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Hello!  Thanks for stopping by!  Fiction Can Be Fun is a writing project run by David (@breakerofthings) and Debs (@debsdespatches).

After five years of hosting the site, we’re going to take a step back from our weekly posting schedule to move to monthly posts as from June 2022. We’ll be posting on the first Sunday in every month, with a mixture of our #SecondThoughts musings on all things writing & reading, a focus on resources for Writers or Readers, a short story, a book review (with hopefully more indie authors put in the #IndieSpotlight) and, when we can persuade other writers – a piece on the intersections between their life and their chosen genre for #NowWithAdded….

Debs will also continue to make regular contributions from here to the Insecure Writers Support Group day on the first Wednesday of every month.

We started the blog because we wanted to practice writing stories, and to talk about what writing (and reading) means to us.  Over the last few years we’ve showcased a number of short stories of different lengths, genres, voices, and you can find these, together with all our other posts, via the Index.

If you’d like to find out more/get involved, please do take a look at the About page.  Or you can send us a message via the Contact page, or our Twitter handles (above).

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#IWSG: There’s no place like Home for the Holidays

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. It’s an opportunity to talk about doubts and fears you have conquered. To discuss your struggles and triumphs and to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.


December 7 question – It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?

Fall behind – definitely!

My festive season norm for decades has been uber busy, with many key family birthdays in November and December, as well as Christmas. I’ve always believed it was important they get properly celebrated, and don’t get lost in all the mistletoe and holly.

But, this year, my Christmas is going to be very different. My sole surviving parent has relocated to the US, and my daughter – who turns 40 today (how did that happen) – will be spending the festive season with her parents-in-law, who have the energy, fitness and space to help out with two very active grandchildren.

We’ll get together some time before or after, but it will be just me and Himself – at home together – for the day itself… and I’m really rather looking forward to it. No driving anywhere, getting to choose exactly what we want to eat and drink, doing the things we want to do (as much as not doing the other stuff). There will doubtless be festive phone/video calling, but I’m looking forward to a quiet time together.

Technically, I could spend time writing, but I’d rather lean in to this unexpectedly uninterrupted festive time at home – that is except for a stroll or two with cameras in the lovely Sussex countryside and the chilly English seaside.

However you choose to spend your holidays – may they make you happy 🙂

The awesome co-hosts for the December 7 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Chemist Ken, Natalie Aguirre, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine – do take a moment to visit them.


© Debra Carey, 2022

#SecondThoughts: Operation Mincemeat

Last year saw the release of the film Operation Mincemeat, staring Colin Firth in the role of Ewen Montagu (of who, more later). For those who’ve read – and enjoyed – the book Operation Mincemeat: The true spy story that changed the course of World War II, there may be some disappointment.

As is often the way with films, they make it all about the people involved – the (at the very least emotional) affair between married Montagu and a female colleague, the transvestite spymaster, Ian Fleming (later author of James Bond) in his role as assistant to the director of naval intelligence and, well…. you get the picture I’m sure.

Whereas the true strength of the story is the intelligence work and the success of the deception. The deception? Right, yes, better get to that – the whole shenanigan was to persuade Hitler and the German High Command that the Allies would be invading Greece and not Sicily, so they would move their defensive forces and thereby give the invasion (of Sicily) a greater chance for success.

For those who don’t know the story, a suitable dead body is acquired, a detailed false identity is created, it’s dressed in uniform and has papers planted on it suggesting that the site of the invasion – which everyone knows is going to happen – will be Greece. The dead body is then put into the sea to be found by Spanish fishermen, to be passed onto their neutral but fascist’s regime’s forces, who will alert their good friends the Nazis. The deception works, and the rest – as they say – is history.

But….

Although Ben Mackintyre’s book was a bestseller, the story first came to light in 1950. Duff Cooper, a former cabinet minister who was read into the details of Operation Mincemeat, published a fictional work called Operation Heartbreak, which included the plot device of a dead body. The British secret services decide they must publish their version of the story, and Ewen Montagu (the man Colin Firth plays in the film) is given the go ahead to write the story. In 1953, his book The Man Who Never Was is published. And in 1956, Ronald Neame makes a film of the same named, based on Montagu’s book.

