Places of Interest

Places with Personalities
Pam Uphoff

I was upset when Harry Dresden’s basement apartment burned down. Really.
221B Baker Street. An indelible part of the Sherlock Holmes mystique.
Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin without their NYC Brownstone? Inconceivable!
And vehicles too. Would Star Trek be the same without the Enterprise? Star Wars without the Millennium Falcon?

Making a tiny part of your make-believe world a familiar place, describing a minute part of a whole world in detail can both pull a reader into a story, and establish a starting point for a world that you just can’t describe in the same detail. Using it as home base for a series starts the readers off knowing where they are: at home with their old friends. Or in danger, and a good thing they’ve got this ship/car/tank/whatever.

I find myself doing that in my stories. The village, the inn, the hotsprings.
And now I’ve got this silly vehicle . . . I didn’t mean for my characters to attach themselves to this battered old wreck. It just keeps coming in handy.

 

“That’s a bit of a wreck.”
Ebsa eyed Acty, then looked back at the dents in the crawler. They look . . . familiar.
The mechanic bristled. “Do you have any idea how short on equipment we are? If the Powers That Be will stop panicking over their precious Special Super Secret Project—which everyone knows has to be those weird Helios people—or wait six months instead of trying to instantly field every team in existence and some that aren’t,” he glanced meaningfully at them, “we could properly supply those teams. We can supply you with everything you need. What is available right now is the crawler we decided to use for spare parts, rather than try to repair.”

From _Fort Dinosaur_ by Pam Uphoff

 

Now it really doesn’t matter _which_ vehicle they check out of the motor pool, but this one has a history that the reader may suddenly recall. Even without having read the previous book, it’s battered and distinctive. It makes this vehicle special, it hints at history and give the world depth. Ahem. It also let me toss in a small data dump and first foreshadowing.

A single place, an office or home with “personality” can be an excellent start to world building. A place for characters to have roots. It’s location in a city, a village, a hundred miles from anywhere. A hut in the forest. A mansion in the ritzy part of town. Or the only house on the street in decent repair, the lawn, such as it was, mown. All these things tell the readers a lot about the world and they’re already making assumptions about the inhabitants.

Looking around at the rest of the Mad Geniuses . . . Dave is having a love affair with Australia. Kate . . . is all over the map, but her Vampire has become the protector of SF cons. Cedar’s got some interesting homes for Pixies and Gods. Sarah’s got a Diner in Goldport. A home on a spaceship called the Cat House.

 

And then, out of nowhere I hit something. Not hard. And whatever I hit was not as deadly solid as the diamond-hard trunks and certainly no powerpod. For one, it didn’t blow up.
Even after hitting it, I couldn’t see what it was. It was . . . dark. Straining, I could make out a rounded outline but barely distinguishable from the surrounding gloom.
My throat closed. It was a darkship.

From _Darkship Thieves_ by Sarah Hoyt.

 

And pets. A character’s reactions to animals can speak volumes about his character. Is he a puppy kicker, or a puppy saver? Does she get upset when her evil cat gets sick? Keep pet triceratops? Tarantulas? A character’s choice of pets tells a lot about the character and about the world.

The black-and-white sheepdog was more experienced at love than the dragon, and he was a young pup still, maybe eight months old. Barely more than a pup. But Dileas—whose name was “faithful” in an old tongue, long forgotten by most men—would go to the ends of the world for her, and beyond, as they were now. His mistress was his all and he would search for her until he died, or he found her.
Fionn knew that he would do the same.

From _Dog and Dragon_ by Dave Freer.

 

Dave tells you all about the dog, and the reader nods, personal experience kicks in. The reader _understands_ the devotion. And with a few more words, Fionn becomes a hero. As loyal and determined as a dog.

### Totally off topic! The above are examples of “Fair Use” of copyrighted materials. But after some outstandingly obtuse argumentation and attempted justification on facebook recently, I thought I’d head off any overreactions (and set a good example of “if in doubt, ask”) by asking Sarah and Dave. Who, of course, gave permission. I didn’t ask that Uphoff woman, she’s crazy and there’s no telling what she might say. ###

So here’s a writing assignment for you.

