Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I don't mind where a book is set, because as long as it's well-written I will relate to the people in the story.  Yes, I may not recognise some cultural variations, but in my opinion this add to the story, allowing one to travel without leaving the comfort of their home or incurring the expense of flights and hotels. In say, $2.99, $14.99 or whatever it costs for a book, I can get the thrill of seeing Taiwan, the US, Italy, or anywhere else in the world. 

Different aspects of writing settings in a novel:

1) The most obvious, the settings themselves:

How is your story based (for example) in New Zealand, Australia, the US, or anywhere else in the world?  It's the things that relate to that country: architecture, names representing cultural places, geographical features that are particular to the area, flora, fauna, climate, and so forth.  For example, I mention the Marae—the land where the Maori meeting house standsmore than once. I also add in a scene where the Auckland Skytower and the Manukau harbour are included. These add to my setting of New Zealand.

Swings and slides filled the space behind Tama, while a network of playing fields lay before him. On his right, Auckland’s Sky Tower poked out from behind distant hills, the pointy structure bathed in mauve coloured lights. Beyond the park and a row of houses, the darkened waters of Manukau harbour merged with the night. Tama loved Finley Park. Ever since he was four he’d played touch rugby here...

2) Cultural elements:

As said above, the Marae would fit into this category, as this pertains to New Zealand.  I also mention other cultural elements that relate to the Maori, such as the traditional tattoo: the moko.  Another cultural mention is rugby.  Yes, this is played in many countries in the world, but New Zealand is known to have a strong connection with the game.  And, I haven't left the All Blacks out in my book; in fact they are mentioned on the very first page in a match against the Wallabies (the Australian team).

Whooping and yelling came from the pub. A television blared loudly, no doubt replaying the All Blacks’ rugby match against the Wallabies. Maia stopped at the driveway as a purple Holden drove into the car park. Music blasted from inside the souped-up machine, the bass pumping its steady beat out into the night.

I also include music in my story, Kiwi bands that give the reader a taste of New Zealand, Nesian Mystik, and The Black Seeds.

So customs, sport and music all add to the settings.  *Clothing styles and food can be added to this category, along with other cultural elements.

3) Dialogue:

I think dialogue adds to the settings by giving the reader a taste of how the people of a particular country speaks.  For example, New Zealanders often say "ja" at the end of words that end in "d" to replace "you." Like Told ja and Didja.  We also have a habit of adding as at the end of many things. Like sweet as, hot as, etc.  It's a shortening. If someone says hot as, then they are saying that a person is very attractive.  And sweet as means that they are happy with something.

So, if I'm reading an American book set in the south, I will expect to see y'all written in the dialogue, because that is what I hear when I watch US programmes based in the South.  And if I reading a Singaporean book I will expect la to be added into the dialogue.  But with dialogue make sure that you don't go overboard and add too many variations as this can often confuse a reader and turn them away.  Just include the typical, most well known variations.

You can also include words that are particular to a country. But, you must explain these words.  For example, I include whanau (the Maori word for family), moko (a traditional Maori tattoo), wrapped (happy) and the Marae (as explained above).  The setup of my sentences explains these words, putting them in context.  Also, don't give a definition if it doesn't fit in with your sentence structure, as this can take a reader out of the story (displaying an author's stamp).  In the above examples of the moko and the Marae, it was fine to define them clearly, but in my inclusion of whanau I had to play it differently.  Here are two of my uses of the word whanau.

Tama felt like absolute crap. How could she do this to him? If their positions were swapped he would never have done that to her. No matter how much he disliked his aunty she was still blood—his whānau.  Chapter 5.

    She had only ever wanted to be a mum. He remembered they had talked about it when they were younger. Her exact words were, ‘I want three boys and three girls.’ Jayden hadn’t minded, because he loved kids too. Although he didn’t expect to start their whānau so soon, he could never regret having Lil Jay. Chapter 11.

From Tama's passage you can pretty much guess that whanau relates to a relative and in Jayden's passage whanau replaces the word family, so as the reader reads these lines they should get an understanding of what that word means.

However, as with the differences in speech, don't put too many of these words into your story, only the important ones.  I have only a few, so that my story doesn't turn into a Maori or New Zealand dictionary :) 

If you have any additional suggestions to developing settings you can comment below.

Haere Ra / Goodbye  for now.


1 comment:

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