Settings – Real and Fabricated by Lucy Felthouse

As most of you know, up until recently I’d only had short stories published. And short stories, due to their very nature mean that you don’t always have much word count to elaborate on settings for the action. A very short story, for example, could just take place in a bedroom (though when I think about how many of my characters actually get it on in a bedroom, the ratio is pretty low!), which could be anyone’s bedroom, anywhere.

Despite this, I do have some real settings in my books. They may not always be named, or places that people will recognise, but they’re there. So I’ve picked out a few of my published pieces and dished the dirt on location, location, location. Click the book titles if you want to know more about them, or even better, buy them! ;)

Off the ShelfOff the Shelf

This is my first novella, so naturally I had much more word count to play with, and therefore more room to elaborate on locations. These include an airport, a luxury hotel, the Portuguese countryside, a castle, a restaurant, and one of the lead characters’ houses.

The airport is based on a real airport, but it’s not named or described in such great detail that you’d know it was that particular airport—it could be any UK airport with a bookshop and a cafe. Which is all of them, I suspect. However, I had a very real picture of it in my mind as I was writing.

The Portuguese countryside is something I’ve explored a little myself, so although the setting isn’t exactly real, and again, there are no place names involved, it is drawn from my own experiences.

The restaurant, again not named, is a real place, but I’ve never been inside! So I could be all wrong in my descriptions, but you’ll never know because I haven’t said where it is! *evil laugh*

The luxury hotel, castle and character’s house are all completely fabricated.

Overall, I’ve used a mixture of real and fabricated settings, but the story is much more focussed on the characters and plot anyway, so the descriptions aren’t that in depth. But I have to say, I did find it easier to write a longer piece with a mental picture of the places in my mind, knowing I could add in relevant information here and there.

Off the Beaten TrackOff the Beaten Track

This is a short story with a lot of real setting wound in. It’s not related to the above novella, it’s just coincidence that action in both takes place in the Portuguese countryside. The places in this story, however, are completely drawn from memory. Admittedly, it’s around six years since I went on a jeep safari in Portugal, so my memory is probably quite hazy, but there are no names included, so it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, the totally hot tour guide and scorching sex are completely made up.

Love Through TimeLove Through Time

The setting in this paranormal erotic romance is a country house. It’s not quite a real country house, but more an amalgamation of several I’ve been to. The majority of the action takes place in a library, and it’s a very real library in a very real house—so all that was drawn from memory of a recent visit, and I made no changes to the setting, except for some embellishments that were necessary for the story. It’s likely people would recognise this place if they visited it, having read my story.

Weekend At Wilderhope ManorWeekend at Wilderhope Manor

As above, this lesbian paranormal erotica is set in an amalgamation of country houses, though the library is the same (what can I say, the actual library is just so stunning it’s hard not to write about it!). The house name is real (though that wasn’t intentional, I only realised after it was published-oops!), the description of the outside is real, and the action that takes place in the garden is pulled from several beautiful British gardens I’ve been to. The image of the house is on the book cover, so people would probably recognise it—and indeed, it’s totally worth a visit and is one of my favourite mansions.

Bite With HeightBite with Height

All of this book is set in real places—with embellishments where necessary. The action takes place in Paris, and includes a branch of Starbucks, the Pigalle area, a bar in Montmartre and the Sacre-Coeur. The Sacre-Coeur itself is where a lot of the story takes place, and where the description is richest—everything here is totally based on what I remember from my visits, with one small exception. One of the main characters—a vampire—lives in the basilica in a room she’s furnished. I know there are rooms up there, but they’re not accessible to the public and I have no idea if living in one would be possible, but I’m allowed a little artistic licence, right? If you’ve been to this area of Paris, you would recognise all of the settings, except perhaps the bar, which isn’t described and the location is vague enough that you probably wouldn’t be able to pinpoint it.

Seducing the MythSeducing the Myth

And finally, my story, Down by the Pool, which is in this anthology, is set in a real place and based on a real legend. A mermaid legend about a pond high up on the Peak District moors. Totally bonkers, of course, since the Peak District is completely landlocked, so how would a mermaid get there? Anyway, Blake Mere—or the Mermaid Pool, as it’s also known—is 100% real, as is the area surrounding it, which is also described. If you visited, you’d definitely recognise it, and would hopefully get the hairs standing up on the back of your neck, as I did when I was writing the story. It’s a pretty eerie, strange place, and you’d probably be slightly creeped out, even if you didn’t read the story. But if you’re ever in the area, you should definitely check out the story first and find out more about the legend of the mermaid and her victims…

The Spanish StepsI think the longer I’ve been writing, the more I’ve been inspired by locations and that’s why increasingly I’m writing about real places. Some pieces I have out on submission, or are awaiting publication have settings including; Harrods, Borough Market, The Monument, Southwark Cathedral, Waterstones Piccadilly, The Ritz and Soho, all in London (not all the same story though!). I’ve also penned in locations including; Hunstanton, a seaside town in Norfolk, UK, and the Spanish Steps and surrounding area in Rome. I also have more stories planned with very real locations—so I’m definitely making the most of my travel bug!

I’ll stop waffling now, anyway. But I’d love to know if anyone reads anything of mine and visits the relevant area, or feels they can tell somewhere is a real place based on my descriptions. I’m intrigued to know the answers!

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

3 Responses to Settings – Real and Fabricated by Lucy Felthouse

  1. I always use landscape and places with which I am familiar, so that I can begin to picture them. But I never use actual locations as I don’t want to be tied down by the real topography and geography. I need to be free to create a road here, a stream there, a particular odd shaped hill, or to turn a town into a city. I don’t want readers complaining ‘there isn’t a church called xxxx in xxxx.’ Funnily enough, the place I’ve created then becomes entirely real to me, as if it does exist.

  2. Hi, Lucy,

    I almost never write anything – even a short story – without some clear idea about where it’s set. My travels and the various places I’ve lived provide a wealth of distinctive locales. For me, the setting has a powerful influence on the mood of the tale.

    Of course, like you, I rely on memories which are not always perfect, and also use artistic license to create variations on what I do remember (the room in the basilica sounds fantastic!) One thing I’ve noticed is that after I’ve written a story, I find it hard to separate out the actual places I’ve visited from the fictional ones I’ve concocted. The fictional ones feel just as real.

  3. I use a mixture of ‘real ‘ and ‘made up’ – for example, the Lakeland village in ‘Fragrance on Violets’ is based on a real village, but I put the village in a different valley and moved some buildings around. I prefer writing about places I know since then I can see them in my mind.