This month our Round Robin blog asks: To make a story seem and feel more realistic to the reader, what elements do you include in your stories?
Oh, where to start? There are so many elements that I like to include but I will start with the setting. I work as much at creating my setting as I do my characters’ backstories. The setting is, after all, the stage you set your characters on.
Because my stories are mostly Regency romance, I tend to have a mix of city and rural settings. My characters spend summers at their country estates and the Season, aligned with when parliament was in session, in London, with the busiest time being between Easter and when parliament adjourned in July. By then most people who could afford to were keen to get out of town because of the smell.
Country estates are lovely to create and many of my imaginary ones come from illustrations in books like Country Houses From the Air or The English Country House and the very useful Georgian and Regency Houses Explained. I have floor plans for country houses and smaller but no less impressive town houses. From these I can create my settings with a measure of accuracy and viability. What might be included on any of these estates as far as farms and crops are concerned, are all gleaned from internet searches for letters and records of the big houses, some of them going back hundreds of years, and depend on what part of the country (being England, Scotland, or Wales) the estate is. Building styles change somewhat from county to county depending on what materials are available, or how wealthy the lord of the manor might be.
Typical Cotswold Stone house Jones&Campbell
Weather with all the light and shade that comes with it, plays a part in my settings, too. For information on that for a particular year I start with a visit to https://premium.weatherweb.net/weather-in-history-1800-to-1849-ad/ and to pin-point where my characters are for what special days to create a timeline I consult https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/?year=1818&country=9. The weather can affect so many aspects of my character’s mood. If it’s warm and sunny, then likely she is too. If it’s raining, all sorts of events can transpire from that. Think Marianne Dashwood getting soaked in the rain in Sense and Sensibility. Rain heralded my hero’s arrival in Folkestone in my book His Dark Enchantress. It fit his mood and the seriousness of the situation in which his wife, my heroine, had been abducted.
Plants and flowers play a part, too, and for this I use a Reader’s Digest book of English flora, plus Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. It pays to know what plants grow in which part of the country because someone will surely call you out if have a daffodil growing where it never would or a lark singing in central London as this is a bird that likes open countryside.
How I dress my characters also comes into play and for this I use an Illustrated Encyclopedia of Costume, Fashion in Jane Austen’s London and just because, The History of Underclothes. YouTube can be particularly useful as well, especially clips like Undressing Mr. Darcy. I guess I’m a bit of a nerd because I do enjoy research and if I come across a particularly interesting snippet, it makes my day. Whether I can use it or not in a book becomes another thing altogether.
Now I’m off to see what elements these authors include in their writing. I hope you’ll take a look at them, too.
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ZR
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com