Fangtabulous Settings!

Lucienne DiverLucienne Diver
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FangtabulousIf you’ve heard any shouting from the rooftops lately, it might have been me. I’m not admitting to anything, you understand, but I do have a new book out today (Fangtabulous, the fourth book in my Vamped series). I, uh, might have been a little vocal in my excitement. For a visual demonstration, I refer you to Daffy Duck.

Anyhoo, I’m going to go on with my guest blog here at Magical Words and pretend I’m not thinking “Why are you sitting around reading this when you can be reading Fangtabulous RIGHT NOW! You don’t even have to leave your seat if you prefer to download straight to your e-reader.” But, er hum, I’m very carefully not saying any of that out loud. Decision is totally up to you, of course.

So, what do I want to talk about today? Settings. I don’t know about you, but I see my books as movies playing out in my head. If I can’t visualize my scene, I can’t write it. The cameras stop rolling. The pen stops flying across the page. If need be, I’ll turn to on-line resources trying to find obscure things like what the parking lot looks like at the Wave Organ in San Francisco and whether the walk from there to the Organ is paved and, if so, with crushed shells, asphalt, loose stone, what? As you might imagine, people don’t generally go around taking pictures of parking lots and posting them on-line. Even asking someone who’s been there might not help, because people don’t necessarily take mental note of these things. They’re just not important…until you have to write about them. This is why there’s no better tool than first hand observation. To an author in full-on research mode no detail is too small. You never know what you’re going to use.

Take, for instance, Salem, Massachusetts, my setting for Fangtabulous (oops, there it is). I knew I wanted to set my novel there—where else could fanged fugitives have any hope of blending in?—but I’d never been there. I only had the merest glimmer of a plot in mind when I took my trip, something about unsettled and deeply dangerous spirits. But the town itself inspired and informed everything after that. For one, just getting out of the car and walking the rain dampened streets of Salem town gave me goose bumps. I’ve never believed in ghosts or hauntings, as much as I might like to read about them, but here…the history was so alive that it was easy to believe that the participants in that history might still be hanging around as well. I went everywhere I could think of, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables to the Witch House where one of the trial judges interrogated suspects, to the Witch Dungeon, the Witch History Museum, the Old Burying Point Cemetery and many more places. I took a ghost tour. I bought books. But best of all, I had a native guide, a friend of mine, Don “Vlad” Deich, who performs a gothic magic show (much like a certain character in the new book), who was able to tell me things I wouldn’t learn on any tour, like about the Old Jail, which had been turned into luxury apartments, or about how Salem is almost a ghost town after Halloween (and not so busy in the months leading up to October, when there’s, of course, a huge boom).

Settings are so important to the reality of a book. Sometimes a place with a lot of character practically becomes a character all by itself. I can’t stress enough how much I recommend firsthand research and primary sources whenever possible. Also, If you’re using someplace as a setting, you can’t go as a tourist. It helps to get the insight of insiders whether you befriend and interview people on the spot or come prepared with a native guide.

And there are my two cents.

(Note: any Salem inaccuracies you might see in Fangtabulous are mine and mine alone. I will admit to having to use my imagination on a couple of locations I was unable to scout first hand.)

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19 comments to Fangtabulous Settings!

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Oh, man! I am so envious of the movie-playing-in-their-head people. I so *don’t* have a movie in my head, that sometimes I have to stop my writing and remind myself that taking the time to build a visual would probably be useful for me and the readers both! But I do so love taking note of all the little details that make a place really real. Your research trip sounds very lovely, and does, in fact, peak my interest in a certain book…

  • Yay, my work here is done!

  • Happy book day, Lucienne!

    I’m one of those movie-in-my-head people, too. My only problem is remembering to actually detail what I see in my head on the page. Ack.

  • Ken

    Hi there Lucienne!

    Congrats on the new release!!!

    I’m with Laura on this one. I’m playing back a movie in my head and sometimes I find that I’m almost writing a script, the background detail is so sketchy. Then I have to go rewind the film and play it back focusing on what the setting looks, sounds, smells like, etc. Seriously, I just know I’m going to be an additive editor when it comes down to it.

    I love the idea of looking up random photos of places and things to help generate detail.

    Oh, and Happy Book Day!!!!

  • *Raises hand on the movie in my head side* As I once said, it plays full color, surround sound. I can even imagine the smells. Then I have the difficult task of finding the words to make other people see it.

  • Cindy

    The movie in your head folks are ahead today. I can’t imagine writing any other way. I wonder what the percentage really is. Congrats on the book.

  • Yay! Go Lucienne! (And I’ll pimp it on FB…)

    I do the photo / online route with my settings too, when I can’t get there in person. But alas, no movie-in-head. All words.

  • No movie in the head for me. I’ve always been envious of those who do that.

    Congratulations on the new book!

  • Razziecat

    Congratulations on the book! :)

    I’ve got “movie in the head” too, most of the time, and as I mentioned in David’s post the other day, that can be a disadvantage because I find myself picturing the whole scene instead of focusing on what the MC would notice and react to/interact with. I’d love to do in-person research in some of my own made-up worlds; I don’t write “real-world” stuff, at least not so far.

    Hint: Google maps…if you know an address, even just a general one like the name of a street or a well-known location, there is often a street view photo online which can be panned in a complete circle. You can also “jump” down the street, around corners, etc. I use this to “visit” places I’d like to see, since I can’t travel right now. The photos are usually recent ones. Lots of fun. ;)

  • sagablessed

    Ditto for the movie in the head thing. Focusing on one character is difficult.
    Call the discrepencies artistic licence. As a former resident I have read a number of books set in Salem, and no one there gets upset over small issues. Just remember they do not have real roads there: only anorexic goat-trails they call streets.

  • sagablessed

    OH…CONGRATS!!! Hard work pays off. :D

  • I’m a movie-in-the-head person, too. I love to “cast” my movie with actual actors, just for fun, although in my head they still stay the characters I created. :D

  • Congratulations on Book Day!

    I don’t necessarily ‘see’ my scenes, but I definitely see my settings. They come to life in my mind to the point that I wander through them during that not-quite-sleep period between waking and dreaming. When I’m writing, I sometimes have to stop, close my eyes, and look around.

  • quillet

    Congrats on the book!

    I definitely have movies-in-the-head. I see the scene first and the words come after. In fact, if I can’t see the scene, I can’t write it, usually. Sometimes, I’ll go online to find pictures of similar settings (since my world is wholly invented) to inspire me or to help me get the general details right. I wish I could actually travel to made-up places! *sigh* But in my imagination, my characters are my local guides. :)

  • Congrats on the book release! Re. settings and research: I see this as one of the perks of writing. We get to visit cool places for our books and write off the expenses come tax time!!

  • Vyton

    Congratulations on the new book! I’m in the movies-in-my-head category. The accuracy of retrieval and slow-motion replay is not always what I would like for it to be. Great post.

  • Megan B.

    Congrats on the release! And mark me down in the movie-in-head category. The hardest thing for me is going back and forth between ‘watching’ in my head and writing it down. Given some quiet time, I play out entire scenes in my head, but when I sit down in front of the computer those scenes are just a memory.

    I’ve never traveled to a location for research, but then again I tend to use made-up settings. And for my historical novella, I found a whole new challenge. I really wish I had a time machine so I could go see what Reno looked like in the 1870′s. I tried to find some photos online, but didn’t have much luck. I may try finding a book at the library.

  • [...] Magical Words (not so much an interview as a post about settings, particularly the on-the-spot research for Fangtabulous) [...]

  • Razziecat, I hear that! It’s so real to you you can’t understand that other people don’t see it (not without you painting a word picture).