When writing your novel, you will want to really examine your setting. Some writers make the mistake of info dumping, which gives too much about the setting in one spot in the book. The more experienced author sets the stage with some great sentences where their character is interacting with the setting. That gives the setting more meaning for the reader. You relay how the character feels about where they are or where they’re going through interaction, action and dialogue.
While the story moves on, the character continuously interacts with the setting and other characters.
You will want to highlight the important locations within the place.
In my book The Stormy Love Life of Laura Cordelais, there are several settings, and I had to know about them all. More than that I had to choose specific locations that held significance for either David or Laura. These are the places that mark events in your characters’ lives.
1. New York City
2. New Orleans
3. Tallahassee, Florida
5. Big Pine Key, near Key West
The important part is to make a place alive with its decor, flora, and occupants. I’m giving you a sample from New Orleans, when Vampire David Hilliard goes to meet Mama Joe, a voodoo practitioner that even the vampires fear. It’s his only way to find Laura whose been kidnapped.
Catalina led them on that starless night, several blocks through the French Quarter to a stately green and black Victorian house on Dauphine Street. Not only had the storm overlooked this house, but so had time. The door was carved with spirals and demons. The sign bolted to the wall beside it read: Way To Go Joe’s Voodoo Emporium. They walked up the steps. Catalina did not.
“This is where I go home.” Marchon’s companion disappeared in a blink.
“Why is she so afraid?”
“When she was young, before becoming one of the blood, she witnessed a ritual where a vampire was murdered. After they beheaded him, they boiled the skin off and fed it to the hogs. Then they cleaned the bones for future use. There is a rumor, that Mama Joe keeps the skull of that unfortunate on the desk in her parlor.”
“Rumors are one way to instill fear.” David shook his head.
Marchon tried the door. It was locked. He pressed the buzzer.
A crackling voice through the intercom answered, “Evil cannot enter here, Vampires.” The door remained locked.
David pressed the buzzer and quickly said, “Please, I need Mama Joe’s help.”
He heard an audible sigh. “Who are you, Vampire? You are not from the Big Easy.”
“I’m from the Big Apple.”
They heard scuffling behind the door and then the intercom shut off.
Minutes later, the door opened and they walked in. Candle sconces on the purple walls of the foyer provided a dim glow. Glass cases displayed all manner of religious artifacts and items ranging from statues of saints and portraits to boxes labeled as the blood or the bones of the holy. Jars of dried herbs sat in neat rows on the counters. Voodoo dolls were lined up like a chorus line. Next to them were boxes of “Your Own Voodoo Kit.” Gris-gris bags hung from a rack in the corner, and shrunken heads hung from a curtain rod against a window, as if to give them a view.
“The one on the end looks like an old friend of mine,” laughed Marchon.
“Could be. Could be,” said a voice behind them as old as the North Wind. They turned to see three young black girls in faded pink dresses. They were maybe 11 or 12 years old at most. Triplets. One of them stood behind the wheelchair of an old black woman who wore sunglasses and a purple robe covered with amulets. Every talisman and religious symbol hung from a gold chain around her neck. She sat regally in her wheelchair like a queen addressing her court. David felt the woman’s power. Marchon bowed. David did not.
“Hmm,” she half-chuckled. “Come into my parlor, and we’ll talk.”
Marchon looked nervous. David made the first move by following the woman into the next room. It was a pleasant, pale pink room with floral paintings and a large round table with a lace tablecloth. No desk and no skull. Once seated around the table, Mama Joe gave David a long appraising look.
“So, Mr. Hilliard, what can I do for you?”
David narrowed his eyes. He didn’t like the fact she knew his name without introductions. What else did she know? “My wife has been kidnapped, and I want her back.”
Mama Joe laughed. “Don’t you know? Vampires don’t have wives. Why have a wife, when a handsome man like you can have any woman he wants, another vampire for a companion, a human for a pet. Vampires were made to be free of such encumbrances.”
“Nevertheless, I do have a wife, and I need her.” This woman annoyed him.
Mama Joe smirked. “What will you give me, if I help you?”
This a sample of using setting with character interaction and dialogue. I gave you a bit more to see how it works. Setting is more than a place. Here we have the shop and house, the interior, items within it and the occupants. Each part is intended to evoke a feeling in the reader.
For your enjoyment, I’ve including the book blurb.
Being descended from an ancient race blessed by Zeus doesn’t help Telkhine Laura Cordelais, when she’s desperate and standing between life and death. Her destiny looks bleak. Every choice leads to death, and there is no winning door. Or is there?
Begging God for love, Vampire David Hilliard finds his request answered in the form of the tormented and dying Laura. In saving her, he falls in love and dooms them both to a dark underworld of voodoo and sorcery from which nothing can escape.
The Storm Begins!
Curses, Keres, demons, oh my! And the unicorn’s horn.
The Stormy Love Life of Laura Cordelais is available in Amazon Kindle and Print at https://www.amazon.com/Stormy-Love-Life-Laura-Cordelais/dp/1493789546
It’s also in print and can be ordered online at Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-stormy-love-life-of-laura-cordelais-susan-hanniford-crowley/1118066352
(An interesting thing about Amazon is that if you click on a book, you will see the author’s name in small print. Click on the name and it will bring you to the author’s page which lists all the books and their formats that are available.)
If you have missed the other lessons in “How to Write a Fiction Novel,” here they are:
Happy Writing. Next week we will talk about “Items of Importance.” If you have any questions or comments, feel free to write them in the comments box.
Susan Hanniford Crowley, Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance
Where love burns eternal and whispers in the dark!
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