Shauna Bickley

Setting the Scene

Posted on Tuesday 16th February 2016 by Shauna Bickley

The setting of some books is determined by the events that happen while others are determined by the personalities and traits of the characters. For example, Lives Interrupted is about a number of characters who are impacted by the London bombings so the setting was a foregone conclusion. In Lies of the Dead the main characters were born and grew up in a small village and it seemed right to place that book in Cornwall as it’s a place I am familiar with and love. I could have set it in any village in England, but once I’d decided on Cornwall that setting became an important element of the story and the growth of the characters—Tom still living there while Andi and Liam had looked for escape.

Other books are less dependent on their setting. When I was planning Writing the Stars and developing the character of Anna King, I spent some time deciding where to set the story. It isn’t really dependent on any particular location other than it needed to be a city or large town. I could have placed the characters in London or any other English city, and I considered Sydney, Australia which is one of my favourite cities. But after a little thought, I decided to set it here in Auckland. Once I began writing, I found characteristics in Anna that favoured this setting, and as I got to know her better I discovered she came from a small coastal community and had moved to the city with her good friend Corinne. Learning more about the characters is one of the things I love about writing.

One of the fun things was selecting settings for different scenes—central shopping malls, cafes and restaurants, coastal beaches, suburbs and local beauty spots. One Tree Hill was a scene location I selected almost at random and when I wrote that scene I didn’t realise how important it was going to be. The particular scene involves the observatory and as One Tree Hill is part of the same area it seemed reasonable to write about that.

My writing process tends to involve outlining the first half or so of the book and then taking it from there. I knew the ending but not the journey and One Tree Hill became the location for several important scenes in the book. It’s a lovely spot and I enjoyed a day visiting there a few months ago just to make sure my memories and descriptions did it justice.

You can see pictures and photos of scenes in the book on my Pinterest board.

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