Saturday, 25 August 2012

Setting the Location

As an author one of the first decisions we make is the location of where our story will take place. Be it a bustling metropolis, sleepy village or a particular inner-city estate. Even a single building or vessel can be used ie Die Hard or HMS Ulysses. 

Sometimes the place where a novel is set can play such a big part as to assume the mantle of a character. The best example of this I can think of is the Fry and Cooper series by Stephen Booth where the Derbyshire countryside plays a massive part of all the novels. 

Once a location or setting has been decided upon it will influence lots of other factors such as character names (You don’t get many Jock McTavish’s in rural Italy), dialect and the social standing of the characters. 

When authors get it right and there are no silly inconsistencies like a stockbroker living on a sink estate or a petty thief owning a country house then everything about the novel just falls into place. 

Sometimes a limited area like Nakatomi Tower or the ship itself in HMS Ulysses can crowd the action and characters together to ensure that the pace of the story keeps the reader gripped and thus the pages turning. HMS Ulysses in particular with the constant threat of being sunk by u-boat wolf packs or the shadowy presence of the Tirpitz (a feared German battleship) envelops the reader in the claustrophobia of a ship at war in the North Atlantic. On the other side of the coin the sweeping African plains gave Wilbur Smith a perfect setting for his novels and his obvious love for the country shone through every descriptive phrase. 

My own story Suburban Combat was set in a leafy cul-de-sac and I had to make sure that I didn’t use foul language or slang terms when writing the dialogue as it would have been totally wrong coming from characters who lived in such a suburb. 

Any examples of novels or short stories where the setting or location becomes a character would be gratefully received in the comments.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Update and News

Ok folks I'm back.

After having the trip to Harrogate for the festival I have been snowed under with work, reviewing, transcribing interviews and life in general.
During this hiatus I was honoured to be given a sneak peek at a novel which won't be out until April at the soonest. It was the fantastic Killer at the End of the Line by David Thomas. I've got to know David quite well (in an online kind of way) over the last couple of years and when I got the chance of this sneak peek I couldn't refuse despite being very busy. TKATEOTL is set before during and after the second world war and is a harrowing account of one man's journey through some of the worst atrocities of Nazi Germany. By turns it is shocking, tender, thought provoking and all the while extremely entertaining. It is already my top tip for 2013's must read list.

Since I last posted. My short story Kansas Kindred Killers has been included in an anthology called Flashy Shorts after coming fourth in a competition. It can be found here along with my story are all the other placed tales.

I have also been lucky enough to win another competition with my story Pursuit in the Penfiction competition. They are looking for short story submissions so if you're a writer head over and send them something of yours.

For those who haven't read Pursuit, it is below. Please feel free to comment.

They ran screaming from him, scattering to all points of the compass. Their young minds calculating the best way to escaper their pursuer. He selected one girl as his target and focused on her. She was eight and was one of the least athletic children present that day. She would provide the easiest catch as her chubby waistline would make her slow and unwieldy.
Her bulk was nearly as great as his, which meant he’d have a realistic chance of catching her. She was running away from him as fast as her legs would take her. Pigtails and shrieks flew over her shoulder towards him.
The father observed with pride as the son hunted down his prey.
Now only thirty feet separated them and the girl was looking increasing fearful as she knew she was gaining ground. The only sounds coming from her mouth were gasping asthmatic breaths. No scream or shrieks came now. Every mouthful of air was forced into her lungs to oxygenate the driving pistons that were her legs.
She was terrified of being caught by her pursuer as she knew exactly what his intentions were.
Twenty feet behind her, the thumping of his superior weight sent great echoes forward increasing her desperation. She had an idea and veered towards the creek.
By the time she had crested the ridge which started the slope down to the burbling water the gap had closed to ten feet.
She heard the shout of encouragement as the father drove him on after her. She’d never trusted the old man with his pointy face and stinky breath.
Now she was heading down a steeper slope and was struggling to keep both legs below her torso. The mysterious force called gravity gave her upper body propulsion the lower half lacked. A fall now would signal the end of her escape attempt.
She glanced over her shoulder to see where he was. Her eyes opened wider as she saw he was now within a couple of feet of her. He saw the panic in her pupils and laughed a cruel laugh which further twisted the knot of nerves in her stomach.
Her attention snapped back to her chosen route. A sapling tree lay straight in front of her so she veered left and executed her plan.
As the tree drew level with her shoulder, she flung out an arm and used the infant oak as a pivot. Her momentum carried her through one hundred and eighty degrees and sent her panting back up the slope.
The move worked, as her hunter shot past the tree before copying the trick and resuming the chase. She had gained herself twenty feet with the manoeuvre and his breathing was becoming more ragged by the second, as he too toiled up the slope.
She didn’t look back until she reached the top of the slope. The glimpse she afforded herself was fatal, as her tired legs no longer obeyed her demands. Left and right legs collided when he was a mere five feet behind her.
He paused gasping for air while as she hauled herself back to her feet with unshed tears in wide brown eyes. When she was stood beside him, he touched her arm and said one damning word.