Talespin Tuesday: Exercise #4 – a Setting Sketch

Here’s the drill:

20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.

Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.


When I plan out a scene, I like to know the setting well. My favorites are the villages or towns, the places with character and stories lurking behind every cobblestone. I know ten times more than what I let on – after all, the story is moving through quickly. So tonight let’s have some fun and make a story out of a setting sketch.


Where the three roads meet, nearby the broken fountain, that is where The Tyrant first made his decree, so many lifetimes ago the years have been lost. To the merchants who now fill Ninepenny Square, such details are trivial, as uninteresting as gossip about the miller who pissed in last year’s grain.

Buildings crowd the Square, a row of steep-sloped roofs of red and brown tile. Narrow windows with purple curtains line the upper stories. Those are where the merchants live. The peasants make their beds in a network of hovels and covered pits that ring the village wall. Gerry is a wealthy town, full of taverns and inns and dens for gamblers. Not quite esteemed enough to draw the nobles, but the Scavenger’s Road passes no other way, hemmed in by the bogs and the swamps of Dhunival’s inland reaches.

Gerry is a place where many come to forget. Most of them are travelers, putting a rough journey behind them, preparing for a long march ahead. Dyers and silk traders, Burnside Men with their lantern peppers, and the ruddy Blackbeard smiths with their elaborate torcs – all bound for the High Cities; if only the whole expanse of the Outer Territories were as orderly as the Upper Realm, where the Fourteen sit.

There’re bards – the Blue Minstrels, the Three-Striped, and the High Numidians, heirs of the Former Blood. Gerry is full of their music, the air woven with mellifluous chords of lutes and cimbaloms, dulcimers and the elegant double-rowed harps. There’s also pipers, the ones as loathsome as paupers, who toot their melodies under the shade of the orchards, hoping for a silver coin. Gerry’s full of music and sound – laughter and shouting, the tap-tap of hammers and the clop of hooves on tiled roads. One man belches, two woman shout at one another. Three maidens giggle while a fat man runs naked through the street. On one street corner, under the painted sign of the Horse and Buggy, cads and gossips gather to exchange the news behind the shadow of a butt-size barrel.

The lord of Gerry is a drunkard who shows up once a year to collect his taxes. This year, they’re planning to collect him when he comes. Mel the Brawny is the best contender, but Fiddlehead and the one they call Fat Scott hold most of Gerry’s wealth. The peasants are already calling it the War of the Wooden Swords, since none of the merchants wish for the election to come to fighting. Whoever wins, it won’t matter for those who come and go, those who gather every day to trade – to buy, to sell, to go on living another day.

If only they all knew the true story behind Ninepenny Square, the real reason why the fountain lays in ruins. Perhaps they might all run away, move their happy town elsewhere. Another statue watches, from the other side of the Square, a squat man with a bushy mustache – the one they call The Hero. His stern eyes look out, making sure his people are safe.

That is what they all say, those who believe what was written in history.



Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, the first story in an epic fantasy series, coming May 6st.



Filed under Graeme Brown Setting Sketches, Graeme's World

2 responses to “Talespin Tuesday: Exercise #4 – a Setting Sketch

  1. Chris

    Such eloquence! I like how you throw important names and titles in among the scenery (ex: the Blue Minstrels, the Three-Striped, and the High Numidians). The reader isn’t overwhelmed by exposition because the ideas are hidden under regular description. Well done.

    • Thanks, Chris! I find your comment reassuring because this is a general example of how A Thousand Roads (and most of my epic voice) is put together. “Hidden under description”, “to be implied after much curiosity”. You bring up a very good point with this, because I think a lot of fantasy prose gets overly cluttered with exposition as writers rush to explain everything, when in actual fact you can drop little details in and come back to them later (or not, in which case, the world becomes that much more intriguing).

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