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This Week on Writers Abroad 24th July 2017
Category: Site News
Tags: Writers Abroad writing

Good morning, all. It may be the summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere but I see that Writers Abroad is as busy as ever. So, let’s see what we have happening this week:

Monday Muse: Angela has given us some diverse and thought-provoking prompts that include challenging situations to write about and intriguing images.

Blog: Chris N has discussed an issue that many of us grapple with: how to get in enough writing time and juggle our other responsibilities at the same time. She has struck a realistic balance between encouraging us to keep at it and understanding that we do our best in our own circumstances.

Bragging Stool: This forum is hopping this week.

Firstly, five of our members have had writing included in the current Ad Hoc. Congratulations to everyone!

And Laura has been busy. She has 3 flash fiction pieces accepted for the print publication, Flash and she has also had That Apple included in the online journal, Fictive Dream. Congratulations, Laura!

Reminders: Our formal meeting for July is this coming Sunday, 29th July, 11am CET. Jill is chairing. Also, don’t forget to consider where you want to be in your writing 5 years from now, and share this with our members in the Our Writing Vision thread.

Hope everyone has a productive writing week, within the confines of whatever they are juggling. I don’t think I’ll try to juggle our cows though – I might end up with a back injury…Happy writing, everyone.

Step Off The Beaten Track Tags: setting plot

Readers often approach novels within particular genres with preconceived ideas about what are appropriate plots and settings for these books. This can be limiting for writers who want to try something a bit different but still fit into a certain genre. For example, when readers encounter a story set in a ‘popular’ historical era, they often have expectations about how the story will unfold or where it will take place. I write historical fiction set during the Second World War, and, judging by other novels in my sub-genre I’ve seen on bookshop shelves and Amazon’s listings, I would hazard a guess that the majority of fiction set in this period takes place in the European theatre of the war. Recently the Pacific theatre has risen in popularity but novels set in the European theatre are still a mainstay for the sub-genre. Similarly, many novels set in the ancient world choose Rome as the setting for their stories. 

Continuing with Second World War novels, readers have certain expectations about the settings within the European theatre: occupied France and Belgium or maybe Germany or Russia, as well as the Homefront in England and Scotland are where they expect the stories to occur. How many novels can be found on the shelves of local bookshops about the Norwegian resistance or Romanian soldiers? My stories are set in Northern Ireland, a country within Great Britain that, despite the popularity of Homefront stories, rarely features in wartime novels.

Since previously published books in the historical fiction genre have primed readers’ expectations, it can be difficult to convince them to go down a different road They may even find it unsettling to encounter a new perspective to a theme or topic they think they know well. However, that shouldn’t deter authors from branching out in different directions. A steady diet of novels with well-worn settings, despite variations in their plots, will eventually bore readers. Glimpses into unique aspects of life in unfamiliar places during this complex and multi-faceted war, provide fresh insights and discoveries to invigorate and renew readers’ enthusiasm for the genre. And this applies to novels in other genres too.

And ‘something different’ doesn’t have to be something completely unfamiliar. Novels that are set off the beaten track should still contain the elements that readers are really looking for. But, what are they?

The book promotion company, Bookbub, did a study to determine which aspects of wartime fiction resonate most with readers. They found three key elements – and none of them is linked to the story’s setting. Although these elements may not apply to every genre, they do apply to many.

Let’s look at these elements:

The first is that relationships between the main character and his family and friends must touch the reader. Readers want to have an emotional response to the characters. My characters hail from America, Northern Ireland and Ireland and have all ended up together in stories set in rural Northern Ireland. Many readers find the American characters most familiar but no matter the nationality of the character, each expresses the same needs, fears, desires and aspirations as they interact with others and this is what readers respond to.

The next element is an uplifting ending. Or, for some genres, at least a satisfying conclusion to the plot. Again, this can be achieved no matter where a story is set. Some of the challenges and choices my characters face, such as the threat of attack not only from the Axis forces but also the IRA, a terrorist organisation, or having to make the decision whether to enlist in the armed forces when not compelled by conscription to do so, are unique to where the story is set.  However, no matter what conflict the character faces, when he ultimately triumphs readers feel satisfied with this positive ending.

The third element is familiarity and a sense of nostalgia. This may be most applicable to historical fiction but familiarity is also relevant in other genres too. It may seem more difficult to achieve in a lesser-known setting but familiarity doesn’t have to come from the place. People have common traits, emotions and experiences the world over which the author must draw on to make readers connect with the characters and identify with their struggles. In Northern Ireland, where my stories are set, the characters are not under attack during the Blitz but they experience the same fear and apprehension about the threat of attack as people throughout the United Kingdom experienced during that period. They also fear the threat of invasion by the Axis forces, just as the rest of the British population did.  Readers relate to these parallels. 

Ultimately, wartime fiction lovers want to experience the tension and drama of the era, as well as the camaraderie and passion that was integral to it. Stories like mine, unfolding away from the usual settings, can fulfil this desire just as well as those set in tried and tested locations. And, as a bonus, readers get a unique insight into somewhere off the beaten track during an era that fascinates them.

If an author keeps in mind the elements that matter to readers and fulfil them, then the story may be set wherever the author chooses and is also free to be innovative with the plot.

How do you decide where to set your stories? Do you ever deliberately throw some unexpected curves into your plots?

This Week on Writers Abroad 10th April 2017
Category: Site News

As we prepare to soon release Issue Six of Writers Abroad Magazine, it’s a bit quiet on the website but there’s still things happening if you have a look.

Monday Muse: Lesley has supplied several diverse prompts to stimulate your imagination as well as 3 intriguing images. To get your creative brain working and kick off a piece of writing, she has included a scenario to use a starting point, a first sentence, a story title and a memory prompt. There’s enough variety here that it will be impossible not to find something that appeals to you.

Blog: Alyson has discovered the value of ‘literary travel’. In this post, she tells us about her trip to Iceland and how it has inspired her to delve into Icelandic literature and writers. She also suggests that any writer will benefit from being exposed to other writing traditions when they travel.

Bragging Stool: This week WA members have taken possession of Ad Hoc with four of our members included in the publication. Reggie’s Stoop by Sue, Helping Hands by Chris, The Captain & Dad by Crilly and a story by Laura are all in this issue. Well done to all of you!

April Challenge: There’s lots to choose from this month and members are still adding to the Challenges so there’s no dearth goals to strive for. If you haven’t picked one or more, have a look at the list and see what appeals to you. But, don’t neglect Laura’s advice in her blog posted at the end of last week: don’t let yourself become too competitive and forget why you enjoy writing.  

Have a good writing week.





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This Week on Writers Abroad 24th July 2017
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