Monday, March 7, 2011

Craft Note: Writing Places You've Never Seen Before

So, I've decided that Monday's will be "craft note" days. I have yet to decide how many posts I'll plan for each week, at least two, I think.

Craft Note: Visualization

I have never created a world in my writing. Meaning: I've never created a place that is 100% different from Earth. A place called Borg, for example, where little blue people dwell and shoot lasers out of their eyes. I think that if I were to write science fiction a lot of world-planning would be involved. I like to stick with what I know and see and then expand upon that. But what do you do for fictionalized/make believe places set in "reality" but aren't a part of reality? Let's take my new novel "Surrender" for example. There is no such place as Falls, New Hampshire. It's actually based off two places in New Hampshire: Portsmouth, for it's quaint New England-y feel and Lincoln, a place that I only drove through, that's nestled in the White Mountains. I suppose when I really think about it, Falls is more Lincoln (because of the mountains) than Portsmouth (which is on the coast). At any rate, I merged the two places together to create something fictional. Another example is the school that my main character's go to: Stonegrove. I've never attended a private school before and had an image of my head (a cross between an English boarding school and a private school in Exeter, NH).

It can be incredibly difficult to create something from scratch and really "see" that place or have readers see it just as clearly. In order for me to do this, and be successful, I tend to sketch or draw. I make blueprints so I can see the layout as my character would see it. I've created whole towns like this. I don't know, there's something about visualization that helps me with the writing. And in order for these places to seem real, I have to believe they are real. Mapping them out helps with this, I think.

The top picture (click on all pictures to make them bigger) is the front of the school as I saw it. The most important feature to me was the large clock tower and the archway that the students walk through to get into the school. You'll also notice the cobblestone circular drive. The middle picture shows the basic region layout from the main town of Falls and up into the mountains where the school is. Lucas's house is also on the map, but not Cameron's. I'm surprised I didn't include the farmhouse, but on well. It's there. The bottom picture is another layout of the school (the entryway) that I wanted to put down. I accidentally cut off the big gate at the bottom of the school's "driveway." I really only describe the entryway once (Evelyn's first day of school), but it was important (not to mention fun) to get the image down on paper.

So, what about you? Do you just go on instinct and hope that all the details are right and believable, or do you get all crazy like me and start making maps and diagrams?

End of craft note.


  1. I would never be able to make drawings, not just because I have no artistic ability but because I have no desire too.

    I know some fantasy authors like to put mini maps before the starting of there story but I've never actually slowed down to pay attention to it.

    Saying that, I did look over your pics and you have put a lot of thought into it. Hopefully if I get the chance to read Evelyn's first day at school I'll be able tp picture the building and her surroundings a lot more clearly in my head.

  2. Not related in any way...but what's happened to the red fish in your 'My little Fish' Gadget?
    You only have white and blue ones.

  3. Haha! I changed the fish colors. I wanted to see if anyone would notice the changes. I changed them once before (taking a few out). lol. I never look at the mini maps that are included in books. I don't think I would include any of the ones I did with the book. It's not really necessary. But I guess for brand new worlds it might be.

  4. I do. Although I normally just put the very basic things down so I can remember where I said something was and if the character was running from zombies would she take a left down main street or a right to get to the gun store, lol, and the best visual blockade to throw in her way.

    I usually do it when I want to write but I can't or I should write but I want to procrastinate, lol.

    I don't think of them as companions for the books but more as part of my world-building set up, just like the character profiles, it's for the author's benefit.

    Sometimes it can be a nice add-in though, I don't really use them when I'm reading but if it's pretty I will look over it.

    And I thought the red fish had died, LOL. Which now that I think about it makes no sense, hahah.

  5. I do maps** not the building sketches though I think I might start doing those as well because it's probably easier to glance at the image and remember how a building looks then to struggle through your notes and try to remember if you had an overhang at the front of the building or vines, or something like that.

    On Patricia Brigg's site [she writes adult fantasy and UF] her fans basically gathered all the information they were given from the books and created character profiles and the someone made blueprints for the homes mentioned. Here's a link if you'd like to see it:

    Keep in mind that these fans were straight fantasy fans first so they're used to having blueprints and maps at the front of their books, lol, but when I get organized that's how I want to organize my world-building folder [except in a binder, not online].

    And that link is just for blueprints and property descriptions if you go to the main subforum [Mercy's Canon]they have character IDs and the like.

  6. Wow, those fans were pretty detailed! I'm sure that it comes in handy, but like you I'd rather have binders/notebooks than anything posted on line. I might change my mind one day, but I'm a bit old school, I guess. I also sketch when I'm procrastinating or struggling to get something down.

  7. Oh god I love Patriccia Briggs, just the other day I received her latest book in the Mercy Thompson series. River Marked.

    I haven't read it yet, but one thing that really cheesed me off was the different covers. I have her previous books and they all look gorgeous together and then this one comes along, and whilst I like it, it doesn't flow with the others.

    I had to rearrange my whole book storage thing-y and it didn't help at all!!!

    When you publish your books please don't change the cover's half way through. It drives us readers crazy.

    And I noticed you added a Yellow Fish. I prefer red myself.

  8. Haha, request noted. Although, I wonder how much say she actually had in regard to the cover. I know how you feel, I'm the exact same way. All of my Harry Potters are hard-cover and lovely :). I have a series by Meg Cabot (the Heather Mill mysteries, I believe) that are also nice and orderly. I wonder if all avid readers feel the same. Maybe it's a Virgo thing... are you Virgo? :)

    Haha, glad you noticed the fish change :) I've been looking for other cool gadgets to add but I haven't found anything as fun. Also, I've never read Briggs before, but my sister might have. Her books are intriguing to me, I just haven't picked on up. Today I bought a $2 romance novel that I'm kinda excited about... haven't read one in a while. It's called "The Madness of Lord ______". Can't wait to read it ;)

  9. I can't remember the Lord's name, which is why I left it blank.

  10. I doubt she has control over the cover all that much, I know very few authors do although Patricia is pretty established so I'm guessing she did get some say about it. The same artist did the cover though I'm pretty sure.

    I haven't read that one yet, I'm like number 30 on the hold list [I buy her books paperback since that's how I started, lol].

    But I agree, I hate when they mess up the colour scheme or the covers [Terry Pratchett books are horrible for this, they went from colourful to all black, although the original cover artist died so I can't really complain, lol] and then the spines look like they belong to two different series.

    For me personally, I have a huge bookshelf that can look messy really easily and it's prettier when the series match, and easier to find which series I want to read because I have a fair idea of the spine set up at a glance. [and I'm a Gemini so I'm thinking it's an avid reader thing, lol]

  11. @Jammi, I don't know if you're talking about the Mercy Thompson series, but I got River Marked in paperback. I worked for it on cashle and pre-ordered it from Amazon. £3.99.

    I'm not a fan of hardbacks, you can't hold the book up with one hand and munch on snacks... although I am very anal about clean hands when touching my books.

    I'm cancer so it's definately a avid reader thing, lol.

    I want to buy a bookshelf, but 1. There's no space in my room. 2. I have mean siblings who'd probably hold my books to ransom if I pissed them off. 3. Kidnap them 4. Touch them with dirty hands ON purpose.
    So I hide them in my drawers. I have two so far and a big box.

  12. Oh and I forgot to add, I really want to but the Heather Mills series, even though I've already read the first two, but I want a boxset thing-y, because on there own they're quite steep. It's a good series. Still remember loving Cooper. :)

  13. Yeah, I'm talking about the Mercy Thompson series. Thanks for the heads up, I'm definitely going to look into it then, I swore it wasn't out in hardcover yet.