Seeing is believing

When I am creating the setting for a story, being able to ‘see’ the environment (whether real or fantastical, contemporary or historical) is a vital part of my process. Being a visual writer, for me this often involves drawings, sketches and jottings.

My work in progress, set in a town inspired by Brighton in the present day, features children living in a range of different types of housing, from a Sixties tower block to a white-painted Victoria terraced house on a narrow, sloping street. My heroine lives in a tumbledown maisonette. But, on reviewing my first draft of Ruby and the STAR Club, I realised that at one point I have Ruby running upstairs to a bedroom she may or not share with her little brother. It was time to gain some clarity on her home so I spent a little time drawing the layout and imagining how Ruby might move through the space. What does she see when she looks out of the kitchen window, for example?

A young child’s home is (ideally) the cornerstone of security so making this feel real and believable is important. If, like me, you have passion for drawing room schemes, it is also fun!

Three tips for bringing a story setting to life:

  1. Sketch the buildings that feature strongly in the story, inside and out, thinking about scale and era

2. Draw a map so you can see where key events happen and figure out how long it takes your characters to reach different destinations

3. Think in colour: what sort of decorating choices, patterns, textures, or levels of clutter might suit different characters (or, in the case of children’s fiction, their parents or older siblings)?

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