Justine: Travel Inspiration

I’m currently jaunting about Barcelona on our annual family vacation and whenever I travel, I try to use the places I visit as inspiration for my stories. Today, we visited the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Basilica of the Sacred Family), which has been under construction since 1882 (and still not completed). While it’s breathtakingly beautiful, it’s a bit hard for me to imagine using in any of my books, given they take place in the early 1800s. Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals…Setting

Welcome to the fifth installment of Fiction Fundamentals. In this issue…Setting.

How would you describe this street? What are you writing? Who is your character? That and more will affect your description.

How would you describe this street? What are you writing? Who is your character? That and more will affect your description.

Setting serves an important purpose to ground the reader. It’s hard to get into a story when you don’t know where the character is or at what point in time the story takes place.

Margie Lawson maintains that within the first paragraph or two of every chapter or scene, you need to inform the reader of setting. Sometimes this isn’t necessary. If you start off each chapter with the location and year (for example, “London, March 1815”), then we have a pretty good idea of the where and when.

But establishing setting is more than just the where and when. There are Continue reading

Justine: An Exercise Using the Five Senses

Me (left) and Jilly, the most amazing travel partner and tour guide!

Me (left) and Jilly, the most amazing travel partner and tour guide!

As many of you know, I recently wrapped up a fabulous 10-day trip to England (with the wonderful Jilly as my official host and tour guide). The things I saw and did are experiences that I will eventually include in my books, with the goal being more realistic, “show-not-tell” scenes…scenes written well enough, you can imagine yourself there, even as you sit in your bed curled up with the book.

To get to that point, though, a bit of preschool-type exercises in the five senses can be very helpful to ensure your readers get “the full picture.” Using two of the pictures I’ve taken as examples, I’ll come up with some basic descriptions of different “scenes,” hitting on the major images, feelings, etc. that I want to evoke as I describe that scene for a reader.

First is Continue reading

Jilly: The Best of Both Worlds

Eskdale How was your week? We spent most of ours in the beautiful Lake District with my husband’s family. My mother-in-law has been a regular summer visitor to Eskdale for many years, so it was the perfect place for her to celebrate a landmark birthday. I didn’t write a single word all week (didn’t expect to!) but I absorbed a lot of useful impressions. It was a long, slow drive back to London on Friday, and I spent most of it thinking about what I’d learned.

My Gilded Lily series is set in Scotland, a couple of hundred miles further north, but the Lake District environment is very similar – wild, rugged scenery of moorland, lake and mountain, mile upon mile of hillside dotted with hardy sheep tended by even hardier farmers. Everyone has at least one dog. Everyone knows everyone else, often going back many generations.

My books star twenty-first century characters who have been brought up in this type of rural community and who combine the best of the traditional and the contemporary. Their roots are deep, and their values are those of their parents and grandparents, but they aren’t isolated from current lifestyles; they’re smart, worldly, entrepreneurial characters who adapt and innovate for the benefit of their home and community.

That’s exactly the kind of feeling Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Good Food Scenes

Dinner at the Crachits from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens used food very effectively in *A Christmas Carol*.

Good Saturday, everyone, or whatever day it may be for you. Remember last week when I asked you to share food scenes that moved you as a reader? Today, let’s identify what made those scenes work for us, and think about how we apply that to our own writing.

I think it’s important to remember that food is a very basic need – right at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with friends like water and shelter and sex. When you write about food, you are writing about basic human needs that every human reader has.

I noticed four important things that turn food porn into something Continue reading

Justine: How Far Will I Go For My Book? About 5,200 Miles.

I just returned from eight days in Bath and London doing research for my Regency WIP. I’ve read a lot of Regencies; I think I have a pretty good handle on a lot of the social conventions, dress, forms of address, etc. of the time, but there’s nothing like walking in the shoes of your literary forebears (á la Jane Austen) to get a feel for what life looked like to people who lived 200 years ago. Continue reading