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January 31, 2018

How Setting Can Inspire a Novel --- Guest Post by Amber Hart, Author of WICKED CHARM


One of the most important aspect of a novel is the setting: whether real or imagined, the setting must be crafted so expertly that the reader feels as though they are either visiting a new place for the first time or returning to someplace safe and familiar. While it is definitely difficult to create an entire world out of thin air, it is equally difficult to take a world readers know and flip it on its head. In this post, author Amber Hart explains how a visit to a swamp inspired the setting for her latest novel, WICKED CHARM.

Have you ever been to a place that, when you see it, takes your breath away? You pause and stare and contemplate its beauty. If only you could capture that moment and bottle it for later. No photograph will ever do it justice, though they sometimes try. This is the thing stories are made of.

I’m talking about real places that inspire entire novels and sequels and series --- standalones and epic fantasies. Actual settings that invoke thoughts of fictional worlds. Authors do it all the time. They take what they see in real life and spin it into words printed on paper. Maybe it’s a magical place motivated by a trip to the coast or a thriller brought about by a visit to the swamp. At least, that’s how it happened for me.

There I was, sitting at the edge of the wetlands where mangrove roots meet obscure trees when a thought hit me: what happens in the shadowy woods? I approached the point where the line of vegetation was the sharpest and searched for a possible path I could carve. What I found, upon entering, was enchanting. Moss like hair, billowing. Leaves like fingers, reaching for me. Under a canopy of green sky, I saw a swampy landscape. And it reminded me of the ones I often visited as a child.

I grew up on the coast of Florida and in the back woods of Georgia. Both places are home to gators and wetlands and marsh. I remember times when I had to sidestep snakes and remove frogs that had hopped on my boots. There were moments when I threw rocks at the ground that looked for everything in the world to be solid, but ended up being swamp water so thick with algae that it immediately stitched itself back together once the stone had sunk to the bottom. This type of scenery is the framework for all I’ve ever known and so it only makes sense that I write a book built on it. Murky water like triple steeped tea. Blazing sun. Southern accents. It felt right, to create a fictional story there. Which is how Wicked Charm was born.

Some will say stories begin with characters, but occasionally it’s the other way around. Setting is just as important. It can be the image that shapes everything else. Characters. Plot. Twists. It has the ability to become a living, breathing thing. Another character all on its own. Find the places that steal your heart. Study them. Spend time there. Close your eyes. Smell the scents that permeate the air. Imagine. Feel the breeze on your face and breathe new life into a story. Write a world that, just beyond the page, makes you feel as though you can reach out and touch it. Let readers see your fascination for the place and fall in love with your unique story. Go. Create.