So….

Both Mackintyre’s book and the film of the same name, are simply repeating the story told some 60 years earlier.

In full disclosure, I have to admit not having read Montagu’s book, nor having seen Neame’s film – so cannot draw any conclusions. By drawing attention to the fact that they’re modern do-overs, I’m not suggesting that one or other is better or worse. What’s certain is it’s a jolly good tale, and I’m rather inclined to look out not only the book in order to hear the story from the horse’s mouth (so to speak), but also the Neame film to see how they handled it.

PostScript: I see that a musical of the story will be shown in London’s West End in 2023. It’s been described as a ‘macabre musical comedy’ and an ‘accelerated farce’. I’m not sure quite how I feel about that prospect.

© Debra Carey, 2022

#SecondThoughts: Booker Prize Readathon 2022 – the Conclusion

I know I said I’d be back at the start of October…. but then Himself booked us a holiday. Not my usual sort of holiday where at least half the time is spent holed up somewhere cosy with book in hand, but one where every minute of every day is filled with stuff to see and do. So, realising that I was never going to make it, I decided to schedule a different post for October.

First then, my reaction to the shortlist announcement: I’m delighted to see Trees made it through, and to see Oh William! there too (if surprised), while even more surprised by the lack of After Sappho (in particular) and Trust. I was aware The Colony had quite the buzz about it, and managed to squeeze it in just before the shortlist announcement. I’ll admit that certain aspects of it felt like a Booker book, but overall I’m content it didn’t get through. I’m rather pleased to find many books I’ve yet to read have made it through to the short-list, so onward! 😀

Although the prize-winner will have been announced by the time this post gets published, I will honestly tell you my choice for the prize, regardless of outcome. On then to reviewing the remaining candidates…

The Colony – Audrey Magee

Lloyd, an English painter, travels in some considerable level of comfort to a small island off the west coast of Ireland, determined to paint the cliffs ever since he read about them. His peace is disturbed by a Masson, a Frenchman studying language, who is fiercely protection of the purity of language and the life of the few inhabitants. Descriptions of daily life on the island are punctuated with short reports of the killings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Clearly a metaphor for colonialism, and how the Irish were (and a suggestion that they always will be) betrayed by the English.

My view: As another reviewer commented, there was a lot of mundane descriptions of tea and rabbit snaring, before we got to the heart of the matter. I found out it hadn’t made it through to the shortlist as I was reading, and had very mixed feelings about its winning credentials anyway.

Small Things Like These – Claire Keegan

Another Irish book, but with a totally different feel. Short in length, but long on restrained emotion. Bill – a hardworking family man – discovers one of what we now know as the Magdalene laundries in his town. The son of a woman whose employer supported her and provided them both with home, employment and education after she fell pregnant outside of marriage – Bill’s personal conflict is played out against a town allowing the Church to tell them how to live and who to judge.

My view: Simply beautiful. Moving without being maudlin. The perfect depiction of how the Church got away their behaviour until just a few decades ago. I would love to see this win, but I suspect – sadly – it will not.

Nightcrawling – Leila Mottley

Kiara – a 17 year-old black girl, living from hand-to-mouth, with her older brother Marcus who dreams of making it big as a rap artist. Meanwhile, Kiara gets her young neighbour to school, makes sure he’s cared for when his mother’s out of it or plain not there, and tries to get the rent paid. One night she drunkenly gets handsomely paid after having hasty sex outside a bar, which leads to a life she never wanted. Caught by the cops, she becomes yet one more young girl using her body to pay the bills, except the cops often don’t pay her. Then a cop kills himself, leaving behind a confession but, although it goes to grand jury, it never gets to trial.

My view: Based on a true story, this tale is both shocking and far too easy to believe. A powerful tale about living in poverty and the corruption of authority, told in an authentic first person voice. Well worthy of it’s place on the shortlist, but not the winner for me.

