The Devil is in the Details by Katherine

When we chose setting as this week’s theme for the blog, my first thought was, ‘This is perfect, because this is what I’m working on right now.”  A few weeks ago, my brilliant agent, Catherine Drayton suggested that I add more descriptive details to certain scenes.  Be more evocative.  Set the scene.

And I realized that even though I can picture the Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace, or the downstairs gallery of the no-longer-standing Norfolk House, or the muddy lanes of rural England, I hadn’t been writing them into my novel. 

This, for me, is the drawback of knowing my setting so well.  I know that men peed in the corners of the dining halls.  That palaces had to be vacated frequently to allow for cleansing and “airing” to avoid illness.  That women wore more layers than I care to count and men wore anatomy-enhancing accessories (They liked broad shoulders!  It was like women’s jackets in the 80’s.)  But something got lost between knowledge and delivery.

And this is where the fun comes in.  As I go through my novel, scene by scene and moment by moment, I step directly into it.  I look around.  I feel the constant crush of people in the royal court.  Smell the sweat and dirt, the sharp, vinegary mold of damp clothing and the halitosis of never-clean teeth.  See the gaudily-painted hall, the brilliant colors of the tapestries, the lazy sheen of a golden goblet.

I stay away from the food.  I’m a vegetarian.

That sensory experience can now be translated directly onto the page. I have never been to Tudor England.  I’ve never even been to a modern Renaissance Faire.  I have been to Hampton Court Palace, and intellectually I know that my experience was cleaner, less crowded and less colorful than it would have been five hundred years ago.  That’s where imagination takes over.  That’s why I love what I do.

Everything Talia, Veronica and Donna say is true.  Setting sets the tone.  Setting is powerful.  Setting displaces the reader.  Details count.  As writers, we just need to know where to put them.  And sometimes we need to be reminded to put them there.

Post a Comment

Grid_spot theme adapted by Lia Keyes. Powered by Blogger.


discover what the Muses get up to when they're not Musing

an ever-growing resource for writers

Popular Musings

Your Responses

Fellow Musers