Resources for Settings and World Building, Part 2 (Penny Rader)

If you missed the first part of this resource list, you can find it here .

Make Your “Where” Memorable (Katrina Stonoff)
“… I attended a Fire in Fiction workshop given by über-agent Donald Maass, and Maass brought setting home to me for the first time. ‘World development is context, not description,’ he said. ‘Emotions are what pull the reader in, not details. Not plot. Not description. Emotion.’”

Medieval Demographics Made Easy (S. John Wright)

Among the topics covered: how many in that kingdom; town and city population; merchants and services (handy chart to determine how many shoemakers or carpenters or even butchers a village might have depending on population).

Partly Cloudy, Scattered Showers: Setting the Scene with Weather (Larissa Ione)

“Used properly and creatively, weather can have a tremendous impact on your story. Weather happens twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week in the real world, and so it should in the world of fiction. …Use it to create setting, to highlight emotion, and to pull the reader in with something to which everyone can relate.” The second half of the article gives ten tips to avoid common mistakes writers make.

The Power of Setting (Barbara Samuel)

“…I strongly believe that a novel cannot be great without a powerful setting. Get setting in place, and all the rest falls together. Setting is about detail, about weather and landscape and the personalities spawned by those places.”

Setting (Keith Gray)

“…setting can be the conflict in your story. …adds to the atmosphere and mood of the story. … can add to what you’re trying to say about your character. … a slice of virtual reality.”

Setting (Lori Handeland)

“…have you ever considered a setting can influence your entire novel and the readers' response to that novel? If you get it right--if you describe the setting so brilliantly the reader can picture it without ever having been there--poof! Magic occurs. The reader is in the midst of your setting and therefore in the midst of your story. But if you get it wrong--oh, oh--the reader's suspension of disbelief is lost.”

Setting as Character: An Interactive Approach (Jade Lee/Kathy Lyons)

"Just keep in mind that each setting needs to reflect its owner. ... And then ... the POV character needs to see it per his/her own peculiar precepts."

Setting: Creating the Flavor (Sylvia Dickey Smith)

“A writer can start with their setting, and then develop the characters and the plot. Or they can begin with the setting and the characters, and then develop the plot. There is no one ‘right way’ to begin. Develop your … novel in a way that works for you. The key ingredient is that you are in love (or hate) with your setting whether it is a real place, or it is one you create in your mind, or a mixture of both.”

Setting Exercises and Setting Worksheet (Sherry Wilson)

“Practice your powers of observation throughout the day… Sharpen your visual memory… After you’ve written a scene, get some colored pencils or highlighters and attach one color to each of the five senses--yellow for sight, red for sound, green for touch, orange for smell, and blue for taste, for example. Now go through your scene and underline or highlight any descriptive passages according to which sense they appeal to. Try to make your pages look like a rainbow, rather than mostly yellow.”

Setting Isn’t Just Time and Place (Janet Dean)

“Use the details of your setting to enrich your story. Setting should advance and strengthen your plot. Setting can heighten emotion, reveal character, emphasize mood and conflict. By using setting as a character to interact with your characters, you’re showing instead of telling. And you’re increasing the emotional impact for the reader.”

Setting – The Backbone of Your Story (Janet Corcoran)

“The 5 basic elements of setting, besides time period, are physical locale, customs and manners, lifestyles, and historical events.”

Setting Thesaurus (Angela Ackerman)

After reading this post, check the lists on the far right side of the blog. Scroll down until you get to the Setting Description Thesaurus and you’ll see 70+ settings to click on, ranging from abandoned mines to haunted house to old pick-up truck to zoo.

Using Your Setting Lists (Theresa)

“…a setting list can help break things loose by letting you approach scene construction from the most-overlooked angle.”

Wherefore Art Thou? (Connie Sampson)

“Setting is much more than a place to hang a story. Well done, setting will immediately draw the reader into the place and mood of the story, making him part of it.”

