Saturday, September 21, 2019

September Round Robin Blog

Our September Round Robin question is: In designing your plots what do you rely on most: personal experience, imagination, or research?

I’m more a pantser than a plotter but, at some time in each book I’ve written, I’ve had to resort to plotting but can’t honestly say I rely more on one of those methods than an another. It simply depends on what I need at the time.

I write Regency romance but the true Regency period, the nine-years of the Prince Regent’s reign because of his father’s declining mental health, was a relatively short one from 1811 – 1820. Europe was still in an uproar because of the Napoleonic Wars, which all culminated in the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. So, to set a story any time during 1811 – 1815, I would start with my friend Mr. Google and research what was going on in Britain during those years to see if anything caught my interest enough to use it as the basis for a plot. From 1815 – 1820, I would do the same.

The wars in Europe were over, but on 11th May 1818, as an example, the Old Vic was founded as the Royal Coburg Theatre in South London by James King, Daniel Dunn and John T. Serres. 

The Royal Coburg Theatre later the Old Vic
 Then in September of the same year the first blood transfusion using human blood was performed by Dr. James Blundell in London.
Dr. Robert James Blundell
In October 1818 a convention, or treaty, between The United States and the United Kingdom established what is known as the Northwest Angle in Minnesota.  

The Northwest Angle
Any of these three facts could be used to build a plot. Actresses had a terrible reputation as loose women, but what if Lady Caroline Shelby yearned to perform on the stage? And how might Miss Abigail Fanshaw, unable to share her interest in medicine and medical procedures with her parents and peers (shocking!), view Dr. Blundell's work? Might there be some skullduggery going on that Sir Nigel Percival needs to investigate in Minnesota for the Crown? On this last topic, check here: on the petition calling for the US to give the Northwest Angle to Canada.

I am fortunate to be familiar with many of the settings I use. I find it much easier to write about places that I have visited or use them as the basis for places I might invent. However, here again, Mr. Google, specifically Google Maps and Google Earth, comes in very handy for places I haven’t visited, like Jamaica in my book His Ocean Vixen. Even though the Internet is a great place to start, I still find there is nothing like a good book on the subject in which I am interested.

New writers often think they have to be stuck at a keyboard for X number of hours per day, but the truth is that to get the words on the page, the ideas have to gel in the writer’s mind beforehand. Reading, making notes, jotting down ideas, all count as research and stimulate my imagination to make writing a personal experience for me. Yes, folks, it’s one big melting pot!

See what these Round Robin authors have bubbling away on their back burners.

Illustrations via Google.


  1. Hi victoria, One big melting pot sums ita up well. I, too, like Regency and am so lucky to be able to walk around Edinburgh's Georgian New Town. Glancing sideways into an inviting pend or mews lane brings all sorts of story to the surface. anne stenhouse

    1. I'm planning a trip to Scotland next year and Edinburgh is on my list of places to visit.

  2. Like you, I often bring up Google earth to check on something or get an idea of distance and proximity, but there is nothing like actually BEING THERE. Even for historical settings, the chance to spend time in the current day setting can trigger ideas you don't get sitting at a desk. Good point.

    1. Exactly. Once you have laid your hand on a castle's three-foot thick stone wall, or run up or down a narrow, unlit alley it is much easier to write about it.

  3. One of my cliches is that a good day is when I learn something new. So, thank you for starting my day off well. You've educated me on history, geography, and history of medicine. And now I know why your novels are so good at taking the reader THERE, into the time and place.

  4. Kind comments, Dr. Bob. Thank you. I don't ever want to stop learning, either.

  5. Interesting post, Victoria. And I, too, learned a lot about the Regency period. Thank you. Beverley