Creating a setting for your story

Author Susan Moore (Crimson Poison, Emerald Secret published by Nosy Crow) has developed rich settings for her stories - a futuristic but recognisable world - and here she gives her top tips on creating your own settings for stories.

You can also read an interview with Susan Moore via the link, below.

Susan Moore writes: 'For Nat Walker's second adventure in 'Emerald Secret' I wanted her to explore a future London where the ancient and modern are blended into a rich, vibrant palette that excites and expands the reader's imagination. Using the backdrop of one of the greatest cities in the world, the place Nat's father was from, provided a fantastic opportunity to showcase an optimistic, creative future for a major urban environment... one where technology helps improve the lives of its inhabitants.

I loved writing the opening chapter where Nat has sailed her home, 'The Junko', across the seas from Hong Kong, and up the Thames to drop anchor in St Katharine Docks. This water route is the way that so many people have entered London over the centuries, since its Roman origins as a river settlement. Nat's first experience of the city is seeing Tower Bridge up close from the water, before being swallowed through the lock into urban living at the dock.

Nat finds London stylistically very different from Hong Kong. Here, the rich have embraced bygone Victorian days, choosing to wear top hats and tails, long, fitted dresses and jackets. They ride in carriages pulled by live horses, or on Penny Farthings, and have old-fashioned lemonade parlours and tea rooms. I was inspired by the neo-Victorian enclave, which Neal Stephenson so brilliantly depicted in his novel 'The Diamond Age'. The poorer inhabitants dress in the latest high-street fashion like Nat - streamlined, comfortable 'Smart' tops and trousers wired with nanotechnology that can play movies, light up, communicate, and Bounding Boots with spring heels.

Low-slung, hydrogen-powered Grooveriders and super-sized Overriders occupy the roads, alongside chip-fat fueled delivery trucks, horse and carriages. Bicycle lanes have been replaced by Slider lanes, where skateboard-shaped, electrically-powered, hover board Sliders swiftly transport anyone from the age of ten and up through a latticed network of city thoroughfares.

In Nat's world there are companion robots, like her dragon Fizz, who her father invented and activated when she was born. These robots range from bespoke and unique like Fizz, or Zixin's chain-linked snake Vesperetta, to the mass-produced 'Super, Fresh and Furry' Soyto range. Squirrels, badgers, swans, bears, bees and any other creature imaginable accompany their owners wherever they go.

Some of the high-end ones, like the villainous Ivy Shiversand's cockroach-shaped Beetlebots, can fly, although they need a robot license to do so on the Thames, and in central city zones.

Fizz, since his Crimson Poison upgrade, is trying to learn emotions, searching through software to fit in, echoing Nat's anxieties about her new life in a foreign land:

'Her dragon robot lowered his snout and swept a green-scaled wing across his chest, taking a deep bow.
"Forgive me, my lady. I'd perchance set myself to be too sensitive in my effort to valiantly protect thee," he said, his voice low, in an accent that was a million miles away from his normal, digital one.
"Why on earth are you talking like that?"
He raised his head.
"An ad came up last night in my BotBox for a 'free British accent and mannerisms download' for foreign robots. 'Give yourself a classy edge and act like a local in London'."
Nat sighed.
"You don't like it?" asked Fizz.
"Just stay the ku dragon that you are. There are enough crazy changes happening right now."
"I just want to fit in."
She did too, more than anything to blend in, not to be noticed.

Excerpt Emerald Secret: Chapter One LONDON

In this futurescape Nat has to attend her dad's old school 'Boxbury', located in Soho Square. London has countless wonderful locations to use in story. They add personality of their own, and I wanted to evoke the fast-paced, creative edginess of Soho. Headmaster Alger Limpet and his pig robot run a traditional establishment layered with future technology, like the holographic charts, favoured by Nat's teacher, Mrs. Trogalming.

Nat's perilous adventures take her to Bean Invaders cafe in Leadenhall Market, below which, by way of a fridge door, she enters a secret, underground lab, where another world awaits. This one is virtual, and contains a high-stakes quest.

This multi-layered vision of London will inspire children to expand their imaginations in a fun way, encouraging them to think 'out of the box', to become the inventors of a richer future world where technology works in harmony with humankind. As Albert Einstein so rightly said, 'Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand while imagination embraces the whole world'.'

20/04/2017Creating a setting for your story
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