

  11. Hello Diana and Angela,

    I like minimally there descriptions. Might have something to do with my attention span issues 🙂

    Nice excerpts!

    Traci

  12. I LOVE your descriptions. And having been a great fan of Queen Anne, I can totally see those descriptions fitting in there. 🙂

  13. ” Fortunately, archived records and the Internet can bring history of centuries ago into an author’s hands, allowing us to recreate a world long gone, in order to give the reader some sort of anchor as they turn the pages of our novels. ”

    This is great, Diana. And SO TRUE.

  14. Innovative way to use pinterest Diana and Angela. I would have never thought of it. Looking forward to seeing the visuals. 🙂

  15. Karen McFarland

    Sorry to be late to the party but I had family visiting for the whole week. But wow, did I miss something here. Hi Diana and Angela! Funny Diana, I have been to Sandpoint, Idaho. My husband and I and kids stopped by there on our way to Banff. Nice job Angela on your description of setting. I felt like I was right there with the character. Best wishes to both of you with your novels! 🙂

  1. Pingback: Observations…Connections… «

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