World-Building 101 (Hayley Lavik)

“Every world needs to ring true and fulfill its contribution to the story. Fantastic, historic, and yes, modern settings all need to maintain their authenticity and sincerity. That's where the world-building comes in, to build tone, mood, facts, and details that combine into a whole, thriving setting that feels alive even when the reader closes the book -- all the more reason to keep that book open.”

World-Building 201: How to eliminate the info dump (Hayley Lavik)

“The same as spelling out every detail of a character's appearance can alienate a reader from identifying with them, laying down every nuance of a world, or a backstory, removes the reader's chance to interpret for themselves. Show us what we absolutely need to know, and let us draw the pattern of things according to our own preferences.”

Writing Dynamic Settings (Kimberly Appelcline)

“…when creating the setting for a story, make it as dynamic as possible. ... Rather, use setting consciously to communicate specific information to achieve a particular effect on your audience. … You can also use setting to enable plot – especially through encouraging movement and raising audience questions and expectations – and develop character…”

I hope these resources have been helpful. Please share any that I may have missed.

Building a Cowboy Story World

These are just some of the many online sources for information to help build a story world for cowboys, historical or contemporary.

Basic Horse Care – Horse behavior, feeding, hoof care, common health problems, psychology for riders

Beef Cattle Supplies – Farm tractor implements, bull selection and management, beef cattle breeds and breeders, beef cattle heifer management, beef cattle marketing, big farm store, cattle associations

Horse Supplies- Country Supply– Dewormers, pest control, horsewear, supplements, medications, leg protection and hoof boots, fencing, stable supplies, halters and leads, grooming and bathing, riding apparel, Western tack, farrier tools, and more

Beef Cattle Terminology – The lingo of the trade

Breeds of Livestock – Cattle, horses, goats, sheep, swine

Pedigree Cattle Breeds – The CattleSite – Beef and dairy breeds, breeders, societies and associations

Bull Riding – Wikipedia’s general information

List of Rodeos – Wikipedia’s list of many rodeos

Pro Bull Riders – Riders, bulls, schedules, standings, photos

Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association – Rodeo results, standings, schedule, events, cowboy bios, champions, stock bios, and more

Cattle Today Q & A Boards – Discussion boards on beginner’s, health and nutrition, breeds, breeding and calving issues, grasses, pastures and hay, feedyard, trucks, tractors and machinery, and more

Cowboy Wear-Cavender’s – Cowboy hats, boots, jeans, shirts, and more

Cowboy Hat Guide – Hat selection and care, storage, size and fitting, wearing and handling, protecting and cleaning, cowboy hat etiquette

Cowboy Lingo – The people and land, personal gear, saddles and tack glossary, horse terms, cattle terms, cattle drives

Western Décor – Lone Star – Southwestern rugs, Western bedding, furniture, lighting, pillows, wall hangings

Ranch Vacations – Dude ranch rates, selecting a ranch, list of dude ranches, international ranches, ranch categories

Rodeo Attitude News – Event listings, associations, youth rodeo, international rodeo, sports medicine, cowboy ministries, rodeo tickets, arenas

Rodeo Schools – Where to Rodeo.Com – Schools for roping, bareback riding, bull riding, roughstock riding, goat tying clinic, and more

Rodeo Supplies – Bull riding, bareback, saddle bronc, barrel racing, ropers, steer wrestling

Saddles & Tack – Chick Saddlery – Saddles of all kinds, bridles and headstalls, breast straps, reins, saddle pads, blankets, bits, girths and cinches, saddle bags, stirrups, spurs, halters, leads, horse boots, leg wraps, snaps, buckets, horse grooming aids, chaps, and more

Hello, Elaine Morrison here. The blogs on world-building have been outstanding. I have nothing to add to them. So I thought I'd share some links to contests and conferences. I don't know about these personally so can't offer an endorsement, but many seem to be legitimate. The list is a tiny sampling of what's available on the web. Just trying to whet appetites because the more we write, the better we write. There also seems to be a general consensus that entering contests is overall a positive thing for writers to do. If you are interested in any of these, please note the deadlines.

