Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.
In the interests of uncloaking the airy-fairy business of novel-writing, I’ll be straight with you.
When I produced the first draft of my debut novel (Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner to be published later this year through Avon Books UK) I didn’t get the setting thing quite right. Admitting this publicly is pretty daunting. I’d much rather you thought of me as some kind of naturally-gifted genius for whom the correct words flow from the pen with minimal effort.
But, who am I kidding?
Writing my first novel was hard graft, and as it was my first time there were aspects aplenty I didn’t know how to work to my advantage. One such element was setting. My story takes place in Manhattan (because I’m in love with the place) but actually the season I’d chosen (Spring) and the year (2015) weren’t a fit for those characters and their story. I felt it, and my proof readers did too. After several (best not to count how many) drafts, I rewrote it to reflect life in August of 1990. It was an unusually hot summer even for New York and, probably by no coincidence, the city murder-rate peaked that year.
These two factors alone added depth to my narrative. My protagonist, a diner waitress called Esther, now struggles with the merciless, mid-summer heat alonside the many secrets she’s hiding. Moreover, that hard fact about the murder-rate, among other things, echoes the dangers faced by Esther and her unlikely suitor: an actor called Jack. Both of whom are forced to confront their dark relationship histories.
Based on my experiences of writing my first novel, I’ve come up with 27 questions (because, er, a round number would have felt too cliche?) it’s useful to consider when creating the backdrop to a story. It’s by no means an exhaustive list but it might prove useful for those hoping to enrich that specific element of their story-telling. If you can think of any other questions, as always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
Some part of me clearly misses the worksheet-making aspect of being an English teacher so for those who’d prefer a version they can easily print, do click here. Otherwise, you can read the list below.
SETTING YOUR NOVEL: 27 QUESTIONS TO ASK
(If you’re writing a fantasy story this part will involve delving into the geography of your world).
(If you’re writing a fantasy story this part will involve delving into the history of your world).