Wednesday, January 26, 2011


This week I was thinking about Castle  . . .
No, not this Castle,

But THESE castles.

I was trying to remember a few scene's from some middle grade books that I read.

As I thought on the village and castle scenes I realized that I was confusing several books into one.

And then it hit me: When I read a book that has castles and villages in them, I always picture the same village and castle.  The one I've dreamed of since I was 5.

So now, I can't remember which story I am trying to recall.  They've all become jumbled.

How do we make a fresh castle?  How do we help our readers create a unique setting for our story?

You say forest and everyone will come up with their own image.  Arizona forests are very different from Seattle forests.  Heck, the forests twenty miles apart in the Northwest are different.

We can't control what images our readers create, but we can create something different.  We can create a "feel" for our setting, so even though it happens in the same castle as every other book our reader has read, there is something unique and something of a flavor that makes it memorable for them. 

And who doesn't want to be remembered?


  1. I think it's good to avoid the cliches. It's easy to picture the same castle in every book, when it's described like the same castle. Trying to think of a fresh way to describe something is part of the writing fun.

  2. So true! And when I saw the title of your post I was TOTALLY thinking of the SHOW "Castle"! (How did you like the last episode)?

    This is one reason I like writing group. I feel like we help each other find the best aspects of our stories to describe. :)

  3. Castles are just like houses: think of how you would describe houses differently. What innovations (mechanically or architecturally) does your castle have? What kind of decor: next best thing to a dungeon or elaborate Versailles-like finery? What kind of heraldry do you find? Banners? Moats? Barricades? The defenses of the castle depend on whether it was built in relative peace and prosperity or during times of war. Think of vulnerabilities in the castle that could be used for plot elements. Is the water source for the castle easily poisoned? Tunnels? Sortie gates? Sewer/aqueduct system?

    I'd check out some different castles and fortresses for inspiration. Something you don't see as much are the Islamic/Saharan/Cordoban/Moroccan architecture styles for fortress/castles, which could be very fresh. A lot of people discount the golden age of Islamic art as a good source for castle and architecture art.

    All this talk makes me want to go visit the castle nearest to me . . .

  4. Description is not my strong point. I think you nailed it as far as the key being making something familiar enough the reader connects to it, yet different enough that it holds their interest.

  5. So true. I was thinking of the Show Castle too. LOVED IT. I mean probably my favorite episode EVER!! Can't believe we haven't talked about this yet, Lene.

    DJ, Kirk gave some great advice about description. Sometimes I think the the readers imagination is our best friend because when we see the castle on the hill and it isn't a main structure of the story we can just call it a castle and they will all know exactly what it looks like in their own minds. Making a new setting for a castle is difficult. You can do it though. We'd help ya.

    Now I feel like writing about a Moroccan Prince in a gilded turnip towered palace. Wonder where that came from...

  6. Sorry for the confusion. I am not writing about a castle. I was trying to differentiate between Jessica Day George and Shannon Hale books and realized that I pictured the same villiage and castle in all the different books. :)