Treacle Walker – Alan Garner

Even shorter than Small Things Like These, this tale blends real life, folklore, the concept of time and comic books. Joe Coppock meets Treacle Walker, a rag and bone man, gets a magic cream for his lazy eye and starts to see things differently. The language throughout is unusual – suggestions I’ve read are that its colloquial and local to Cheshire where the author lives – but for me they were simply nonsense words which added nothing to the experience. Maybe if it had been longer, I’d have got my ear attuned….

My view: I’m afraid this one didn’t do it for me at all. I neither understood it, nor found it charming – simply odd and perplexing. I suspect knowing about folklore would help immeasurably in understanding, and in finding pleasure in it. That said, the judges valued enough to put it on the shortlist and it’s certainly unusual enough to be a winner – if not my choice for the prize.

Glory – NoViolet Bulawayo

A blend of Animal Farm and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe were my first thoughts. This is a tale of a nation who, having overthrown their colonial rulers, ended up with one of their own – a tyrant who fixed elections, and used extreme violence and brutality to remain in power. Finally he too is ousted, when his evident dementia emboldens his wife to make a play for power – and in this most patriarchal of continents, that cannot be tolerated. Except in the the age old way of Africa – it turns out to be same story, different cast.

My view: Although the language positively vibrated with authenticity, I really struggled reading this one. While the subject matter isn’t an easy one, it wasn’t that. Maybe it’s the Titanic effect – when you know it’s not going to end well, no matter how much you hope. And those of us who love Africa do always have hope. All that said, it didn’t feel it had that X-factor winning ingredient to me.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida – Shehan Karunatilaka

Imagine finding yourself in some sort of processing centre where they keep insisting that you’ve died, despite you having no memory whatsoever of your death. Sure, you’re a photographer who takes pictures of the conflict ravaging your country, and you have a secret stash of dynamite shots which no-one knows about, so there’s plenty of candidates for who might have done the deed. You also learn that you have to decide what to do next within 7 moons, or be left to wander forever as a ghost or ghoul or some other afterlife being. You’re determined to get that secret stash out in public, and to find out how your life ended. As all this is taking place in Sri Lanka during a particularly unlovely time in its history, you probably don’t expect to find humour – dark to be sure – but humour nevertheless.

My view: When I first opened it, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, so it ended up being the final book I read. But, on my second try, I was immediately engaged. I quickly found myself racing along with Maali, becoming involved, rooting for him and for Jaki (I always suspected that DD was too much a chip off the parental block). I felt it had decided winning potential, even though I didn’t get long to think about it, having finished it right up against the deadline of the winner being announced.

Maps of our Spectacular Bodies – Maddie Mortimer

When I say the previous book was the last one, I mean the last one I read before the prize winner was announced. Unfortunately, this long-lister didn’t make it through to the short-list, and I’m afraid I never made the time to read it.

I like the concept, so will probably get to read it sometime – especially as it’s already on my Kindle. But it remaining unread, means I did not complete my Readathon this year.


My favourite this year was Small Things like These; indeed it was the only book I gave the full 5-stars to. That said, there was a lot else going on in my world, which probably kept me from fully engaged. Or perhaps I’ve finally reached the end of my Booker love affair?

As to my choice for the prize – I felt torn between the eventual winner The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida and The Trees, although I suspected it might turn out to be Treacle Walker.

So there you have it. I don’t think I’ll do another one of these for a while – but never say never eh? 😉

© Debra Carey, 2022

#IWSG: NaNoWriMo – never saying never…

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. It’s an opportunity to talk about doubts and fears you have conquered. To discuss your struggles and triumphs and to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.


November 2 question – November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

Short answers – no, I’ve never participated – because there are too many other things competing for my time. I am well aware that people with the most demanding of schedules do manage to get NaNoWriMo done – and I take my hat off to them. As a life coach, I am also aware it’s about priorities, and I’ll admit that doing NaNoWriMo has not reached the top of my priority pile. Yet.

