At each stop of the tour, I’ll give away a copy of an ebook from my backlist to one randomly drawn commenter. For Men Like Us, the newest release, isn’t eligible.
At the end of the tour, I’ll select one person from all of the commenters and that person will win a swag pack, containing *tons* of Brita Addams swag.” Brita Addams
Is setting the scene in a story necessary? Some author abhor having to do it, more content to tell the story as simply as possible. Others feel it is the most important thing an author can do, other than telling a compelling story. How else would we know the era, the city, the mood?
Think of it in terms of a movie. Without the “pictures,” we wouldn’t have anything but a screen full of talking heads. In writing, we have to write the pictures so to speak, translating the scene we see in our heads into something that resembles a picture in our reader’s mind’s eye. Authors hold many opinions on the subject, depending upon their style and the depth to which they wish to delve for the sake of the story.
Our characters live within the homes, the clothes, the noises and smells of their time, whatever time that is. Our words enhance the story and allow us to paint that picture with prose.
In historical fiction, scene setting requires varying degrees of research. Being one who loves research, I’m not daunted. I’ve always loved history and research is another way for me to immerse myself in it.
To write the stories I do, I have to know what fabric buttons were covered in 1814, or what a particular article of clothing was called in 1754. I want to depict the proper seasonal weather, the landscape. The temperature in England in June or what flowers bloom at what time of year.
Does one need to know that the curtains are red and the sofa is green? Maybe not for the overall effectiveness of the story, but such detail certainly does give the proper ambiance. As a reader, I want to imagine myself in the very room the characters are in, watching as they drink their brandy and converse about the news of the day.
I admire any author who can create an alternative world, one where they can make up the weather and landscape. They have no particular need to research, as they are building their world from scratch. I know I could never do that, as my mind doesn’t run to such fantasy.
Setting a scene is done, in part, with description, and while I don’t go “overboard” with descriptions, I use the clothing, the smells of beeswax candles, the humidity of a July day, to convey the setting, without being so blatant as saying “It was a starry night,” or something equally as telling.
Many authors dislike descriptions, even of their characters. I’ve learned that one must write very knowingly to bring the reader into their world, and description is one very important way to do so. The time of day can create a certain atmosphere, particularly if candles provide light because the sun has set. The fireplace lends to the warm ambiance and the overall pleasure one takes in a room. The icy chill of the air requires the wearing of a heavy wool coat, but is it gray, perhaps slightly tattered at the sleeves? Such a description could convey the man’s position in life, without the telling of their particular financial situation.
As writers, editors instruct us to “show, don’t tell.” That was difficult at first, becuase I, for one, love narrative, as long as it isn’t a soliloquy. It must go somewhere, aid and advance the story at the same time. Action and dialogue convey the disposition of characters, but careful description will set a scene to my great satisfaction. In a love scene, to not set the scene is cheating the reader as surely as romances in the days of old, when the bedroom door closed before the good stuff started.
One significant way I set a scene is through dialogue. I love historicals that are written with the actual time period is considered in the way the characters speak to one another. A friend calls it “archaic English,” and I love it. To research speaking patterns for my historicals, I read books written in that period and I do watch movies set in the time period, to get a sense of how people spoke to one another.
In historicals, reviewers seem to like the use of the more authentic English, rather than modern dialogue. I’ve recently read blogs written by people who say they refuse to read historicals if they didn’t feel the historical aspect of it. Makes sense to me. I don’t want to read anything where the author has dressed the characters up in cravats and long dresses (not the same characters,) yet has them speaking as though it was 2012.” A missed opportunity for the author to gain a fan, and all it would take is some definitive research.
Setting the scene for any book, historical or contemporary, is vital to the outcome of the story and the public’s receipt of it. We all want to feel a part of every story we read, and to be jolted from it by our realization that we have no idea what our characters look like, or where they are, is a shame.
For my new release, For Men Like Us, I read about the battles fought during the Napoleonic Wars. The smells and the sounds haunt Ben and Preston, the characters in the story. They live with them for years after the war’s end, them having become part of the fabric of their beings.
Without the descriptions of them, we would only have their word that they experienced them. I’m hoping the readers of the story will know what the characters know, not just that they know it.
Here’s the blurb for For Men Like Us:
After Preston Meacham’s lover dies trying to lend him aid at Salamanca, hopelessness becomes his only way of life. Despite his best efforts at starting again, he has no pride left, which leads him to sell himself for a pittance at a molly house. The mindless sex affords him his only respite from the horrors he witnessed.
The Napoleonic War left Benedict Wilmot haunted by the acts he was forced to commit and the torture he endured at the hands of a superior, a man who used the threat of a gruesome death to force Ben to do his bidding. Even sleep gives Ben no reprieve, for he can’t escape the destruction he caused.
When their paths cross, Ben feels an overwhelming need to protect Preston from his dangerous profession. As he explains, “The streets are dangerous for men like us.”
For Men Like Us is available at Dreamspinner Press, where you will also find a nice, long excerpt.
For more information on my backlist, please go to my Bookshelf. There you will find blurbs and links to excerpts and purchase links.
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Email address: Brita@britaaddams.com