I just finished a book, set in 1757 which dealt with English and French spies...a bit of conflict...bit of romance...bit of revenge. And honestly if it hadn't had the date printed on that first chapter I would not have known where or when it was set.

No one dressed in a particular way, no one appeared to eat (except for some broth when one character was ill)...they did drink ale and brandy though. And I craved some details. Not minute over-the-top details, but give me something to set the scene!

My lovely daughter and I recently had a great day out in Melbourne. We wandered a few markets then lunched at Hopetoun tea rooms...where even the queuing to get inside is part of the atmosphere.

Where every detail, from flowers on the table to the mouth watering array of cakes, is all set to tempt.

I mean who can resist?

We then wandered for cocktails at Madame Brussels .  Even though it was winter, the sun shone and it was lovely to sit out on the deck and have a drink.

Then it was time for My Fair Lady at the Regent Theatre. 

A great show with some amazing costumes. And how gorgeous is the theatre?

You can't help but look up to admire it.

Nothing you write has to as elaborate or detailed as a theatre...or as a production.

 But you have to lead the reader somewhere. If you deliberately set the story in the past, make sure it is in the past. Give us some of the foods and drink, the clothing, the furniture, the smells and tastes, the sounds. Don't think it is enough to have a date at the beginning of your novel and that is that, time set.

I can understand people that believe that their stories are character driven, but your characters are not living in a bubble. They associate with others. During this time there was obviously no running water but it was never mentioned, there were a few servants sprinkled about, but surely the women were helped to dress (how else did they get into some of those starched and boned wonders?).

When I finished the story I felt an emptiness. Not because I wanted the characters to go on ( I really didn't care for them either way) BUT because they had spent all 500 plus pages living in some sort of glass bubble.  I wanted to feel the cold, the soot, the dirt, the wind, the hunger, the softness of silk or velvet. Wanted to hear the tick of clocks in empty rooms, the shuffle of servants feet, the drum of horses hooves.

I find it interesting when I look back, on how many books lack a lot of these senses. We have characters that dwell in the ether. No contact with the earth at all.

For me, it's not enough. I want more, expect more.



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