First, a link on how to enter and win contests:


Various contests by Writers Digest:

What would you do if you only had 72 hours to live?
The Last 72 Contest:

Have an interesting story about a past love?

Non-fiction humorous story:

Info for writing for different magazines:

A chart listing several contests. Great in-depth information. Offered by Stephie Smith:

Contest by the Kansas Authors Club:

A list of contests AND conferences:


Writing Convention in Lawrence, KS, October

Nebraska Summer Writer's Conference, June:

Must be the year for writer's conferences in Lawrence, lol. This one is science fiction, July:

And, finally, one last link about how to make money writing online:

Resources for Settings and World Building, Part 1 (Penny Rader)

We’ve had several great posts this month about how our members create their story settings and build their story worlds. I thought I’d share some of the resources I’ve come across.

Writer’s Guide to Places by Don Prues was recommended during one of last summer’s RWA national conference workshops.

This book features all fifty states, ten Canadian provinces, and fifty-one North American cities. It provides information such as basics that shape your character (state motto, major industries, prevalent religions, ethnic makeup, etc.), significant events your character might think about, facts your character might know, food & drink, myths & misconceptions, interesting places to set a scene, places where your character might live, etc. (Warning: Many of the reviews on Amazon say this book has errors and out-of-date info, so while it may be useful as a starting point, you will definitely need to do deeper research.)

The Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog has a section titled Travel with Us.

The posts give info about why visit this place, favorite places to eat, what is this place known for that is not stereotypical, general population, must see/can’t miss, etc. They plan to have a new post each month.

I found a wonderful array of articles online about creating settings and world-building. I hope you’ll find them helpful:

The Art of Description: Eight Tips to Help You Bring Your Settings to Life (Anne Marble)

“Avoid huge lumps of description…Make description an active part of the story…Describe what your characters would notice…Use strong, active, concrete writing words…Use all the senses…Don't let description hang you up during a first draft…”

Blueprints: Building a Home for Your Characters (Elizabeth Chayne)

“The immediate advantage about drawing a house plan for your characters is that it can give you a fairly concrete idea of what sort of house your hero lives in. Of course, it's never going to be the same as actually standing in a real house, but if you don't have a substantial bank account to buy a real-life model, house plans are the next best option.”

Character and Setting Interactions (Alicia Rasley)

“…a quick exercise to help you explore your protagonist's relationship with the setting.”

Collect Settings, the More Unusual the Better (Angela Booth)

“Create a ‘Settings’ section of your writers' journal. Pretend you’re a location scout for a movie. For the next two weeks, wherever you go, write a short entry in your journal describing the key points of your location.”

Creating a Realistic Fantasy World (Penny Ehrenkranz)

“Creating your fantasy world means building a world based upon reality and making sure that your reader knows the rules of that world. Your characters must remain true to those rules throughout your story. For your readers to accept and continue reading your story, they have to believe in your world and accept what is happening to your characters.”

Creating a Setting (Taylor Lindstrom)

“Creating a setting is easier than creating a character. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t require some serious thought and attention.”

Creating Fantasy and Science Fiction Worlds (Michael James Liljenberg)

Covers creating your story world’s theology/spirituality, physics, weather, geography, astronomy, zoology, and anthropology.

Developing the Fictional World through Mapping (Holly Lisle)

“Most of the books I've written have started with a map. Not with an idea, or a character, or a theme. With a hand-drawn map, doodled out first while I was sitting and keeping someone else company, or while I was on break, or when I couldn't think of what to write and had no ideas to speak of and knew that if I drew a map something would come to me.”

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions (Patricia Wrede)

Topics: The world; Physical & historical features; Magic & magicians; Peoples & customs; Social organization; Commerce, trade, & public life; Daily life.