I am coming to like the idea, but believe I would need to take myself away for a month to avoid interruptions – both the well-meaning type and the ill-intentioned sort. As a recovering people pleaser, I’ve been working through the list of those things I want to do for myself, but that’s a long list – a really very long list… 😉

The awesome co-hosts for the November 2 posting of the IWSG are Diedre Knight, Douglas Thomas Greening, Nick Wilford, and Diane Burton! – do take a moment to visit them.


© Debra Carey, 2022

#IWSG: People…. people who need people

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. It’s an opportunity to talk about doubts and fears you have conquered. To discuss your struggles and triumphs and to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.


The awesome co-hosts this month are Tonja Drecker, Victoria Marie Lees, Mary Aalgaard, and Sandra Cox – do take a moment to visit them.

October 5 question – What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

The people – plain and simple. I don’t care what genre you write, if the people in the story are just ciphers, if they don’t have depth and nuance, it’ll be uninteresting…. to me.

Something I love to do is sit and people watch. I’m entirely happy being on the outer circle watching the goings on in the inner circle. I observe the body language, the words and tone of voice they use (whether by choice or due to emotion). I notice their interactions and whether they differ person-by-person.

When I’m in a conversation with someone, I pay attention not only to what they say, but what they’re not saying. What subjects they steer clear of, or when they change the subject abruptly. I notice when their laughter sounds forced, or if their smile doesn’t reach their eyes.

As a result, my preferred genre is fiction; indeed it would probably be categorised as women’s fiction, as it’s about real life and relationships. I can write in other genres, but this is what I love, so why would I choose to do otherwise without good reason?

So yeah, I’m the sort of people who needs people – how about you?


© Debra Carey, 2022

#SecondThoughts: What’s the best use of a writer’s time – a blog or Twitter?

The social media platform of choice for writerly me is Twitter. My co-host and writing partner here persuaded me some years back that it’s the best place to be because of the lively & supportive writing community. Nevertheless, my preference remained the writing of blog posts. I’d not given the subject much thought since, until I saw this question asked…

It clear that Twitter has a lively & supporting writing community but, because I don’t spend much (if any) time myself on Twitter, my own experience is not one of engagement. So much so, that when a writer responded on the subject of a recent blog post I’d auto-shared, I experienced quite the moment or two of total blankness before I made the connection, and could engage back in conversation.

This question made me give thought to my practice of using WordPress’s auto-post facility to link to Twitter. Silly really, for all I’m doing is shouting into a void unless I also take the time to engage with other Twitter users.

Worse, although I’ve been putting considerable time and effort into creating blog content, I’ve also committed the sin of not spending time building this blog’s audience by engaging with any degree of consistency with other writing or reading community bloggers either.

It’s all down to a lack of time. I’m no different to other writerly Twitter users or bloggers in that I have a “day job” (or in my case, two day jobs – one to pay the bills, the other a passion project in the building). There’s the usual personal stuff – my other half, my wonderful grown-up daughter and her two fabulous children, an elderly parent, siblings and friends, with the other big calls on my time and energy being photography and a prodigious reading habit. And with all that going on, what’s become clear is that the best use of this writer’s time is to be less scatter-gun in approach and to focus more on building connection.

As a result, my co-host and I decided earlier this year to slim back our output here to free up more time to engage. We no longer provide a monthly #FlashFiction prompt as, until we do more engaging and connection, they were largely going unseen, and we’ve gone from weekly posts on different themes selected from the categories of #SecondThoughts, #WritersResources, #ReadersResources, #IndieSpotlight and #ShortStory, to one monthly post on any one category.

In addition, each month I write a post as a member of the Insecure Writers Support Group. The first reason is that I find the optional questions a useful self-reflection exercise, and the second is the ready-made community of writers to engage with and learn from.

So, my answer to the question of whether the best use of this writer’s time is Twitter or to blog is that neither will work unless combined with time spent building connections – because ‘if you build it they will come’ only worked in Field of Dreams.

