books · discussions · features · shanti · writing

Setting in Stone 3: Research Methods

Hello, Virtually Readers! Your, that is, my, favourite discussion feature is back again. Setting in Stone is a series where I explore many assumptions inherent in settings in books, spurred by enthusiasm for this post. You can read all the Setting in Stone posts by clicking the ‘setting in stone’ tag at the bottom of this one. Today, I’m discussing how setting is researched. This information is derived from reading/listening to various authors talking about their research process plus common sense. I’m going to outline the different ways to research setting, and their advantages and disadvantages as I see it. Continue reading “Setting in Stone 3: Research Methods”

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book review · books · collabs · shanti · Shar

I Believe in a Thing Called Love co-review

Hi Virtually Readers! Shar and I recently read I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a contemporary YA book about a girl who tries to get the guy of her dreams by following steps gleaned from K-drama. Neither of us watch K-Drama, but that’s not an obstacle to enjoyment of the book—everything is pretty well explained, and it’s entertaining even if you don’t know the tropes. We thought we’d review it together because co-reviews are fun. Shanti is normal type, Shar is italics. Continue reading “I Believe in a Thing Called Love co-review”

books · discussions · shanti

How to get books!

Hiiiii Virtually Readers! It’s Shanti, here to tell you how to get books. I know that this is quite random, but a bookworm’s common lament is how expensive books are, even though we do love to buy them. However, buying isn’t the only option. So this brief (ish) post is going to list a few ideas about locating books without having to resort to the dodgy, illegal Russian website. (Seriously. Don’t do that. Piracy is not cool.) Continue reading “How to get books!”

book review · books · shanti

Review: One Would Think The Deep

I have gone surfing like…once? But One Would Think The Deep has lots of surfing and I didn’t mind at all. I struggled to read this book, and I think it’s because Claire Zorn’s strength let her down. She is excellent, even superb, at conveying the elements of real life. This gives her narratives a visceral quality. But here, she failed to collect them into a coherent story.  This is also #LoveOzYA, it’s set in Australia in the late 90’s which was cool and means that all the characters are now like middle aged.

Continue reading “Review: One Would Think The Deep”

books · discussions · features · shanti

Setting in Stone 2: Contemporary Worlds

When you think of worldbuilding, you think of sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopia; what are known as ‘genre’ books. (though that definition is less useful in YA). Historical fiction also requires worldbuilding, but it’s usually reconstructed worldbuilding, compiled through research rather than invention (though there is some invention, obviously, and alternate history is another game altogether). But contemporary books also need worldbuilding. This is a very useful post by Jenn Marie Thorne, one of my FAVOURITE contemporary authors about how she does worldbuilding in contemporary books; and today’s Setting in Stone topic is my own take on that.

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Setting in Stone is a Virtually Read original series where we (okay, mostly Shanti) talks about setting.

Continue reading “Setting in Stone 2: Contemporary Worlds”

books · discussions · features · shanti

How I Use Goodreads Shelves

Good day, Virtually Readers! Today, I’m going to take you through how I use goodreads shelves. It’s a totally random post, but people were interested. Thank you for being interested, everyone! I do so like goodreads, though, especially when you can see how your reading tastes have changed. I have a very haphazard shelving process because I’ve developed it over the years, so this is basically like revealing the inner workings of my brain. Feel free to friend me on goodreads, by the way-my profile is set to private automatically, but say you came from the blog and I’ll accept your request.

Continue reading “How I Use Goodreads Shelves”

blogging · books · shanti · Shar

The THIRD BLOGOVERSARY aka what is this

Hi Virtually Readers! Life is crazy sometimes and we have been blogging for three years. That’s 16.8% of our lives. It’s almost unbelievable that three years ago two girls sat by a laptop and signed up for wordpress and started to write about books.  But, obviously, we’re very happy to be here. As you may notice, we have a new design! Isn’t it pretty? We’re still working through a few kinks, but Shar did this a few weeks ago and I supported her and offered somewhat helpful advice along the way.We are going to have a giveaway at some point during this year, but our lives are just a bit busy right now, so that won’t be for a while.

