Friday, August 29, 2014

Cheryl Carpinello on Knowing the Setting of Your Story @ccarpinello #WriteTip #AmWriting #PubTip

How Essential Is It to Know Your Story’s Setting First-Hand?

Many writers struggle with this question, including me. Unless you’ve built your own world, it’s hard for most authors to physically visit the places their characters live. If you’re a writer of historical fiction, like I am, it is impossible to be transported back to those time periods without extensive research.

Readers don’t want every detail spelled out for them; they just want to experience the flavor that is the character’s world. It is natural to include even small details like the weather, speech patterns, distances from one place to another, specific foods and drinks, etc. However, without first-hand experience, these descriptive additions may cause problems for you, the author.

Two examples from my own writings illustrate the little things that readers found which do not ring true.

1. In Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, I added facts from the historical period about young betrothals, castles, feasts, and the countryside to let my readers experience Guinevere’s life. I describe the food—even Circlette with raspberry jam dripping down the children’s chins. Historical fact, no problem. Then I mention that in order to prepare a stew for the night’s feast, carrots and potatoes are being peeled. OOPS! One of my adult readers informs me that potatoes were not discovered/used back in the 400-500s.

2. InYoung Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom, poured over travel books and maps until I felt confident that I had sufficient background to write my story. And I did until...A reviewer/writer from Wales caught an error that only first-hand experience would have prevented.

In the story, my young character Philip is climbing up St. David’s Head in a wind and rain storm. I describe his slips and slides on the slope with the wind raging around him. My reviewer said that in a real storm on St. David’s Head, a person would literally be crawling up on hands and knees as the force of the wind would prevent a person from standing up. Caught again.

So, is it essential to have first-hand experience? In most cases, probably not. Is it important to have first-hand experience? I say yes.

And so, as I prepare to write Book Two Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, I’m also embarking on a tour that has been two years in the planning. I am off to visit—in person—the land that gave rise to the tales of Arthurian Legend: England, Wales, and Scotland!
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Purchase Links for Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom

Author Bio

I love the Ancient and Medieval Worlds! As a retired English teacher, I hope to inspire young readers to read more through my Quest Books. Please follow me on this adventure. On Carpinello’s Writing Pages, I interview other children/MG/Tween/YA authors. At The Quest Books, I’ve teamed up with Fiona Ingram from South Africa and Wendy Leighton-Porter of England/France/Abu Dhabi to enable readers to find all of our Ancient and Medieval quest books in one place.

Young Knights

Action Adventure Kindle Book

Three Friends. Three Quests. Three Mysterious Predictions.

At Pembroke Castle in medieval Wales,11-year-old Prince Gavin, 13-year-old orphan Philip, and 15-year-old blacksmith's apprentice Bryan, brought together in friendship by the one they call The Wild Man, embark upon a quest to save The Wild Man's life when he is accused of murder and robbery. If they have any hope of succeeding, the three will have to confront their fears and insecurities, and one of them will have to disclose the biggest secret of all. But it is the arrival of King Arthur and what he reveals that surprises characters and readers.

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords
Genre - Tween Adventure
Rating – G
More details about the author
Connect with Cheryl Carpinello through Facebook


  1. So true. I write travel adventure stories and I write about places I have been too. In my book, Amanda in England-The Missing Novel I had visited all the sights in the book except I had never been on The London Eye. So I contacted a couple of young people who had experienced this modern landmark. They described to me their impressions and how it felt to be on it. That did the trick. So if you just can't be there, perhaps you can talk to someone who has. Now that might be more difficult if you are writing a historical novel! Have fun on your tour. You will love it. I've been to most of the Arthurian sights. Tintagle is amazing!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Darlene. I'm excited to be going. Tintagel is at the top of my list!

  2. I thoroughly agree with you, Cheryl. I had to visit my setting in Switzerland, twice. Once in summer and once in winter. I had to talk to the locals and experience the distances between places I wanted in the book as well as the intimidating height of the mountains, climate and culture. Fortunately, I had only written 8 chapters before my first trip because they had to be scrapped and I started the novel again. My protagonist needed an entirely different attitude and way of life. I can sympathise with you, too, over the need to travel to the Arthurian lands. Nevermind, someone has to do it :) Will you get to Glastonbury and climb the Tor of Avalon? I did. Have a wonderful trip and fill your mind with more of your wonderful stories..

    1. Thanks for visiting, Wendy. Being there is the best. Definitely visiting Glastonbury and the Tor!!

  3. My setting has been in my home town, so no problem, right? Wrong. I still have to do some research now and then to get it right.

  4. Google 'El Doncel' to see why I went to Siguenza, Spain twice to read up on my knight in shining armor reading his mysterious book and you will want to read about him and his adventures in 'The Secret of the Stone Codex.'