Make a home, a home away from home, or a vehicle. Some thing or some place your character loves or will come to love. Good Guy or Bad Guy. A Fortress of Solitude or an Evil Lair. A new character or an old one, doesn’t matter. They need a home.
What kind of pet does your character have? None? Well, that won’t do! Get him a pet, find out how much world building you can do while acquiring some odd critter.

 

And the self-Promo

For those who insist on paper and ink, all six of the Directorate stories in one huge volume.

And grab it quick, this is the last free day. Ra’d’s first appearance. Speaking of mayhem . . .

 

28 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

28 responses to “Places of Interest

  1. I’ve been working on trying to come up with a mobile home for a treasure-hunter / archaeologist / dungeon explorer so one of the things I’ve been looking at are modern day mobile homes and small houses, as well as gypsy wagons. I also looked at pioneer wagons. *grin* Admittedly I’ve fallen into the fun of researching stuff so… most I’ve got are written notes on paper.

  2. paladin3001

    Working on “designing” a vehicle for one WIP for the main character. Tried one thing and it was unworkable (damn you physics). I try to think and design units, apartments, and such for each character when needed. You’re definitely right though how some inanimate objects are characters in their own right. Not to mention pets.

  3. Draven

    can i change the g
    font those quotes are in? i cant read them

  4. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I’m thinking about the high security apartment that starts off a current WIP. I probably need more effort establishing it. I’m not sure a pet is compatible with any of my major viewpoint characters. One of them does have a service robot whose assistance is significant.

  5. “Finally, a corporal was pushed forward. His name tag said ‘McGlashan.’ “Uh, hi ma’am. We were wondering if we could have our wheel back. The dog kind of stole it off our armored vehicle here, and now he’s playing keep-away.”
    She turned to the dog. “Spike, did you steal the boy’s wheel?” Spike, hearing his name, began wagging his tail. He started growling happily and chewing on the tire. “Spike, give me the wheel. Come on, good boy, bring it here. Bring it! Yes! Come on!” she slapped her knee. “Come on. Bring it to me!” Spike trotted over and held the tire just out of reach, then pranced away again chewing and growling. He gave the tire a good shake, just to make sure it was dead, then settled down for some more quality chewing, one paw over his prize.
    Brunhilde turned to the soldier. “I don’t think he’s done playing with it yet. Did you try throwing a stick for him?”
    “Well, um, we didn’t really get that far with the stick thing after he ate one of our rifles,” said the corporal. “He’s been stealing stuff and running around with it since we got here. He swiped Kennedy’s rifle and ate most of it, he swiped Rushlow’s helmet and ate that, he was going to swipe Burns’ bonnet, but Burnsie pried it out of his mouth.” He indicated a rather beefy young man wearing a very wet and bedraggled Glengarry bonnet. “Burnsie is crazy. Wrestled a dog the size of a tractor over a hat.”
    “He’s a good dog McGlashan, he’s just screwing around,” said Burns, unimpressed with the entire proceedings.

    *This is how my dear departed Spike would be if he was a science fiction dog.*

  6. mrsizer

    I wanted to buy Warriors of the One, but when I clicked on it, Amazon told me I already had. The Kindle is getting unruly with 100s of books on it; I’ll find it, eventually.

    Great advice on places. “Home-base” needs a bit more description – but following other advice, I’ll just make a note to come back to it later and press on for now.

    I hadn’t thought of pets. In my main story-line (that exists only in my head), psychics are sought after for space exploration because they don’t need translators when aliens are encountered. Writing the far back-story (my million words that won’t be very good), foreshadowing that with a pet would be brilliant. Definitely doing it. Now the cats vs dogs decision…

    • I need to organize my Kindle, too. Sort by author is useful, but I need to see if there are other useful ways to sort things.

    • Places almost need more of a “feel” than a detailed description. People have their own ideas, their own experiences and will visualize details with little prompting. Huge north facing windows flooded the pale room with light. Or dark and cluttered, the air stale. Or dark and safe; he could feel his muscles relaxing as he collapsed on the sofa.

      Think about the senses. What size and color? What sorts of smells, quiet, or music blasting from the kids room. Any textures to mention? Hot or cold.