Four Ways to Bring Setting to Life (Moira Allen)

“Reveal setting through motion… Reveal setting through a character's level of experience… Reveal setting through the mood of your character... Reveal setting through the senses…”

Historical Fiction Settings: Details to Make Your Story World Real (Jennifer Jensen)

“Your reader should be able to tell when and where the story is set from the details you give. More than that, your story should not be able to happen anywhere or anytime else.”

Houses are People Too: The Structure of a Literary Device (Geoff Hart)

“…houses can be as real as any other character in a story. To see how that works, consider the concept of house from three distinct, but strongly interrelated viewpoints: the concrete and physical, the psychological, and the purely symbolic.”

How Do You Research Settings (Joyce Good Henderson)

“Watch people, places, and their interactions with the environment…Walk through a scene as if you are the character…Take your characters to a restaurant…contact the local Chamber of Commerce…Be as accurate as possible...”

The Importance of Setting in Fiction Writing (Joyce Good Henderson)

“Setting gives framework for the hero and heroine to interact… creates mood and influences behavior… defines character… adds to conflict… evokes emotional response… adds to the sensuality of the scene… foreshadows and moves the plot along… involves inside and outside, transitions and movement…”

Kathy Carmichael Talks about On-Location Research

“We drove the city, visited shops, restaurants, stores, and the local newspaper. We looked for good locations to commit a murder, dump a dead body, and so on. If you’ve never stood on an embankment, looking down at a river, and wondered how you’d get a heavy dead body down that hill, then you may not realize quite how invigorating it is.”

Location, Location, Location (Jim C. Hines)

“We're writing stories, not doctorate-level dissertations. ... I've found it helpful to focus on two things: details and differences.”

Part 2 will continue on May 31. I'd love to hear if you've found any of these resources helpful. Please share any resources you think would be helpful to another writer.

When world building fails

Pat Davids here.

We've all seen it.
Some of us have been there, written that.

It's the place where world building fails.

What do I mean by that?

It's the place in a story or manuscript where our world building fails. It falls flat. It crumbles to nothingness.

It's the moment that we as the reader, or the readers of our stories, are jerked out of that blissful place called "suspension of disbelief" by a detail or event that makes us say. "What? No! Wait a minute. That can't happen."

For me, it happened when I was reading a book about a rancher breeding cattle. He looked over his herd of breeding steers, thrilled by what he had accomplished and knowing his next generation of cattle would be better yet.

Can't you hear the squealing brakes in my mind as it screeched to a halt. Steer? Steers are castrated bulls. There won't be a next generation from any of those fellas, buddy.

With one word the author yanked me out of the story and made me want to throw the book against the wall. She failed and the world she was building crumbled for me. Perhaps not for someone who didn't know a steer from a heifer, but for me, the story stopped there.

Unfortunately, I've been guilty of doing the same thing. In one of my stories, the military hero risked getting thrown in the brig to get his girlfriend to medical care in another state. What's wrong with that you ask? He was in the Army. The Army doesn't have brigs. Their military jail is called the stockade or the guardhouse. The Navy and the Marines have a brig.

My years as a Navy wife had crept into my world building and one little detail made my book blow up for every Army wife, mother or girlfriend that read it. Oh yes, I got letters.

What are some of the mistakes you've seen in books that have brought down the world the author was building? How can we, as writers, avoid the same mistakes?

Looking for an Agent?

At the WARA meeting today, there were several questions asked about how to find an agent. Here are two links that can be very helpful.

Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc.

Predators & Editors

Building a Medieval Story World

Each of the prior blogs on world building has been excellent thoughts on the subject. In a nutshell, in order for the reader to get the most out of your story, you, the writer, need to create a world for the characters the reader can clearly “see” and feel part of throughout the story’s journey. It falls back on that time-honored and sometimes painful part of a writer’s job: research, research, research.

For my blog, I’m going to share some of the online resources I used in building my “world” for the medieval series I am currently writing. I believe that basically the same thought and research process could be applied to whatever time period you’re using.