© Debra Carey, 2022

#SecondThoughts: Booker Prize Readathon 2022

From it’s conception in 1969, the Prize was awarded to books written in English and published in the United Kingdom & Ireland. But… only writers who were citizens of the British Commonwealth, Ireland, South Africa (and Zimbabwe was later added) were eligible to receive the Prize. This last fact was what drew me to the Booker, having been born and brought up in India and West Africa. Sadly, the original flavour of a Booker list changed in 2014 when they widened eligibility to any novel written in England, thereby including those written by US citizens (and others).

The aim of my Readathon has been to read all the longlisted books, completing them by the time the eventual winner is announced. In previous years, if I’d not read a book at the time the shortlist was announced and it wasn’t included, it didn’t get read. Last year, I managed to get to the shortlist’s announcement with only two being unread. As one was by an author I knew I would read regardless (and went on to become my personal winner), there was only one more book to read, which made it easy to achieve the clear sweep. Fortunately, it was a good read too 😉

I wasn’t sure until the last minute whether I was going to give it another go this year, as there’s a number of aspects involved in making the final decision:

  1. how much else is going on in my life?
  2. how much time can I find for reading?
  3. how many of the books are available at the time the longlist is announced?
  4. how many lengthy tomes are on the list?
  5. how reasonably priced are they on Amazon (I’m a Kindle reader)?
  1. The answer is lots… and yet, here I am, drawn inexorably to Bookers 😉
  2. I’m squeezing it in – in bits & pieces, here & there – and am surprising myself at my progress.
  3. All the books were available for download at the time of writing (early August).
  4. None over 500 pages long, one only 133 pages, another even shorter at 73 pages 🙂
  5. All have been generously discounted 😀

On then to my reviews…

Oh William – Elizabeth Strout

I’m one of the few people who preferred Lucy Barton to Olive Kitteridge, so this was getting read regardless of it’s appearance on the list. Lucy’s voice is strong throughout this tale of her post-divorce relationship with her first husband. Despite Lucy grieving the death of her second husband, everyone – including her – seem to feel a need to take care and/or and feel pity for William when he uncovers an old family secret and loses his second wife at the same time. Beautifully written and a sharply observed depiction of relationship dynamics.

My view: unlikely to be the winner, nor even make it to the shortlist, although – as ever – that’s dependant on the strength of the other candidates. But I liked it!

Trust – Hernan Diaz

An interesting read. The second section nearly lost me and, were it not on the longlist, I’d possibly have stopped reading. That said, I’m glad I ploughed on, as subsequent sections made completing the book entirely worthwhile. In essence, the tale of a successful & wealthy man who hires someone to write his memoirs in order to correct a salacious tale which everyone knows is based on him and his wife. He fusses about the incorrect depiction of his wife’s death – said to be following treatment for a mental illness, when it was in fact cancer. Except it turns out he’s hiding something else entirely.

My view: it’s clever, and the format could well appeal to the judges. It’s not getting five stars from me as that second section was unnecessarily turgid, and took from the overall book. Nevertheless, it has shortlist written all over it.

The Trees – Percival Everett

This was shaping up to be my first 5 star read, until it got all wish-fulfilment about an uprising in the Donald Trump era. A fascinating story of murder in a small town Mississippi, where an unpleasant racist is found brutally murdered with a body of a dead black man alongside him – a black man who bears a striking resemblance to Emmett Till. When the black man’s body disappears and then re-appears at the site of a second racist’s murder, the case is pushed on up the chain of command. A couple of special agents are despatched to investigate – and they, plus the FBI agent who’s later sent to investigate the rash of copy-cat murders which then follow – are all black. Oh & did I mention the humour… yes, despite the subject.

My view: This is a fascinating idea and the judges may not care as much I did about the closing chapters – I hope so. I’d be surprised not to see it on the shortlist.

