Nov 172014

Основные RGBLast week, I mentioned that for the past four months I have been busy creating a world and populating it with characters.

Fact is that a story in a book has to take place somewhere and although it’s often made up, this world still needs to feel real to the reader. Actually, it doesn’t just have to feel real, it also needs to be interesting, so that the reader is compelled to stay around until the end of the book.

Creating a real and interesting world is even more important when writing a series. In that case you want the reader to fall in love with the world and eager to return to it time and again. So it’s important to think it all through before the writing starts.
Of course getting a reader attached to a story doesn’t only depend on the world the story is set in. It also depend on the characters and the story it self, but let’s for the moment focus on the world.

My new cosy mystery series is set in Milbury, a fictional neighbourhood of York, which is a real city in northern England. It might have similarities with the neighbourhood in York where I lived myself for four years, but Milbury for the largest part, doesn’t exist.

The world in a mystery series, needs to be thoroughly worked out, as it needs to have enough different settings within that world, where the murders can take place.
In a cosy mystery these settings often traditionally revolve around craft fairs, cricket clubs and the like, and for my first book I have chosen the local allotment society as the setting for murder and intrigue. For subsequent books I have already vague ideas for settings. These include the shop owners association, a cat show, the annual Viking festival etc.

The world in a series also needs to have a regular new influx of people, otherwise, what with the murders and people who commit the crimes, the village or neighbourhood would be quickly drained of it’s inhabitants.

And of course the world needs to be a good setting for the hero to be able to dig deep into the personal relationships of his neighbours and catch the murderer.

It took some time setting up Milbury, but I have a good feeling about it. The neighbourhood is large enough to feel like a village where tensions are kept under the surface with fake smiles and pretend civilities, while at the same it’s big enough to have different settings to accommodate the murder plots.
Now the ‘only’ thing I need to do is write it all down.

Which world in a book or other story has become your favourite?


Related posts: Last Weekend I Murdered My Victim!

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  4 Responses to “My Sleuth Has To Live Somewhere!”


    Hi Maria
    I have a question for you about switching to fiction. Do you have difficulty in leaving out much of the description? In your architectural books you have scope to describe in much detail, but of course fiction is different. The rule is to give the readers enough to be able to see it, whilst holding back so that they can own it. For example, my YA novel ‘Beyond Dark Waters’ is set in and around a lake. One reader told me that although she had never seen the bottom of a lake, she imagined it would look exactly as I had described it. I had to re-read some sections because, apart from the odd comment about it being silty or weedy, I hadn’t described it at all; simply the actions of its inhabitants. Now I’m not saying that description is in any way unwelcome in a story, just that it must take a different form from that in a technical book. So, how are you finding the change in writing style?


      Hey Des,
      Very interesting question!
      Coming from a non-fiction background, and particularly one where, as you mentioned, descriptions are much used and necessary, it wasn’t easy to switch. I remember that my first draft of Book 1 had many descriptions of the neighbourhood and streetscape, simply because I was afraid that my readers wouldn’t know what I meant. Luckily my beta-readers quickly pointed it out that it was too much and I have since minimised the descriptions a lot.
      On top of that, I am lucky to have Eva, my developmental editor, who is ruthless about these sorts of things and I have learned a lot from her.
      Of course I know it’s better to leave a lot of the setting to the imagination of the reader. They are smart enough. But it is difficult to find the right way to do it. Finding this balance has been a real challenge, but all part of the learning process.
      Luckily, I do still sometimes write articles about architecture for local newspapers and such, so then I can go back to describing as much as I like! :)

      Sounds like you have been able to find the right way to handle descriptions in your books!


        That’s great Maria. Can I give you a shortie to extend my point? Here goes:

        Tom studied his reflection in the bedroom mirror, content with what he saw. Stretching his slim, muscular body to its fullest extent, he looked for evidence of the previous night’s fight. He turned and paced the deep pile fawn carpet, trying to ignore the pain of his bruises and unhealed cuts, and instead, concentrate on what he must soon face.
        He was in his prime, well able to handle the increasingly dangerous night streets, but tonight, he would need all of his skill and strength. Tonight they would be waiting, knowing that he would be there to fight.
        Night’s blanket was quickly soaking the colour from the streets and buildings outside, causing the sun to topple over the edge of the world. Soon it would be time to leave.
        Tom walked slowly towards the kitchen. He had slept all day in preparation for tonight’s fight, and now, a light snack to halt the churning in his stomach. What was he worried about? Was he not the fittest and the toughest? These thoughts, coupled with the food and a long cool drink, reassured Tom and, puffing himself up to look twice his size, he strode to the front door and miaowed to be let out.


          Great story, Des! Had me giggling at the end. :)

          I really have to learn as well to ‘hide’ descriptions of my world in the narrative.

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