      • “On it,” Trisha answered. She trudged up the stairs. It was a wonderful house, she thought .Mom and dad had their second floor bedroom wing. Janie had the second floor rear, the new extension, built like a rock to support her books. Brian had second floor front and lots of space for model stuff, and she had third floor front for bedroom and the tower room for studying. Third floor back and sides were guest rooms. The tower room was a wonderful conceit of a former owner. It was high above the street, with glass on all four walls. Its ceiling was painted the palest of cocoas. Hanging from the ceiling’s apex was a black, wrought-iron chandelier; more light from the room came from the line of fluorescent lights hiding behind valances along the ceiling’s perimeter. The walls, where they were not glass, were walnut; the floor was bleached maple. Brian had helped Trisha build bookshelves on three of the sides. Two had rows of shelving and then a wide sill that held two dozen potted plants, violets and christmas cactus. At the outside of each sill was a grate letting the perimeter radiators heat the room. One side was a long, wide window seat on which she could lie down. Under the window seat was a secret compartment, and inside the secret compartment was a second secret compartment. A third secret compartment went into the wall. It was small, but good for money and jewelry. It would have been good for jewelry, she thought, if she’d ever had any. The last side was a desk with a big writing surface and a computer, facing north so she never had the sun in her eyes. If she went up to the tower, no one ever, ever bothered her, so she could study in complete peace and quiet.

  7. The Connolly House in my deamon hunter book is slowly getting a floor plan. It has a long history (including the firmly entrenched belief that the original was burned by the Canadians on their way to Washington in the war of 1812. It wasn’t but don’t tell the locals that, you’re just wasting your breath.) Other stories less so. A sense of Place seems to be one of my weak spots. The Connolly House was the first SETTING that tried to become part of the story for pretty much any of my books. Now I just have to figure out how to re-create that sense of place elsewhere. 😉

  8. Dogs and houses are great, but avoid miles and cats. They’ll upstage the protagonist every dang

    “Will not! =^^=!”

    Ivan, stop that!

  9. I’m particularly weak at setting. (I’m hoping to insert some flavor on the first pass.) Which, now that you put it quite like this, is weird, since I’ve got several Really Important Places.

    I think the cult headquarters are going to be the best for this assignment. I’m basing them on an abandoned sulfur springs hotel in Sharon Springs–gigantic, beautiful, abandoned for decades. (Though I hear it got bought in 2008 or so?)

    Visiting over the weekend might be doable… yes.

    (The Good Guy spot is an independent study room in the school library. More fun to build cult headquarters. Most of the important stuff happens there anyway.)

  10. I spent a fair amount of time sketching the Wells residence and Eclipse’s home for The Girl Who Saved The World, and then had to add a wing.

    For those who do not believe how many indie novels are being published I present a list of the SF/F/H novels (>100,000 words) released by Smashwords…this month. This list appears monthly in The National Fantasy Fan (n3f.org; free to public members). Yes, the lead object does claim to be 700,000 words, but it has a whole pile of authors.

    Smashwords Novels for May

    Deadly Eleven by Mark Tufo, Michelle Bryan, David Moody, Lisa Lane, John O’Brien, Shawn Chesser, Bobby Adair, W.J. Lundy, Jaime Johnesee, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, & Heath Stallcup
    Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 708,070. Language: English.

    Force Fields from Beyond by Naomi Semeniuk
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 179,070. Language: English.

    Meteor Mags: Omnibus Edition by Matthew Howard
    Price: $9.95 USD. Words: 183,400. Language: English.

    Shadows of Our Fathers by Rex Jameson
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 116,940. Language: English.

    The Kanta Chronicles by Nick Sutcliffe
    Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 162,170. Language: English.

    The Chronicles of Eric Mason Book One by Alex Ince
    Price: $4.00 USD. Words: 118,370. Language: English.

    Tandem by Troim Kryzl
    Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 141,000. Language: English.

    Witch Hunt by Troim Kryzl
    Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 176,360. Language: English.

    Plugger Site One by Troim Kryzl
    Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 147,730. Language: English. .

    Solomonder’s Iron by James Anderson
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 101,220. Language: English.