Case Study – Graeme Macrae Burnet

Burnet has written a similar is-it-real-or-is-it-fiction book to his previous Booker contender. Collins Braithwaite – a trendy therapist with a highly inflated sense of self and a long-running feud with the well-known psychiatrist R D Laing, is at the centre of the tale of Veronica, who believes her sister (although not much loved by her) committed suicide after a number of sessions with the great man. Burnet weaves Veronica’s ‘found notebooks’ with his own notes on the great man’s back story – childhood, Oxford university, London, and final return to his childhood home in Darlington.

My view: As with Burnet’s previous work, this was intriguing and gripping in many ways and yet… for me, remained unsatisfactory. Will it make it onto the next stage? I’m unconvinced – much depends on the quality of the remaining candidates.

Booth – Karen Joy Fowler

I’ll be honest, I really didn’t like Fowler’s previously shortlisted work We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, so I approached this with trepidation. Without cause I have to admit, as I very much enjoyed this tale about the family of Abraham Lincoln’s killer. The family’s story is told via rotating POVs – John has 5 siblings who reach adulthood (and several who do not). His father is a famed Shakespearean actor, who deserted his first wife and son to run away to America with the beauty who became mother to John and the rest of the Booth clan. The family is filled with characters, quoting Shakespeare to one another in everyday speech. John is the family favourite and the only one who involves himself in politics, becoming an avid supporter of the South, despite not joining the fighting forces. He drops the name Booth in an attempt to be his own man in a career on the stage, his elder brother having followed his father there successfully – unfortunately those selling the tickets preferred to include it, which is how he came to be known as John Wilkes Booth – with his fame outstripping them all.

My view: I’m conflicted. This is a really good read, but I’m uncertain of its prize winning potential. It’s certainly a great story and a most entertaining piece of historical writing to boot. I’d like to think it would – at the very least – make the shortlist.

After Sappho – Selby Wynn Schwartz

How to describe this? Snippets of tales, some from well-known women such as Virginia Wolfe, Vita Sackville-West, Isadora Duncan and Sarah Bernhardt – others from people I’d never previously encountered such as Lina Poletti and Natalie Barney. The tales they tell are that of woman’s struggle to be more than a possession passed from father to husband, the struggle for freedom to think and express their thoughts and desires as men do, the fight for the right to their independence in law. At first confusing and fragmented, bit by bit this builds into something powerful and disturbing, reminding us just how much there is to be lost in the current backlash against women’s rights.

My view: I struggled with this at first, wondering when the coherent narrative would appear. That never happened, but it mattered not – for I came to appreciate the value of its form. A shortlist shoe-in, with strong winning potential – in my opinion.

Do join me on October 2nd, when I wrap up my #SecondThoughts on attempting the Booker Prize Readathon, with my reviews on the remaining candidates, and who I think will be a winner in 2022.

Have you read any of the candidates? Do you think any of them is a potential winner?


© Debra Carey, 2022

#Writers Resources: A pondering on polders, or Location, Location, Location…

Back in 2016, I was lucky enough to be involved with a book sprint – the goal being to write a book in a weekend.  There were a dozen or so of us, gathered together in a computer suite at the University of Salford, a fringe event at a Science Festival.  It was great fun, and I would absolutely do it again, given the opportunity.  Not only was it a nice chunk of time to concentrate on writing, but there were some great conversations, one of which sort of has relevance to today’s post.  The thrust of the conversation was that scientists like lists, especially if we can produce some sort of graph to go with it…

Before we get to the list, I should probably explain what a polder is.  No, it’s not a pebble sized boulder.  A polder, by dictionary definition, is a low lying tract of land that has been reclaimed from the water – it’s perhaps unsurprising that the word polder is derived from the Dutch. But in literary terms, especially, but not exclusively, fantasy fiction, a polder represents a bordered piece of land which in some way exists apart. It has some of the characteristics of a Potterverse building that cannot be seen by muggles, or those who are not privy to the secret. Of itself, it is not a portal to somewhere else, but it may well protect a portal, or a portal may be required to reach it. A lot of polders are gardens, such as Tom Bombadil’s in the Lord of the Rings (but it is worth noting that Rivendell is not – a discussion for another day, perhaps). A polder could be a single room in a house or, as mentioned, a garden, or it could be a whole building, or a forest, a whole world, or a pocket dimension. The defining characteristic of a polder is that it is unchanging, except if it comes under attack from without… The creation of polders can be attributed, or not: for example in Good Omens, the Just William-esque juvenile lead creates a polder over a good chunk of the countryside. The angel Aziraphale (technically a Principality, “but people made jokes about that these days”) notes that “someone really loves this place”. Sometimes, a polder just is, such as Avalon.

