Monday, September 9, 2013
Novel Setting: Pattern for Romance
This collage demonstrates some of the elements I use in a novel to establish setting. I elaborate on these elements through historical detail when suitable to the scenes and plot points.
Time period: The actual newspapers popular in Boston during 1769 were referenced on several occasions and provided a useful tool. I was able to highlight real historical events and show the passage of time. While researching, I learned much about the culture of the time period from reading actual excerpts of these newspapers.
Transportation: Modes of transportation true to the time period can enhance a setting. The landau was one of the carriages popular for wealthy folk during this era. I mentioned the actual carriage maker and tax that had to be paid. In addition to walking, riding in this vehicle got my characters around town. A ship for emigration was also mentioned and I had to learn how long the passage would take and what that experience was like.
Architecture: The types of buildings in the historical era create an interesting backdrop and an intimate location for scenes to take place. Georgian architecture was popular in Boston. Many buildings were brick or clapboard.
Location: I found an historical map online of 1769 Boston—the location and year of my story—to plan out the scene settings with authenticity. I was also able to learn the exact locations of business, industry, and residential districts.
Education: The level of education and literacy (reading and writing) during the time period can help show the norms and means of communication in society. Many could read, but not as well as during the early colonial period, and fewer could write, especially females. Many businesses hung a sign which was symbolic of their trade (ie. Sign of the scissors for a tailor) so patrons could "read" it. My characters posted and read newspaper articles, advertisements, and relevant news which is shared in the story, citing real newspapers of the time. Eduction was a priority for both the Metcalf and Sutton families in my story.
Everyday Items: Utensils & tools that are used by folks on a daily basis are important to know about. What type of lighting, bedding, vocational tools, cooking utensils, clothing, etc. all work their way into the a novel's setting. A betty lamp, a quilted counterpane, a chatelaine, a bodkin, a shoe buckles are some of the items that appeared in my book.
Political Climate: Every historical era is influenced by the politics and leadership of the time. Pattern for Romance was set against a pre-revolutionary backdrop during the British occupation of Boston. This affected every aspect of their lives.
Religion: The belief systems of the characters and society are important to convey, even if the novel is not inspirational fiction, per se. Knowing where and how the people worshiped and who provided religious leadership at the time influences the characters decisions and faith. The Brattle Street church of Boston, was unique in that they read scripture during services, a practice that had been dismissed (except while incorporated into a sermon). This was a catalyst for some of the character's spiritual contemplation. The story begins inside this church, a tribute to a church who's building no longer exists.
Occupations: Every character needs something to do. Learning about the vocations of the time can prove to be central to the story and provide lend immensely to the story setting. My character's are both in the sewing trades. Honour is a quilter in a mantua-maker's shop and Joshua is a merchant tailor. Many of the scenes take place in their work locations. The story is also enhanced by using metaphors relating to their occupations and interests.
Community: The population, proximity, societal norms, social class, and means of social interaction effects the character's lives and how they relate to those around them. This part of the setting also provides a context for the characters to be situated. It gives them the opportunity to have relationships. My characters communities included the city of Boston, society associations, their work place (such as Sutton's Clothier's), family units, friendships, and the romantic relationship between Honour and Joshua.
Activities: Recreation, traditions An important chapter took place at a quilting party which provided the setting for many of the characters to gather. Another scene was at a birthday party. I took some license with this because I needed an occasion for the characters to get together. Birthdays and similar celebrations were uncommon in colonial Boston due to the Puritan influence. I made the celebration a private family affair and justified it by making it a Welsh tradition from the family's ancestry.
What aspects of setting do you enjoy seeing in a story?
Is there anything else you'd like to know about my story setting in Pattern for Romance?
Join me next week for my new monthly column at Novel Pastimes when I talk about Sensational Settings.