Tag Archives: ideas for books

Jeanette Hornby - setting of a story post graphic

Ideas for Writing | Choosing the Setting of a Story

Readers generally absorb the setting of a story subconsciously - unless it grates with what they are familiar with! Choosing the setting of a story and accurately communicating it to the reader is, as How to be an Author guest poster, Jeanette Hornby, illustrates, "fundamental in establishing the mood" and believability of the wider story.

Choosing the Setting of a Story

by Jeanette Hornby

Jeanette Hornby - setting of a story post graphicThe setting for a novel includes the historical time period, culture, and location of the story, and is fundamental in establishing the mood and scene of coming events. Where stories discuss such subjects as society and environment, the setting is extremely significant. In some instances, it is possible for the setting to become a character itself.

If the story is woven around an actual event then the setting can be pivotal to the plot. The consequences of the event are ‘real’ and will affect how we write about the fictional characters and their responses to the incident. We cannot ignore the historical outcome if the story is set in a real place or time.

The setting may be a real location or a fictional one. It is even possible to use both fictional and real places in a story.

Real Locations, Fictional Places

In my novels, I use real locations but add fictional places within them. This allows me to use historical landmarks and events while taking the story in any direction I choose. I find it easier to begin with real places rather than make up completely fictional ones though this may change in the future.

My first two novels are set in my home-town in Western Australia and the setting should have been easy to describe, but the stories are set in the ’70s and ’80s, respectively, and things have changed since then. I had to retrieve old memories, photos, and scrapbooks to help me ‘re-live’ those days.

“how they dealt with the bigotry and turmoil of Australian life in those eras”

The setting was important in these two novels because the subject matter centred on the lives of my characters (children of Italian migrants) and how they dealt with the bigotry and turmoil of Australian life in those eras. The small country town in which I lived was just one example of the migrant struggle for acceptance in Australia at the time, and revealed the changing face of Australia, so was crucial to the story.


The hours of research were worth the effort and I rather enjoyed taking a walk down memory-lane. Thankfully, I am familiar with the ‘Australian-isms’ and was able to set the scenes rather easily and authentically.

All my novels, thus far, are set in Australia where I have lived all my life. It is often easier to write about a place that you know because you already have a ‘feel’ for it, but good research can also help the writer with this. Asking questions is vital.

We are privileged to live in this high-tech age where information is readily accessible. My third novel, Candy’s Man, is set in Sydney – a place I have never been – but I was able to research the area on the internet and even gained visual access of certain streets and places with Google Maps. This worked well for my contemporary romance tale.

Characterisation vs Setting

The characters in this novel were the focal point of the story and therefore, the setting was not as significant, but it was still important to set the scene. From a cruise in the Caribbean, to the city of Sydney, it was vital to take the reader on a journey along with the characters. I feel the description of popular Sydney landmarks helped convey the uniqueness of Australia to the reader.

As some of my characters are American in this novel and their culture and language differ somewhat, I was able to use the knowledge of my American editor to find the discrepancies. You can never have too much information, and it all adds to setting the scene.

My current Work-In-Progress, Grapevines and Gum Trees, is set in a historical town in Western Australia, but the actual place and residence of the characters is fictional. This allows me once again to use historical landmarks and events while shaping the story as I see fit.

The story is set in the mid ’80s when ‘progress’ had not yet fully encroached on the small country town. I wanted to portray the area as the tranquil place I remember from my youth.
Once again, I use my knowledge of the area to my advantage, describing landmarks that are well-known in the area. Hopefully, my descriptions give all readers a ‘feel’ of this wonderful country in which I live.

Choosing the setting of a story clearly makes a fundamental contribution and often drives the story line within a novel. How do you choose the setting for your stories? Share your thoughts in the comments below - and share with your friends, too!

Ideas for Books: Where do Good Ideas for Novels Come From?

Ideas for books to write are often elusive, as any writer will tell you, which is why so many authors carry a notebook around with them so they can catch any fleeting inspiration before it disappears. A word, a phrase, an apt reference - all grist to the writer's mill.

In today's guest post in the How to be an Author series, Robin Wolstenholme tells how she dreamed her first book and finds inspiration all around her. Enjoy.

Where Do Ideas for Books Come From?

by Robin Wolstenholme

Robin Wolstenholm ideas for books graphicAs an author, editor and publisher I deal with books from a variety of perspectives. One recurring question is "Where did you get the idea for your book?" Everyone has a different answer. In this guest post for Imogen Knight's blog I will give my answer to this question.

I never fancied myself a writer per se although my whole career has involved writing or rewriting for others in administrative positions. I wondered how people came up with ideas for their books. Then I experienced a situation at work where my boss had a nervous breakdown. The effect it had on me required me to stop working. I had realized there was stress involved in my job, but until I retired from it I didn't realize how much it consumed my thoughts. After being away from work for several months and after dealing with the fallout of leaving the workforce my mind was clear. Then, I had a dream.

Dreams and Inspirations

I dreamed my first children's book. In its entirety. I got up the next morning and it was still clear as day and I wrote it down. I continued to have ideas for books after this dream and I wrote those ideas down too. But it wasn't the entire book like in my dream. Nonetheless I found my creativity increasing daily. I then needed an illustrator. I am a painter, but painting is different from drawing and being new to the process felt an illustrator needed to be able to draw. Luckily I had a cousin that was just what I needed. He sketched and I painted. We collaborated over the internet from half a world apart and completed my first book "Kangaroo Tales - The Long Black Paddock" several months later about an adventurous kangaroo in Australia and his mates. The book touches on one of the perils animals face regarding technology and man-made things.

Not long after I started on my second book about my cat. Personal experience: one of the most common triggers for writing a book. Again with my cousin's talent my second children's book emerged. "Perki Cati" is all about my very talented and entertaining cat and all true!

My third children's book again came from a dream sparked by my real life granddaughter. Living halfway around the world from my family, I do miss them. I hired an illustrator for this book as I wanted the main character to look like my granddaughter. "Button, Button" was born, about how family traditions get started.

Inspiration For Health

Health issues sparked my fourth book, Exercise in Bed, which is an exercise plan designed to help a number of people. When you are overweight or have health problems like arthritis the simple facets of regular exercise programs are really overwhelming. Getting down on the floor, jarring movements or simple things like jogging or running are just not practical. I hit all these problems head on and found it depressing indeed! After non successful consultations with medical professionals I decided I would just have to figure it out myself. I use to have a real problem with my feet in the morning being stiff. I was also having a considerable problem with sitting for long periods. The plan began when I started stretching my ankles and feet in the morning along with my back to be in less pain. It worked! I realized I needed an exercise and stretching routine that I could manage to do regularly without being in pain. So I developed other in bed exercises to strengthen my core and stretch other muscles and joints. It began working for me. The sitting problem was corrected. I rose every morning in less pain and not needing the 6 pills a day recommended by the professionals for my pain.

I decided this was something I wanted to share. Using my previous career skills and a bit of my abundant humor, I drew up characters in PowerPoint to show my exercises and put together an ebook along with some heartfelt comments and advice.

I have a list of books waiting to be written. I still marvel when I am editing and publishing other people's books and wonder how did they come up with that idea? My best advice is to just relax. You have your book ideas right there in your life in your family, your experiences, your dreams. The first thing you have to do is allow yourself to consider yourself a writer. Sure, there are rules and courses and people who can teach you to write. The important thing is to just write your story. I believe anyone can do it. You will need editing, even the best writers do. Just please write. I am one of many people that want to read your story.

Robin Wolstenholme
published under the alias: Robin Petty