One of the reasons that I like SF&F is that generally speaking it gives me license to make up the setting.  This can add some complexity to the world building (which can be both good and bad) but gives us the opportunity to create the landscape we want/need for the story.  The geography or, as it were, the ‘set’ for the story can give us an insight into the characters (221B Baker Street, for example) or can almost represent a character in its own right (Castle Gormenghast, perhaps, or the London of J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World). 

Which brings us to the list…when it comes to writing, I think there are five kinds of setting, whether macro or micro, that we can think of:

  1. A real place.  I really struggle with this, because I worry that the locals are going to take offence, especially if you mention someone living at a particular, real address, or that there is going to be some kind of mistake, such as describing a character driving the wrong way down a one-way road.  This is perhaps less of an issue with an historical setting.
  2. A deliberate reimagining of a real landscape (see e.g. Carola Dunn’s Cornish Mysteries series, with an upfront statement that the stories, set in the 1970s, are set in a Cornwall remembered from youth, and adjusted to fit the narrative).
  3. A polder – a wrinkle in the landscape holding an entire setting for a story.  The Rotherweird Series, by Andrew Caldecott, incorporates almost a small county in such a wrinkle; a non-fantasy version arises in Simon Brett’s Feathering detective series – named for the village which sits in a polder on the South Coast of England just down (or perhaps up) the road from the very real Tarring.
  4. A real place, but a universe or two over. Arguably this describes any fictional setting, but this is perhaps a distinguishing feature of speculative fiction in general if not science fiction and fantasy specifically, and there are books such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” which are incredibly feasible, but aren’t our timeline.
  5. A completely made up setting. This could be another planet, or a country wedged into a familiar geography, such as with the Ruritanian Romances (exemplified by “The Prisoner of Zenda”). You might suggest that there is little difference between Ruritania and Fethering, at least in ‘a wedged into the local geography’ sense, and you may even be right.

So where does this get us? At the very least, it gives us an opportunity to order our thoughts, and that is never to be sneezed at. I think there are at least two other benefits though. Firstly, looking back over what other people have done, it gives us permission to play with the landscape as we wish to tell the story that we want to tell. If our story is contemporary then we may want to give the reader fair warning that we have made up the locale, or that we have taken liberties and that the setting is not to be found on an A-Z or OS map; sometimes this is even built into the story, and you can include the geography in the ‘names have been changed to protect the guilty’ rubric at the beginning of the book. Secondly, it gives us an opportunity to make a decision, and to act accordingly. Is the setting as much of a character as any of the protagonists? Do we need to develop the landscape and give it an arc, or will a simple pen-sketch suffice to get the message across? This my be an ongoing decision, depending upon where the story takes us, and of course not all stories take place in a single setting. The Brownstone of Nero Wolfe, 221b Baker Street, Castle Gormenghast – all these are integral to the story, in some cases an extension of the main character themselves. Other locations are less important – a meeting in diner, or a library, or a mad dash through a train station, probably don’t need a high level of detail.

Not everywhere needs to be a polder, mystical or otherwise, but they can be helpful, and aren’t restricted to Fantasy or Science Fiction genres.

So, do you have a favorite polder? Are there times when you’ve been frustrated when a writer got the the geography ‘wrong’? Who gets the evocation of the setting perfect every time?