Understanding the Time Period: (5th thru 15th century)
Medieval Terminologry and Glossary This is a resource for nice, simple definitions of terminology of the medieval time period.

Medieval-Castles Glossary Another resource for medieval terminology.

Feudal Terminology This is a resource for medieval feudal terminology.

Glossary of Feudal, Medieval and Castle Terminology This is a resource for medieval terminology with slightly longer definitions.

Wikipedia-Middle Ages This is a nice overview of the various time periods involved in the Middle Ages.

Medieval Atlas This is a resource with a number of listings of different maps for the period.

Scottish History Timeline This is a resource for a timeline of Scottish history.

History of Scotland This is a resource for learning about the heritage of Scotland including its history, geography, culture, curling, tartans, highland dress and much more.

Medieval Jobs This resource gives quick descriptions of the social classes and has a nice list of the various occupations for the medieval period.

Medieval Spell This is a great resource for many kinds of information about the medieval period including architecture (castles and manors), knights (code of chivalry, jousting, armor, swords, tournaments, shields), medieval society (life overview, castle life, roles of women, fashion, food, drinks, entertainment, merchants, punishment, medicine), and warfare (weapons, archers, siege, siege weapons).

Medieval Period This is another resource for basic information on religion, clothing, weapons, battering ram, entertainment, knights, tapestries, art, music, food, medicine, women, men, society, laws, castles, siege engines and more.

Medieval Period Castles & Weaponry This is a good resource for learning about the parts of a castle and what was done in each part or might have been there as furnishings.

Map of English Castles This is a resource with a map for English castle locations, with links to photos and brief descriptions of the various castles.

Castles in Britain This is another good resource for seeing photos of and learning a little about various English castles.

Castles in Scotland This is a great list of castles in Scotland with much information and many photos of each castle.

Medieval Collectibles This is a good source for seeing pictures of and reading brief descriptions of many medieval items including swords, long bows, archery supplies, chainmail and leather armor, daggers, dirks, helmets, shields, halberds, battle axes, maces, banners, tapestries, and much more.

Medieval Clothing Pages This resource links to various articles on medieval hair information including how to braid hair, how to wear a veil or circlet, how to make a coif, wearing hoods, how to make cylinder curls (crespinettes), how to make a caul or reticulated headdress, and more. It also links to articles on clothing information such as basic garb, making a tunic, etc.

Glossary of Middle Ages Footwear This is a resource for medieval footwear terminology.

Basic Medieval Speech This is a resource with a brief amount of basic medieval speech.

Medieval Words-Orgins This is a resource for words originating in the medieval period.

Medieval Names This is a resource for medieval names.

Scottish Clans This is a resource for a list and explanations of the official Scottish clans.

Original Scottish Clan Map This is a great map for the areas controlled by the various early Scottish clans.

Glossary of Scots Terms This is a dictionary of Scots terms.

Wikipedia Scots-English Dictionary This is a nice quick dictionary of Scots to English words.

Worldcrafting Means People Too

Quite often, we writers forget that people and social situations for our characters are a large and very serious part of the world we are creating. Here in the USA the social structure is different than it is in other parts of the world. Not only do we generally not think we have one, but it is so misunderstood that many people in their own lives suffer tremendously because of it—all without having a clue about what has clipped their wings or allowed them to soar. Actual money in the bank is way down on the scale for how high a person’s perceived social level is.

Let’s start with this common situation. Clerks at quick stores quite often do not curl or fix their hair, attend to basic grooming, or wear enhancing but subtle makeup to the degree an office person does. They don’t iron their clothing and make sure it is crisp and well fitting with colors and cuts that flatter. They do not look like office personnel. Many display tattoos and piercings. Their speech patterns indicate they are concerned about people, not current events. They do not usually wear perfume or cologne and for some deodorant is a foreign concept. Good grammar and complicated word recognition is not usually widely used.

