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Melanie Milburne: Finding the perfect setting for a story.
When I am in the planning stage of writing a novel I think mostly about the characters. The setting is something that comes a bit later. But how important is the setting in the course of the story?
I thought I might share with you how I came to write my Sabbatini Brothers Trilogy. It actually started with a deserted villa in the Italian lakeside village of Stresa. Yes, three books popped into my head just by looking at a villa. Ha ha! I wish!
I was in Italy with my husband and two sons. We were staying in Milan and my husband and son number two were at the Grand Prix test days at Monza, so son number one and I decided to go exploring for the day. We hopped on a train and ended up in Stresa which is a lovely rather quaint village on the shores of the magnificent Lake Maggiore. We had the most amazing time wandering around, having coffee and a croissant at a really old café overlooking the lake.
Then we caught a ferry to each of the three islands: Isola Madre and Isola De Pescatori and my favourite Isola Bella. The gardens were just amazing. I could have stayed there all day listening to the birds and wandering around smelling the roses. There was a grotto and fountains and art works that were priceless.
What a fabulous source of inspiration!
But on the way back to the train we wandered past an old villa that was abandoned. My writer’s cap went on and I started to wonder why it was empty, and who owned it. That’s how I came up with the Sabbatini villa in Bellagio where Giorgio, Luca and Nic lost their baby sister in infancy. So much sadness seemed to be pouring from the villa I walked past. The empty windows were like sad eyes.
Although I didn’t use Stresa as my setting in The Unclaimed Baby, One Last Night or The Wedding Charade, I found myself using it imaginatively. I used Bellagio as the villa setting as that seemed more appropriate for the wealth and standing of the Sabbatini family.
But back to my question: how important is the setting to the story?Personally, I prefer to keep the setting in the background. I figure if readers want a Lonely Planet guide they’ll go and read one. It’s the characters the readers want to learn about, not how many steps lead to the fountain on Isola Bella.
What do you think? Do you love detailed descriptions of exotic locations or do you just like a brushstroke of information to give you a sense of time and place?
I will give away a copy of The Unclaimed Baby to one of the commenters so please share your thoughts!
***Jo's Daughter is the winner for a copy of The Unclaimed Baby! Congratulations, Jo's Daughter! Please email email@example.com with your full name and mailing address. Thanks to everyone else who left a comment!***