Think Outside the Castle

Aliens invade Liverpool building?

When considering the setting for your story you turn to atmosphere. What mood do you want to give your work? If you require a spooky setting, you may be inclined to set your story in an environment that most would find unnerving such as a disused factory, an isolated house, a museum at night etc… If your novel is a romance, then perhaps an elegant European hotel on a lake might do the trick. Although….

Challenging Your Readers’ Preconceptions

…You could think about capturing your reader’s imagination by turning settings on their head. In Alex Garland’s book, The Beach, he took a paradisiacal environment and made it a hellish place, as did William Golding in Lord of the Flies.

Likewise, you could take a grim, poor council estate riddled with crime and drugs and set a love story there. Endear its readers by accentuating the positives in the ugly setting (sense of community spirit, humour etc…).

Surprise and challenge your readers’ preconceptions, it will make for a memorable tale. Why not take a suburban house and people it with elves to create a Fantasy novel. What about an action thriller set around the world of chess? Or yoga? Horror often works all the better when set in a mundane, everyday location rather than Dracula’s Castle. Think outside that castle.

A Family of Trolls Move to Amagansett, East Hampton?

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About suehealy

Award-winning Irish writer/playwright Sue Healy’s work has been supported and developed by Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, the Peggy Ramsay Foundation and Arts Council England. Her full-length stage plays include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s work has also been performed at the Finborough, Arcola, Hackney Attic and Sterts theatres, and at festivals including the Claremorris Fringe (New Writing Award winner), the Brighton (Sussex Playwrights’ Award winner), the UEA Contemporary European Drama Festival, Norwich. December 2017 will see her work showcased at the Criterion theatre in London. Radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. She has been a finalist for BBC Scriptroom 12, Eamon Keane Playwriting Prize, Nick Darke Award and the Old Vic 12 New Voices. Sue's prose has won the the Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award and has been published widely. Sue has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from juried artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. Sue is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumna. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She is currently London-based, completing a Ph.D. on the Royal Court Theatre. Sue is an Associate Lecturer in Playwriting at the Universities of Lincoln and Portsmouth, and tutors Creative Writing at City Lit. She is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre. View all posts by suehealy

2 responses to “Think Outside the Castle

  • NK

    I don’t think they allow trolls in the Hamptons ;o)

    Thank you for the succinct advice on setting. I struggle so much with character and setting that I’m convinced I’ll never produce decent fiction. But, with advice like this it makes me want to keep trying.

    • suehealy

      Hi Nancy, thanks for the comment! Re the trolls: ah, but you could sneak ’em in at night. Glad you find the tips useful. I did when they were passed to me. It’s a hard game but persistence does pay off (well, so I keep telling myself).

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