Their customers, however, are often business people, landowners, and travelers. Customers often have different value systems working than the clerks. These two sets of very nice and intelligent people quite often find themselves at odds over the simplest of things. Customers tend to not see beyond the surface and have no notion how complicated the job of a convenience store clerk actually is. It isn’t for the weak of back or mind. Customers regularly treat clerks with disdain whether it is quietly or not. Often clerks think customers are spoiled brats.

There are layers in our society. These are two. There are many more and are not difficult to find when you start looking. Each has its own dress code, speech, and position for where they go for entertainment, jobs, and living space. Public school mixes all of these groups together. However, public school will also divide itself into social groups. People can jump across lines going up or down by adjusting their physical behavior, dress, and speech faster than they can by which family they’re born into. Ever heard the phrase ‘dress like the job you want, not the job you have’? That refers to the fact that those in management heavily weigh outside clues to determine who gets new positions. They can’t help it, that’s how humans are built. Those who are passed over time after time even though very qualified, might want to consider whether they are displaying the right signals. Jumping into a different social strata is easiest when the expected requirements for both outside dressing and inside thinking are matched. That’s when we have secretaries marrying bosses.

This is a fairly controversial subject and I believe that no one set of people are more valuable than another, but I wish that there was more awareness of the ins and outs of our society—I’d like to see less heartache and heartburn over the seeming injustices that can be served up.

Our paper world can be whatever we dream it up to be with a social structure however we wish it.

Research and World Building

When the topic was first suggested for a blog, my knee-jerk thought was that I don't world build! The trouble with that idea is that I do. We all do. I just never thought of it that way. No matter what the time or place of a story, a world is built for the characters. It's a place and a time where and when they participate in the life we create for them.

When choosing a setting for your story, even a fictional setting requires some kind of research. My first published book was set on a ranch in Montana, where the heroine became stranded during an October snowstorm. I've only been a few miles into Montana in August and am not familiar with the early snowstorms there. Luckily I knew someone who lived there and could help me with specifics.

We're often told to "write what you know," but writing would be boring if we kept only to what's familiar. Information about anything and anywhere can be found on the Internet, making researching much easier. I wanted to do a scene with the hero and heroine of a story taking place outside under mistletoe, but not necessarily a Christmastime story. I've known for years that most of the mistletoe (the real kind) we see here in Kansas during the holidays comes from Oklahoma. I once heard that it grew on the oak trees there. After doing a little research, I learned two things. Mistletoe in Oklahoma grows on apple and other trees, especially fruit trees, but not so much on oak. And mistletoe just happens to be Oklahoma's state flower. As it turns out, that's even better than I'd imagined. Now I have a scene in an old apple orchard and, depending on the time of year it ends up becoming, mistletoe can be found all year.

There are so many interesting places in this country and in the world, why keep to something you know? Have you ever watched a movie and wondered what the real location of the setting was? Did you think it might be a great setting for your own story? Try (Internet Movie DataBase). That's where I discovered where The Man Without A Face was filmed and hope someday to use that setting (Bath, Maine) for a book.

Details--accurate details--can help make the story come "alive" and real to readers. Don't try to cheat on this. Having too much research information is much better than not having enough. If drawing maps or keeping charts is what's needed to keep details straight, that's okay. Everybody has their own way of doing it. If you don't know where to start, talk to someone who's happy to share their method. You're always welcome to change it to fit you.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

by Joan Vincent

The” Carmen” in my stories is usually found in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century in England, France, or Spain. This TIME and PLACE of a story is known as the setting. Settings are unique even when they meticulously follow the reality (past or present) of the location chosen for a story. Since the place is described as seen through a particular set of eyes, an individual vision, it will be one-of-a-kind.

My historicals are set in Georgian (during the reigns of any of the four King Georges of Great Britain 1714-1830) and Napoleonic times (1799-1815). I blend reality and imagination. That means I use buildings and companies as well as people that existed during the time I set my story as well as those I have created. Using real people and buildings means doing research. Let’s say I want to set a scene in Drury Lane Theatre in London in July 1812. But the theatre burned down in 1809 and did not reopen until October 10, 1812. Research, you see, is important. The accuracy of what actually existed depends on it. If I want characters watching a play Drury Lane Theatre in July I had better make it a rehearsal and have carpenters and painters working around them.

