Novel Planning Phase Four: Location, location, location.
Where is one of my favorite characters.
No, that’s not a question. It’s the truth. I love to ask “Where does this story happen?” and give the Where a persona of its own.
Places that I know and love become characters in my novels. London. Stratford-upon-Avon. Kenilworth Castle. Places I’ve lived or frequently visited underscore the backstories of my characters, too. San Antonio. South Louisiana.
When it comes to the Where, I go with the known.
Even if the Where is entirely made-up, like in my By Eyes Unseen series, I base it on a familiar place. I follow universal rules (like weather patterns and gravity). If I break the rules, I break them consistently. And if I make up my own rules, I follow those, too.
Early sketch of the castle featured in the By Eyes Unseen series
If a significant amount of my story takes place in a specific building, then I design a blueprint of the space. In my notebooks, I’ll sketch floor plans and add furniture. Or I’ll print the plans of actual buildings and tweak them to meet my needs.
Why do these facts matter?
Because details reinforce authenticity – for the author as well as the reader.
As Robert McKee writes in Story: “Authenticity does not mean actuality…. authenticity means an internally consistent world, true to itself in scope, depth, and detail…Authenticity has nothing to do with so-called reality.”
Case in point: Harry Potter. Hogwarts is a perfect example of the character of Where – enchantingly magical yet completely accessible to readers young and old.
For The Glorious Governess, I’m in the process of fleshing out Netherstone Hall which is inspired by Coleshill House, an actual English manor that was destroyed by fire in the 1950s. In my novel, Netherstone is located in Warwickshire County, an area of England that I know well.
Next, I’ll sketch Netherstone’s grounds and then the nearby town of Kingshill. Almost all of the novel’s chapters take place in one of these three settings.
My job as an author is to make a setting authentic – not make it all up from scratch. And if that means even MORE trips to England… bring it!