    Jepaul by Katy Winter
    Price: Free! Words: 217,610. Language: English.

    The Third Wave: Eidolon by John O’Brien
    Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 114,650. Language: English. 7.

    Colliding Galaxies by Philip Bosshardt
    Price: Free! Words: 119,210. Language: English.

    Dominion by J. Kowallis
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 111,170. Language: English.

    The Poisoned Oasis by Ethan Somerville
    Series: Mission. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 114,980. Language: Australian English.

    An Atlas to Time, Space, and Bonfires by Save Sci-Fi
    Price: Free! Words: 119,360. Language: English.

    The McClane Apocalypse Book Seven by Kate Morris
    Series: The McClane Apocalypse. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 146,830. Language: English.

    Future Prometheus II: Revolution, Successions and Resurrections by J. M. Erickson
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 119,940. Language: English.

    The Mars of Malcontents by Kate MacLeod
    Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 104,630. Language: English.

    Impostor by G. Michael Smith
    Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 111,910. Language: English.

    Master Fixer by G. Michael Smith
    Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 104,760. Language: English.

    Abyss: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by Shawn Chesser Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 128,640. Language: English.

    Gold and Iron. Clarges (in Russian) — by Jack Vance
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 104,230. Language: Russian.

    Fixer 13 by G. Michael Smith
    Price: Free! Words: 105,590. Language: English.

    Star Crusades Uprising Complete Series by Michael G. Thomas
    Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 457,610. Language: English. .

    The Girl from Avignon: The Arameus Chronicle by Praveen Arla
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 140,420. Language: English.

    Deprivations by Lee R Jackson
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 101,160. Language: English.

    One World One People by Justin Hebert
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 173,480. Language: English. Pu

    War Place Hill – Ultra Secret Protocol by M. R. Marks
    Series: WAR PLACE HILL. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 118,350. Language: English.

    Raventower & Merriweather 2: War by Lazette Gifford
    . Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 135,520. Language: English. Published: May 7, 2017 by A Conspiracy of Authors.

    Dicing with the Universe by Ethan Somerville
    Series: Mission. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 112,340. Language: Australian English. Published:

    A Vested Interest Omnibus – Books 1 & 2 by John Chapman & Shelia Chapman
    Price: $2.50 USD. Words: 353,880. Language: English.

    Invasion – The Tymorean Trust Book 6 by Margaret Gregory
    Series: The Tymorean Trust. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 129,940. Language: English.

    Night Ride and Sunrise by Stanley Schmidt
    Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 101,810. Language: American English. .

    Paradox: The Alien Genome by H. S. RIVNEY
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 117,700. Language: English.

    Darkness Upon the Land by A. E. Branson
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 114,520. Language: English.

    Paladin’s Trial by Michael Boatman
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 142,320. Language: English.

    The Girl in the Mirror by Philip J Gould
    Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 111,680. Language: British English.

    Earth’s Survivors SE 5 by Dell Sweet
    Series: Earth’s Survivors Collected Books. Price: $4.49 USD. Words: 284,280. Language: English.

    The Frigate Victory Series Collection by Robert Collins
    Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 160,450. Language: English.

    The Secret of Mars by P. R. Garcia
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 138,200. Language: English.

    Storm of Empire by Paul Batteiger
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 136,870. Language: English.

    One in the Oven by Brennan Barrett Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 108,480. Language: English.
    Light and Shadow by M.R. Cronk
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 150,960. Language: English.

    Lightbringers: The Age of Myths and Legends by David Price
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 129,820. Language: English.

    Adromenda – Die Königskinder von Adromenda (Band 1) by Fred Kruse
    Price: $3.90 USD. Words: 103,140. Language: German.

    The Two Magicians: From Nowhere to Forever – by Zelda Leah Gatuskin
    Price: $8.99 USD. Words: 143,180. Language: English.

    The Dread Lords Rising by J. David Phillips
    Price: Free! Words: 160,320. Language: English.

    The Shifter Shard by L. Darby Gibbs
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 103,310. Language: English.

    A Ghost of a Chance Starter Bundle by Dean Wesley Smith
    Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 130,710. Language: English.