My Honour series Book Five opens in 1810 Paris in a disreputable portion of the city and involves the heroine’s flight to escape those intent upon capturing or killing her. To map a route I needed to know Paris in 1810. One resource I discovered in my research is the gorgeous Turgot map. It is early for my period (published in 1739) but much of the city had not changed. Here’s one small portion of the map—the detail is unbelievable. The entire map can be found at Turgot Map of Paris —just click on sections and then click again to enlarge.
My reaction to this map also hints at one danger with research. Be careful not to get so lost in it that you never write your story. There always comes a point when I have to say “Enough.” Then I get to writing but keep a notepad at the ready to jot down what needs checked for historical accuracy at a later date.

Since I am beginning book five in a series, much of my world for that series has a good solid base of constructed places intertwined with real places and events. “World building” was a phrase coined by fantasy/sci fi writers for their fictitious worlds but the term works well for historicals. For all my major characters in my Honour series I had to construct not only their families complete with back story and their life’s avocation but also family estates, town houses and their floor plans, clothing style,—the details appear endless at times. Since many of my main characters are cavalry officers I had to determine the regiments in which they served. That decision had to be based on which regiments were in the Peninsular War and when. Then there are details on uniforms, places stationed in Portugal and Spain, winter camps, etc. Research. Research. Research.

When I began writing in the 70's I had only the public library for a resource. Now, with thanks to my sister Vera, I have a library of research books on my period with a our specialty being Peninsular War memoirs, journals, etc. Makes researching much easier. After reading a lot of general history on my period I settled in on first hand material. Period journals, memoirs, and letters are a great way to absorb the cadence of the language, the topics that were of import, the political leanings, and gossip of the times. The information Peninsular war letters etc contain in words and written between the lines is invaluable in fleshing out the setting, especially of skirmishes and battles.

Many of the men who write and were written about become very alive to me. Major the Honourable Edward Charles Cocks was an intelligence officer in the Peninsula from 1809-1812. His letters and correspondence by others show him an intelligent, gifted, courageous, and caring young man. When I reached the end of his story and learned he had died (at age 26) during heroic action during the siege of Burgos in Spain I grieved. Lieutenant Tomkinson, another writer of an interesting Peninsular journal, but one who survived the wars, wrote “He (Cocks) is regretted by the whole army and in those regiments in which he has been, not a man can lament a brother more than they do him. He is on every ground the greatest lose we have yet sustained.”

General Sir John Moore is another man I have come to admire greatly. He was killed at the Battle of Corunna in 1809 after saving his rag tag army from Napoleon and was unappreciated if not outright maligned for many years. But time has proven his worth as a general and the value of what he tried to accomplish with training regimes and improving the life of the common soldier. In the Collection portion of my website under Napoleonic War go to Part 3 to see the variety of journals, both English and French that I have acquired.

Research has become much easier in this Internet age (with the usual caveat to have more than one source as wiki and other sites can prove unreliable). Some answers can be found quite easily—such as the date of the fire at Drury Lane Theatre. Other questions take more painstaking research because it’s important not to learn just the physical setting but also to understand the political, social, and technological climate in which your characters live. Some writers try to give the eighteenth century woman the same outlook on life as we have today. It could never happen. Today’s woman would find it very difficult to conform to 18th century mores and the 18th century woman would be appalled at some modern women’s behavior. Technology was just in its infancy and computers undreamt. Facebook to “my” Carmen would indeed be a book with faces in it!