Continue reading “The THIRD BLOGOVERSARY aka what is this”

blogging · shanti · Shar

Blogoversary| Ask Us Questions

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Hi Virtually Readers! Our 3rd blogversary is next week! That’s kind of hard to believe and pretty exciting. One thing we thought we’d do to celebrate is get you guys to ask us questions which we’ll answer next week.

About what? Anything, really. Blogging tips (because we’re *totally* experts), how we write posts, what we do when we’re not reading or blogging, why we started this blog, how to be as fabulous as we are…. anything. (If we don’t like the question, though, we won’t answer it. So just consider that before you ask what I’ve named my left little toe.)

All you have to do is enter your questions into this google form here. If it’s not working, please tell us and I’ll try to fix it.

books · discussions · features · shanti

Setting in Stone 1: A Place for a Story

Hey Virtually Readers! You may not remember, but way back in June I published a excellent popular post about setting and how non Western European or North American settings are discriminated against. You guys were really into the post—yay!—which got me thinking more about setting, and so I have decided to commence a new discussion series called Setting in Stone. Shar thinks the name is stupid, but I’m ignoring her. I’m very good at that. I don’t know how long this series is going to go on for—I have about 10 posts planned, and will write as the inspiration strikes, but this first one is going to be about how setting informs story.

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Setting is a vital part of the story. It sets limitations for the characters and plot, informs mood and atmosphere, and usually shapes the climax.

How is setting a limit, and why is that a good thing? If a book is set in a small town, it means that the characters are focused on how to get out or how to stay. If a story is set in a city, then the isolation and opportunity will again pull characters in two directions. To some extent, yes, this is a trope, but that’s how settings limit character mindsets.

By the Chekov’s gun principle, a setting also limits plot. If a certain shop is mentioned, it must become significant in some way. If a lake is part of the setting, then something has to happen at the lake. Obviously, an author can make her setting fit her story—in fact, she should make the setting fit the story—but geographical limitations also apply. There can’t be a lake in the middle of a story set in the desert. There can’t be a tornado in a story set in a rainforest. These rules of geography have to dictate how the story unfolds within a setting. In magical realism, perhaps, all bets are off; but still this is a general rule.

Why are so many cute, summery books set in beachside towns during the summer? Because sunshine and beaches makes the reader think of cute fluffy things. Similarly, creepy books are often set in forests or winter time, like Megan Miranda’s Vengeance. These Broken Stars, a space opera with a romance and a mystery, is on a lush but empty planet, conveying an atmosphere of beauty and eeriness, while the harsher, more brutal Illuminae consists of the barren metal walls of spaceships. The connotations of various settings are quickly formed, and, along with writing style and content, contribute to the ‘mood’ of a novel. A forest can mean magic or horror. A cozy college dorm is more like a place for falling in love with someone you didn’t expect.

Finally, setting aids the story by informing character choices towards the climax. For example, in Rebel of the Sands, the climax involves a character raiding a train and discovering a (non-metaphorical) power. If the book had had the same Western vibe but been set in, say, a mountainous region, the climax would have been different, both in details (e.g. sand is everywhere, trains wouldn’t have existed) and in broad terms (how the characters escaped and how they felt).

The effect the setting has on the narrative is impossible to quantify and certainly variable between books. Swallows and Amazons, a classic children’s book set in the Lake District of England, revolves around the lake. The story would be utterly different if set in Iowa. However, while stories set in generic small towns or big cities do depend on their settings, it may not make much difference whether the setting is Portland or London, Derbyshire or Queensland.

It’s safe to say that setting is pretty important, even if it’s not immediately obvious how. Over the next few weeks I’m going to try to show different aspects of the interaction between setting and story, and it’s going to be awesome.

What’s one story where you feel like the setting had a big influence? Are you excited for this series? tell me your thoughts in the comments!