Setting and the Tax Man

2009-08-23aI’m constantly amazed at how vividly a place can influence my writing. Its feel, its smell, the lay of the land, the palette of the landscape, the way the wind feels when it pulls at your hair. Every place is unique, which is why setting is so important in books. Setting gives us an immediate insight into the mood of a novel. A strong and tangible sense of what kind of story you’re entering and the characters you might encounter.

2009-08-23bI got to thinking about this recently while on holiday in New Zealand. Driving through the patchwork hills, in a climate so different to our own, the feel of the place vividly conjured the setting and characters from a story of mine. While walking along a river, the characters began to interact in my mind again, commenting on the terrain and noticing things I had not. I had a similar experience last year while in England, and on both trips kept a diary of these observations.

2009-08-23cIn the final two drafts of the junior fantasy novel I worked on during my ASA mentorship, these diaries became invaluable. When first writing this story, I chose a slightly more European setting due to a need for a land with clear seasonal change – harsh winters and long dry summers – a climate as hard as the tribes that drive the plot. In early drafts I focussed more on the characters and their story, but in later drafts I had to work to clarify the setting.

Yet the setting only became vivid and real once I had walked the land of my story. Once I had lived the winter that left only the hardiest plants alive, kicked my feet through muddied puddles of leaves, walked under clouds of ash and ice and marveled at skeletal trees greeting the morning sun.

Do you think Mr Tax Man will scoff when I insist that my ski trip to New Zealand was driven by a need to become intimate with the landscape of my story? And is it shallow to set my next story on an island due to a desire for sand and sun? Caribbean, here I come…


5 Responses to “Setting and the Tax Man”

  1. 1 Lynn Priestley August 23, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    It’s always so good to step out of routine and see the world anew. I love it – it gets my creativity all fired up. Collecting memories of your surrounds is a great idea. And marrying the two even better. And if the Caribbean isn’t suitable for that next story then I’m sure the Maldives would be more than acceptable. Just send the tax man a postcard.

  2. 2 Sheryl Gwyther August 24, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Or even a small island on the Great Barrier Reef might suffice??
    Love your piccies of NZ – wonderful place, evocative in every sense.
    S :)

  3. 3 Kathleen Noud August 24, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    New Zealand is beautiful. I often think about taking myself on a writer’s retreat to Queenstown for that very reason.

    I have a vague idea that you can run your writing business (classes, research trips etc) at a loss through your tax returns. It doesn’t have any effect until you’re earning decent money from you’re writing but it is worth looking into. If you can get into a tax seminar with Brian Tucker, he’ll be able to give you some direction.

  4. 4 Katherine Battersby August 25, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks for the seminar heads-up, Kathleen – I’ll keep an eye out for him

  5. 5 Karen Tyrrell August 25, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Love the way you paint your settings with a vivid stroke of the Artiste Brush, the camera lens or with your own words.

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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