Creating your own world is work but fascinating too. It would take several blogs to detail how I constructed "my" world. I hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse. Here are a few web sites with basic and in some cases detailed information if you’d like to construct your own Georgian/Regency setting:
British History
Greenwood’s 1827 Map of London
Historical Conversion of Currency
The British National Trust Especially Find a Place to visit for getting ideas on estates and houses Find a Place
UK Climate and Moon Cycles
The Regency Library
Jane Austen’s World In particular on this site a page with great links to all aspects of Regency History-- Jane Austen’s World Regency Links
The Regency Collection
The Georgian Index
Food and Drink in Regency England
Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion
The Napoleonic Guide
The Napoleon Series
The Peninsular War
The Peninsular War 1808-1814
Military Heritage
My Armoury


That is the question.

Imagine yourself standing on a stage in a serious pose with one hand held high while you ponder that aloud. Apart from looking a little silly, you’d probably be pegged as a writer. Or, a good looking architect with serious erection issues. (As in deciding whether or not to erect the building.)

This month we’re all about the world building that takes place in our novels. Some detail it meticulously while others do it as they go. It’s your map and you are wearing the hardhat with BOSS stamped on the front.

This is what I do when I start a new manuscript.

1. Find the poster board. And the yardstick. A pencil and the sharpener. Sometimes this takes longer than it should, but I persevere—nothing short of a natural disaster or the big hairy spider guarding the yardstick will keep me from completing my mission.

2. Name the small town/big city/mobile home park/space station, etc. where the bulk of my story takes place. I put this at the top of the map in bold letters—just to get me in the spirit of creating a world so unique that even I want to live there.

3. I’m not a very good artist so I usually draw boxes for the buildings. Blob shapes become bodies of water and long rectangle ribbons with cute little dashes make up the roads. I find it’s best to start with the building/structure where most of the action is going to take place. Office/ranch/home/apartment building/ supermarket/pet store, whatever and give it a name and a home on the map.

4. Draw more boxes for the other businesses in town. Where are your characters going to work/shop/attend school/party/visit their dear old grandmother/eat and meet? Often times scene ideas will come to me at this stage—so be prepared.

5. Next comes the fine tuning and adding in the details. Street names. What side of her house is the garage on? Parallel parking (which she can’t do) or diagonal slots in front of the drug store? Notations about the uneven sidewalk where she stumbles into him and he helps her up on more than one occasion. The gigantic pothole in front of the diner that gives him a flat tire so he’s late to pick her up for their first date. The poison ivy they get in while making out at the park behind the gazebo next to the old oak. The barn on his best friend’s property where he houses his horses. These little details will make your world come to life. You won’t have to remember if he lives on Walnut Street or Pine Drive because you can look it up. Does she head into or away from the blinding sunrise on her way to work? You may not use all these details, but if you need them, they’ll be in place for you. Especially if you’d get lucky enough to write a series of books set in the same town.

Remember, the sky is the limit. It’s your story. Your map. Your world. It doesn’t have to be perfect—it just has to be. Happy building or erect—never mind. I won’t go there.


Creating a world

Pat Davids here.
Creating a realistic setting can be very important to a novel, be it historical, modern day or on another planet in a far away universe. As many of you know, I've been writing Amish stories lately. Creating an Amish world has it's own set of challenges.
For the fictitious town of Hope Springs, Ohio, I started with the Internet and located the area of Ohio I wanted to use. I chose the real town of Sugarcreek as a template for my town. I changed the name of the streets and googled the businesses there to see what a village that size would contain. I checked out a dozen books about the Amish over several months and contacted other authors for their reference material suggestions. Authors are wonderful, helpful people.
I now have a town map of Hope Springs with streets and businesses laid out to use in future books. I sure don't want to have the medical clinic on different streets in different books. Readers catch that kind of thing. I was also fortunate enough to contact a woman in the Sugarcreek area. She sells Amish made baskets on-line and she was able to give me a ton of information and even recommended a DVD for me. It was a big help in setting out the way they travel and how they care for their horses as well as what businesses and farming methods the Amish use.
I'd love to travel to Ohio one of these days, but until then travel sites and travel books will have to give me the flavor I need.
World building is just one more fun part of being an author. How cool is it to make up your own town? Real cool.