We love to feature YA titles on the blog- they are hugely popular and offer our readers a vast range of titles to read. We are so excited to welcome author Bryony Pearce to the blog today to share her thoughts on settings! A wonderful piece! For more details about Bryony and her books, check out her website!
Setting fantasy in a real world by Bryony Pearce
I’ve always said that suspension of disbelief is one of the most important things for a writer to manage when it comes to readers.
I learned how fragile this essential element of writing was, early on. The stars were important to the theme and storyline of my first novel, Angel’s Fury and so, at a particular point in the story, I had my heroine, Cassiopeia (Cassie), looking at the constellation that gave her its name.
One of my first reviewers wrote that she was going to give my book five stars, but that it would be impossible to see the constellation Cassiopeia from that part of Germany, at that time of year, and it ruined the whole book for her! … RUINED THE WHOLE BOOK!
And so, I learned that you can NEVER do enough research and that it is getting those tiny details right that can make or break a book for a reader.
The fact is that you want your reader swept away by your story, believing in your character and their world. If you are setting a scene in your novel on Kensington High Street (in London) and you have your character pop into Harrods for a quick bite to eat, any reader familiar with London will immediately cry, ‘hang on – Harrods isn’t in High Street Ken, it’s in Knightsbridge!’
Instead of being swept away by your story, they’re questioning it. If they’re questioning those small details, they will distrust the larger story elements and if they distrust the larger story elements, they certainly won’t believe it when you add a ghost, or a portal to another dimension.
To put it another way, you need to get the details right, because you want your reader completely immersed in your story, disbelief completely suspended, so that when you do introduce supernatural elements, they won’t question those either – they will feel real and believable and will be much more effective.
That’s why, when I am not writing pure science fiction or fantasy (which involve other worlds), I mainly set my stories in places I am familiar with – such as London (The Weight of Souls, Raising Hell), Clitheroe (The Girl on the Platform) or Yorkshire (Angel’s Fury). Or I make a place up, as I have done in my newest adult novel (out next year), which is set in a fictional Devon village, an amalgam of places I know well.
Being urban fantasy, Raising Hell is set in a London that will be both familiar (copies of the Metro blow around alleys, the Conservatives are in Government, a character takes the District Line from Hammersmith, Ivy can see the shard from the graveyard, she goes to a greasy spoon opposite a building site and so on) and unfamiliar. This is a world where magic is real, after all, where hell hounds can attack a school and zombies create chaos during rush hour.
I have given a reason that (dark) magic has entered the world, I have created characters who see this as their new normal and react to it in realistic ways. I have thought about how magic entering the world would really change things – for example teaching has become the most hazardous profession (because teenagers tend to hex teachers they don’t like) which means that schools have serious security measures, and a new political party has risen from demands to control magic and use it to ‘make Britain great again’.
I have done my research, I have made Ivy’s London as real and tangible as possible, so that the reader can focus on (and enjoy) her adventure.