Not a big thing, but a million little things

Jaime Dill, who I worked with on my submission to Byline Legacies, has recently launched Full Mood Magazine, and the first call was Modern Epistolary:

We give little textboxes permission to hook our hearts and freedom to dictate our physical reality. We differentiate between what’s online and what’s “real life,” but are they really so separable? I want to see where the worlds blend. Give me your awkward work emails, your scandalous DMs, your wildest “new number, who dis?” I want to see the conversations that shake up the day, the past, and everything that’s coming next. Unlock the password and let me snoop around in the secrets on screen.

Jaime Dill, EIC Full Mood Magazine

The timing wasn’t great, but when is it? So I bashed this out in the last few hours before the submission window closed. Jaime was kind enough to say she liked it, but as it didn’t quite fit with the Mood she was aiming for, she passed. Which is why I thought I’d share it with you today. It’s a bit of an experiment…


Hey Bets, soz – I know it’s been a while. Been so busy with the village’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and Mum and Dad’s Golden Wedding, I really haven’t had a moment to call my own.  You ok?

Hey Roz! Beginning to think I’d said something wrong! Yeah, all good, ta.  How’d the wedding stuff go?  M&D alright? Did they enjoy themselves?

Yeah, they had a grate time.  The rest of us…not so much…

*great

Oh dear…do tell 🙂

Climbing a mountain with a gaggle of children I do not recommend. 

A mountain???

Dad proposed to Mum at the top of Helvellyn & they set their heart on renewing their vows on the exact same spot.  Madness! Neither as young as they think they are, but to be fair pretty spry and probably did the best out of all of us in the event.

They always seem so full of life, and they’re both out in the garden or on the allotment.  The rest of you…I can see how it might have been a challenge!

Ha ha I don’t think.  I might not run half-marathons but I’m fit enough thank you very much.  Mind you, Vi’s Keith seems to get bigger every time I see him – he had little beads of sweat all over his scalp just crossing the car park to the footpath.

*Snerk*

And then there were bacon sarnies for brekkie before we set off, brought to the car park by a local café that M&D like.  I might have felt a bit queasy halfway up, but Daisy looked properly green and Fizz actually puked.

Priceless!  I bet that went down well – did she have designer gear?

You know it!  Rubbed her feet raw with brand new boots that were expensively ill-fitting.

Self-inflicted – did she mange to avoid getting puke on her Armani walking outfit?

Let’s just say she’s not going to be able to exchange them.

Did you have a good day though?

Yeah – kids were a bit fractious about putting sunblock on, but they did well, and you should have seen M&D making their vows.  Can only hope that me and Bob are that in love when we get that far.

Too right!  We should get a coffee soon and you can give me the rest of the goss 🙂  Did you get some pics?  Would be good to see them 🙂

Sounds good – might leave the one of Daisy mid-spew tho 🙂


© 2022, David Jesson

#IWSG: It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. It’s an opportunity to talk about doubts and fears you have conquered. To discuss your struggles and triumphs and to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.


The awesome co-hosts for the August 3 posting of the IWSG are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery – do take a moment to visit them.

August 3 question – When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

Neither. I can’t say I give either of these options much thought. For now, the stories I write are the ones which are in me, the ones which want to come out when I sit down at the keyboard to type, the ones where inspiration has struck, the ones I dream or daydream about.

That said, I’ve yet to make any attempts to query or get published, so… maybe best you don’t do as I do 😉

You’ll not be surprised to hear that I’m an out-and-out pantser and, while I’m learning how to incorporate planning in small ways into my process, the seed of my story has to do some growing first before I apply the rigours of planning to it.

Whether that story is an original one or what readers want will be pure chance, for I don’t think I could write to order. I imagine James Patterson won’t be recruiting me to his cadre of writers any time soon – and I’m as OK with that as he’d be 😀

I stress that I’m in no way suggesting my way is better or more pure of motive than any other – it’s just who I am, right now. The primary reason I write is pleasure – my pleasure. The way I feel at the moment is that, if it never goes any further than that, I’d be entirely content. As my writing party is my pleasure, if the outcome of my choice were to make me cry – so be it 🙂

I’m looking forward to finding out what balance you choose to strike in your writing, and whether it changed the further along the road you were with your writing?


© Debra Carey, 2022