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The Importance of Setting by Maressa Mortimer

It is my great pleasure to welcome the talented Dutdh author, Maressa Mortimer, to the blog today to share her thoughts on the importance of setting in books. Thank you for your time today. Maressa.

Thank you for inviting me to you blog today. One of the things I love about books is their setting. For me, when I’m writing, I need to picture the surroundings. My first book was set in Crete, around a beautiful little beach we went to when staying in Crete. I changed the resort a little, but it was such a joy to think about warm, sunny beaches and baklava when writing in November!

When I worked on my next few books, I decided to use worldbuilding, as in, starting my own places, built from scratch. This is so much fun, as you can add whatever you would like to your world. For my latest novel, Burrowed, I used a small island called Ximiu. I pictured it as a smallish island, somewhere cooler, like outside Scotland. It needed a cooler climate, and a varied landscape as well as underground caves. There should be space for the people to grow vegetables collectively, but not too much space.

Ximiu was a lovely place to live, I felt, with lovely beaches, some woodland, mountain-like areas and lovely roads connecting the villages. I used the distances on the Island of Man to measure around the island, although I changed it a little. To visualise the teenagers travelling between places, I needed physical distances. It was fun working out the time it would take a young person on a bike, as well as travelling with newborn babies in a handcart on foot. I found myself adjusting the story a few times, as the timings wouldn’t work, and I didn’t want the wrong people to get blown up...

As the island changed, the setting changed and became less inviting. I dislike cycling on rough roads, and with the smooth asphalt gone, cycling to places no longer felt relaxing. Life became all about survival and work for the people, as well as the frightening mystery that seemed to grow alongside the scattered seeds. The teenagers look at the landscape differently as well, as everything becomes about growing food as well as needing to find out where the hidden people live.

Then there is the mysterious Mainland, where Jasira’s friend has moved to with the other islanders before the story starts. The Mainland feels bigger and better, but is it? In a sequel, I would like to touch on that, for what if it isn’t better at all, but people are too proud to admit that? Jasira and her friends love their island, even with the changes, but change is always hard, and I felt their sadness at seeing the island change.

Working with an app, I managed to find an island shape I liked, so I printed off a few copies and used them to scribble distances, names and details all over the paper. This helped, as it gave me a quick visual when writing. I am no good at drawing, but I can imagine how much fun it would be to draw your own maps and add mountains and forests to the place you have in mind. Plotting stories is fun too, as you get to think about the setting and where the story will take you. It is one of the reasons why I like writing, as it takes you places without needing a babysitter!

The Author

I grew up in the Netherlands, and moved to England soon after finishing my teaching training college. Married to Pastor Richard Mortimer we live in a Cotswold village with our four children. I'm a homeschool mum, enjoying the time spent with the family, travelling, reading and turning life into stories. I want to use my stories to show practical Christian living in a fallen world.

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