Oh give me a home…they sing…where the buffalo roam, and Clare can put two cute, misunderstood guys together and let them struggle for many (many) pages with a tortured backstory, clumsy communication and a truck-load of unrelieved sexual tension.
But on looking over my recent stories, I can’t help but notice my backdrop is not the rolling plains or the wasted tundra, not a sun-baked beach or bustling metropolis. It’s usually a kitchen. Or living room. Definitely a bedroom. (Dammit, even sometimes a closet). My writing seems to be very domestic.
It suits me, of course. My priority is the characters and what’s going on in their heads, rather than the scenery around them.
That’s just my way, of course, not to say it’s the right or wrong one – just the way I write. One of the nicest compliments I ever received was praise about how I can sit two guys in a room with nothing more than one of them stirring a cup of coffee, and create pure sexual tension. Though sometimes I’ll get to the end of a short story and realize I never described any of them physically, or their house, or their office, or their local town, or the color of the bathroom curtains…
You get the picture? Or….do you? ?
How much do you like described in your books as a reader? Do you like a strong sense of place, a sweeping vista, a glamorous backdrop? Do you love to find a story set in places you know – or would like to visit? Does it add to the fiction, or distract from the fun?
I admit the situation is different for fantasy writing – in that case, it’s important to set the scene as well as the players. In Gold Warrior/Twisted Brand I needed to ground myself in Aza City alongside my soldier hero Maen, so I spent more time on it. Though I confess, it was all from his point of view, so I spent less time on describing it than an observer-narrator would. How often do you find it odd that a character starts talking about the town he’s lived in for years and must surely take for granted, or the office cubicle he’s banished to the back of his bored mind during the working day, or the bedroom he barely looks at except to wonder where the hell he left his socks after that passionate encounter last night…?
I really admire the ability to create a whole panorama. It’s a genuine art to describe these things without jarring – and so many authors do it beautifully, transporting me to that world, that city, that room to stand alongside their heroes, and to experience all their trials, tribulations and – hopefully – triumphs. But personally I seem to leave a lot to the reader’s imagination. Maybe I’m afraid of making a mistake – of getting the balance wrong, of boring my reader, of describing a shop that’s now changed name, a bar that’s been demolished, a town that I haven’t visited and therefore what the hell am I doing, thinking I’m entitled to park my story there? Yes, Clare, you pretender, get back into your kitchen and take your guys with you!
I wrote Freeman last year, set in my home town of London. And yet, at the last moment, I kept it un-named, leaving the image open for the reader’s imagination. But I plan to write more fiction from my own experience, city-wise, that is. I’ve just had a contract offered for another mystery tale I wrote, set in a London art gallery, and I’m very excited about that. Clare’s British Boys are coming! ? (pun unintentional, yet probably very apt…)
Meanwhile, Amber Quill is issuing a paperback collection this month, Heart and Home, of four of my short stories, which Wave has welcomed very generously on the site already. And again, I see the settings are domestic and, some may say, quite claustrophobic – two nearby neighbors in A Good Neighbor, an artist’s studio in Muse, a car and a train in Upwardly Mobile, and – oh look! – a kitchen in Home Sweet Home ^_^.
PSST: and watch for Charlie Chuckles at Dreamspinner this June – I don’t think I let the poor souls out of the kitchen the whole time…LOL.
This is a lighthearted look at the topic today, and I’m perfectly happy with what I write and where I write it. But feel free to tell me what you think about Place and People – both, either, or? As always, I strongly suspect the best books bring both humanity and hinterland into play and blend them well.
It all brings us some wonderful fiction! Sez Clare ^_^.