    Shadows of Our Fathers by Rex Jameson
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 116,940. Language: English

    Before the Tide by Christine Malec
    Price: Free! Words: 135,160. Language: English.

    Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 100,060. Language: English.

    Edge of Doom (Amica Saga #8) by Richard S. Tuttle
    Series: Amica Saga. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 277,980. Language: English. Published:

    Exalted (Chronicles of Orian 3 of 3) by Karen Glista
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 208,380. Language: English.

    Jepaul by Katy Winter
    Price: Free! Words: 217,610. Language: English.

    A Goblin’s Tale (The Iron Teeth Book 1) by Scott Straughan
    Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 124,000. Language: English.

    A Lying Witch: The Complete Series by Odette C. Bell
    Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 190,450. Language: English.

    Guises by Charlee Jacob
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 105,820. Language: English.

    The People’s Champion by Jenna Lincoln
    Series: The Protector Project. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 129,730. Language: English.

    Darkness of the Hunt by Doug Lewars
    Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 205,420. Language: English.

    Thy Killer’s Keeper by Edita A. Petrick
    Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 104,700. Language: English.

    Live & Learn (Defense of the Land, Book 1) by Vance Pumphrey
    Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 151,720. Language: American English.

    Sparks Saga Complete Trilogy: Omnibus Edition by RS McCoy
    Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 245,790. Language: English.

    Realms of Beliar – Book 1: The Sword Myndarit by Andrew Arrowsmith
    Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 159,790. Language: English.

    What Has Returned (Book Two of the War of Histories Trilogy) by Tim Mathias
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 104,780. Language: English.

    One World One People by Justin Hebert
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 173,480. Language: English.

    Towy Bridge Inn: Trilogy by Robert S. Baker
    Price: $5.50 USD. Words: 233,810. Language: British English.

    When the Man Comes Around by Xero Reynolds
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 107,390. Language: English.

    Raventower & Merriweather 2: War by Lazette Gifford
    Series: Raventower & Merriweather. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 135,520. Language: English.

    Airwoman by Zara Quentin
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 103,800. Language: Australian English.

    Ferrian’s Winter by Megan Leigh
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 198,270. Language: English.

    A Dark Faerie Tale Books 1 & 2 by Alexia Purdy Price: Free! Words: 134,300. Language: English.

    The Afterland Chronicles Boxed Set (Books 1 – 3) by Karen Wrighton
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 163,680. Language: English.

    Now Serving Dragon by David R. Michael
    Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 120,290. Language: English.

    Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballantine
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 106,830. Language: English. P

    Prospero Regained by L. Jagi Lamplighter
    Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 184,200. Language: English.

    Magic and Mathematics Book One – Ancient Science by K. J. Hargan Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 143,290. Language: English.

    Brenna Morgan and the Iron Key by Katie Masters
    Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 107,610. Language: English.

    Frostborn: The Shadow Prison by Jonathan Moeller
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 147,500. Language: English.

    Extraordinary Creatures: A Compilation of Short Stories about Remarkable Beings by Brieanna Robertson
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 102,450. Language: English.

    Slink by Ashley Abbiss Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 133,850. Language: Commonwealth English.

    A Poisoned Prayer by Michael Skeet
    Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 109,030. Language: English.

    The Ripper by Carmelo Anaya
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 154,030. Language: Spanish.

    Kung Fu Zombies by C M Weller

    The Third Wave: Eidolon by John O’Brien
    Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 114,650. Language: English.

    Guises by Charlee Jacob
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 105,820. Language: English.

    Abyss: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by Shawn Chesser
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 128,640. Language: English.

    A Arte do Terror – Volume 4 by Elemental Editoração
    Price: Free! Words: 118,730. Language: Portuguese.

    Shadowhorn: Age of the Revenant by E Lee Smith
    Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 116,490. Language: English.
    Shadowhorn: Age of the Revenant. Paladin’s Trial by Michael Boatman
    Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 142,320. Language: English.

    Corruption at the Crossroad by Raymond Benson
    Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 820,660. Language: English.

    Earth’s Survivors SE 5 by Dell Sweet
    Series: Earth’s Survivors Collected Books. Price: $4.49 USD. Words: 284,280. Language: English.