Category Archives: Graeme Brown Setting Sketches

Talespin Tuesday: Exercise #5 – What’s in a Room

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.

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Setting the scene is a vital part of  any narrative sequence. An author who does this well creates a clear picture for the reader of where the action is taking place, without the need to interrupt with descriptors. You don’t build as you go, or else you might put a stair where the chimney was at the start. You also don’t want to get too carried away by giving away too much.

My exercise, whenever I determine the setting of a certain scene, is to sketch it out. I go way overboard. The reason for this is so that when I actually write the scene, I see it clearly and will tell the reader what’s important. There’s no need to fill in extra details to convince myself I know what’s there, and no headache afterward when I cut details out and feel like I’m destroying information.

Scenes are easy to describe. And fun, lots of fun. So why not do that today? I’ll demonstrate how my process works, behind the scenes, by describing a room that will start out as plain and boring, but end as nothing of the sort.

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One enters through a door with an arched lintel, the floor a shining wonder of blue and white marble. Three windows look out onto a courtyard below, the one with the broken fountain, the lilac bushes, and the stream. There is a trapdoor, in front of the small fireplace, on the far wall, usually hidden by the lion-skin rug. It leads down into a cellar that is part of a passage out to the riverside. An oaken table fills the alcove adjacent to the hearth, while three china cabinets line the wall opposite the windows, filled with precious figurines from the Glimmering Isles, painted puzzles from the Wild Wood, and the long black deathhook art of the Northern Dwarfs. A longer table fills most of the room’s length, this one stained dark, its curled legs gilded. Situated just below a chandelier, its ornate chairs are often filled with men and women who are just as gaudy; this is, after all, the Hall of Merchants, where the Trade Council meets its visiting representative. Long, rectangular picture frames hang along the wall, a tight-fitting row depicting previous High Guild Mistresses and their various Slave Men in chains. The room is splendorous at midnight, when the Council convenes, just after Last Bell, for a thousand candles burn, flickering in the crystal streamers above; the air is cool and humid, the best hour in the land of Ever Summer.

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Want to read more by Graeme? Check out The Pact, the first story in an epic fantasy series, now available for KoboKindle, and other ebook formats.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg), and if you like learning about a unique word each day, come check out his new blog, Graemeophones

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Filed under Graeme Brown Setting Sketches, Graeme's World

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.

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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.

 

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

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Filed under Graeme Brown Setting Sketches, Graeme's World